Duo – Dbayeh

It was sort of a small family reunion gathering this time, so we opted for an accessible restaurant with a menu that would suit everyone: Duo. It was nice weather, but unfortunately non-smokers and children have to be confined to being indoors to avoid inhaling the cloud of smoke that forms outside replacing the fresh air that is supposed to be there. We were provided with two high chairs for the little ones, and the service was very good. I loved that the bread in the basket was actually served warm and their grissini was crunchy. We ordered the Sweet Chili Shrimps with the sauce on the side as a starter for my toddler who gobbled them up, obviously finding them as tasty as I did. They also readily custom-made my penne with pink sauce; the sauce was delicious but the penne was a bit overcooked. As for the Chicken Scaloppine, it was tender and I enjoyed eating it. When it was time for dessert, I ordered the Pain Perdu. Although, I was told that it was baked in the oven, I still found it so heavy and buttery that I could not eat more than a couple of bites. When we were all done, it was time to change scenery for our tiny humans, so we left Duo in search of some shoes.

Margherita Mare – Jounieh

It was a sunny day and I love the sun. It stood there shining, seducing us to go outside, so lunch at Margherita Mare it was. Right beneath the restaurant lies the majestic sea and we have enjoyed its salty taste in our mouths several times before. However, when you sit indoors, you are seated underneath beautiful stoned arches; this gives the eatery a warm earthy setting, in my opinion. First, a bread basket with tomato dip is placed on the table to welcome you. The bread was fluffy and the dip had a nice tang to it. We started out with the mixed fried calamari and prawns with vegetables. The shrimps were the best thing on that platter, but I have tasted a better version of this dish elsewhere. We then ordered our favorite pizza at Margherita (and one of our favorites in the country): the Saltimbocca. Their smoked mozzarella is really delicious. We also had pasta with shrimps; I appreciated that they made the sauce pink for me with no fuss, and I liked that their penne was al dente. Unfortunately, none of their desserts called out to me, and with the restlessness of my fidgety toddler, we concluded that it was time to leave. As usual, lunch was pleasant at Margherita and it wouldn’t be our last.

Al Mandaloun Cafe – Dbayeh

You know when you are at home and reluctant to go out because the thought of slipping out of the warmth of your soft pajamas and actually heading somewhere seems so far out of reach? Well. that night it was exactly how I felt. After contemplating the idea in my head, the thought of having dinner alone with my other half seemed worth the effort. Now, to actually choose the destination. It took some time before we decided that we wanted a place that was not too far and that had a comfortable and spacious setting, hence we chose Mandaloun. I have tried the food there before on several occasions (including their rich breakfast), but I wanted to refresh my memory. We were led to our table, and handed the menus. Our waitress was great; the service was professional and the right amount of friendly. We ordered the Gambas Fritas, the Breaded Chicken Escalope, and the Fish & Chips. I loved the fried shrimps. They were so crunchy and they were salted perfectly. As for the fish platter, the amount of fish meat inside the crispy batter was generous and it tasted great. Their escalope was also tasty. Conclusion: Mandaloun handles the breaded and battered well. I should mention that their fries are really good; they were thinly sliced just how I like them. For dessert, we had their Gourmet Waffle with caramel and three scoops of fruity sorbets. Usually their waffle satisfies my sweet tooth, yet this time I don’t know why I had mixed feelings about it. However, based on my previous experiences, it is usually a good choice of dessert at Mandaloun. All in all, it was a peaceful evening in a calm setting, and that was what I had been looking for.

Pai Thai – Dubai

We were looking for a restaurant with Thai cuisine, and since I wanted to try a new place (although the last time I came to Dubai I had really good Thai food), we chose to go to Pai Thai for dinner. The location is romantic, as it is next to the water, and apparently you can get there by boat. We decided to walk instead; the winding path leading there is dimly lit and there are trees on either side. The service started out really well as a man showed us to our table, and explained that there was a special menu and a more lit ambiance due to the celebration of the Festival of Lights. We were handed our menus, and being a fan of organization (especially when the names of the dishes are in a foreign language), I opted to list the items we wanted to order on my phone. After the effort of writing down the names in Thai and trying to pronounce them to our waitress, she found it amusing and told us that she does not know them in Thai either. I would expect the waitress to know the menu by heart, including all the names of the dishes. Also, the attitude of a waitress affects the servicing, even if she is efficient in placing the dishes on our table (although a bit less efficient in removing them). Anyway, let’s get to the food. We ordered the (I will not bother to name them in Thai) Green Papaya Salad, the Crispy Marinated Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaf, and the Grilled Marinated Chicken Sate as appetizers. The Green Papaya Salad was flavorful and the Chicken Sate was tender and literally melted in your mouth, and I loved the peanut sauce. However, I disliked the Crispy Marinated Chicken in the Pandan Leaf; it was more soggy than crispy. For our main courses, we then had the Braised Massaman Beef Curry, a Pad Thai with Prawns, and a bowl of Thai Coconut Rice. The Beef Curry’s sauce was really tasty, but I did not like the beef’s texture within it. As for the Pad Thai, I have had much better elsewhere. We ended the meal with one of the desserts listed under the Traditional section, as opposed to the Modern one. We had the Sweet Sticky Rice with Ripe Mango; it was fine. In general, the food was average, and I was not blown away. Dining in an intimate setting with water surrounding you is basically what Pai Thai has going for it. Although, another Thai restaurant that comes to mind has that but with better food.

Alta Taberna Paco Meralgo – Barcelona

I enjoy tapas because it is somehow like a set menu in the fact that you try several courses; the anticipation of what the next platter holds is exciting. When we arrived, we were told that since we had no reservation we had to sit at the bar instead of a regular table. It turns out that the bar seating was closer to the source; where all the action happens. I ordered a gazpacho as my drink and it was really flavorful. Embracing the red fruit, commonly known as a vegetable, we then ate the famous simple traditional Spanish dish: tomato bread. One of the tapas had all eyes on me, literally. I loved the breaded shrimps but this was one shrimp tapa I could not bear to maintain eye contact with. Finally, the Crema Catalana was the something sweet I decided to eat; pardon the rhyming. Unfortunately, the sweetness was masked by a sort of mixture of gasoline-like and something burnt taste. This is most probably due to the blow torch used to caramelize the sugar, except that the result was more burnt than caramel; Salted Caramel doesn’t appreciate being burnt.