Sucre e Levain – Jounieh

I was excited to find a recently opened pastry shop next to my house, and so I went to taste a sample of their products. The lady that helped me there was very friendly and the items were nicely displayed in the shop. I chose some treats for my breakfast and headed home to devour them. I started with the croissants. They were pleasantly crispy and flaky, yet very heavy on the butter, which was a shame. Then I tried the flutes with thyme, which were crunchy and surprisingly not oily, but I would opt for the ones with the cheese next time. As for the sweet confections, the chocolate sable was good. However, the soft and fluffy madeleines were my favorite, and it was difficult to stop myself from eating them all in one go. I think that I would return to try other delicacies they have to offer, as well as their bread.

the spoonteller – Zouk Mikayel

Meticulous is the word that comes to mind when I think of the spoonteller. Being relatively close to home, I have repeatedly passed by this restaurant until I finally made it through its doors. Inside soothing music is played, which makes you forget you are located a few steps away from the highway. Warmly greeted by a motherly woman who seemed to be the owner, we were lead to our table. That is where the adjective meticulous comes in; she wanted to make sure that everything is just right. If she wasn’t attentively taking our order, she was supervising the waiters, or visiting the kitchen. Hot bread landed on the table, crispy on the outside with a soft and fluffy interior, it was difficult to resist eating more than one slice. Then as my starter, I had tender chicken with a crunchy exterior; they were tasty and not oily. For my main course, I had the shrimp risotto and I enjoyed the mouthfuls of flavorful firm rice. To sweeten things up, I opted for the pain perdu. What stood out was the caramelized crust of the brioche—it seemed like it had taken its time forming the delicate envelope. Although, I do usually prefer the insides of my pain perdu to be more soaked with milky liquid. However, I have to admit that maybe if I had eaten the accompanying ice cream with it, it would have provided some needed moisture to the beautifully caramelized bread. There is much more to taste here, so this visit to the spoonteller will not be my last…

Far Eats – Naccache

For a change of cuisine, we opted for that of the Far Eats. Lunch started with crunchy prawn chips with sweet chili dip. They were addictive but the ones at the bottom of the bowl were a tad too oily. As for our order, first and foremost, I would like to commend our waitress who was not only friendly but went out of her way to make sure every platter was safe for me to eat, with my current lack of immunity. The beef yakitori starter had a great blend of flavors and the melted cheese center complemented it well. I also liked the teriyaki sauce with the robata shrimp, as well as the freshness of the sweet and sour chicken. The battered chicken pieces were tasty, yet my personal preference would be the simplicity of plain rice accompanying this dish on the menu (instead of the veggie rice). However, the best was indeed kept for last. Those chocolate bonbons were delicious! The outer crispy shell encasing chocolate that oozes out when you bite into it…I could have kept on nibbling on those all day.

Blu – Mtayleb

Chocolate cravings? In the mood for chocolate, cakes, and the like, we happened to spot Blu as we were going up the winding road home. We decided that this time we would pass by. The lady assisting us was friendly and tried to be helpful. However, the lack of training was apparent because she was not knowledgeable about the ingredients within the cake pieces and had to keep asking for information from another lady on the phone. We ended up choosing a variety of items to try and headed to the car. For me, the humble mini cupcakes were my favorite to nibble on. They were fluffy and moist, and it was difficult to stop myself from devouring all the bag’s constituents. As for the cookies, the thicker ones were better than the regular chocolate chip cookie encasing an Oreo cookie; I felt that the latter was a bit dry. Yet, the double chocolate chip cookie was the best one in that box because it was extremely chocolatey, for hiding inside was more melted chocolate. Considering the second box with the cake pieces, my first comment would be about the chocolate tart crust; it was tasty but did not crumble delicately beneath your teeth. In addition, the chocolate eclair was pleasant and not too heavy although the pastry cream inside was also chocolate. In general, the chocolate used in their cake pieces was creamy and rich. I did end up feeling overly saturated with sugar when I had tasted everything; although I am partly to blame for that because of wanting to steal a bite out of all the goodies we had bought.

Goutons Voir – Achrafieh

Risotto, risotto, risotto. The only thing on my mind when it comes to food these days is risotto. I love indulging in a lemon risotto with shrimp, especially during this phase of my pregnancy. Goutons Voir has one of the best risotto I have tasted, if not the best (I did remove the asparagus ingredient though, but that is a matter of preference). It is so creamy and rich, and in addition to the shrimp lurking inside, they have placed a few shrimps at the top. This latter subtle component enhances the taste by providing a sort of lovely grilled flavor. I also ordered french fries on the side, and their fries are certainly the correct amount of salty and crispy. Feeling very full, I ordered half a portion of their pain perdu for dessert. I love the whole Goutons Voir, Charlotte, Cafe Gourmand, and Nonna enterprise, so I had tasted the pain perdu at Charlotte before yet I recalled that it was good but not out of this world. Still adamant to give it another try, I did. The caramel sauce smothering the bread is very good, without being overly sweet. However, I realized what it was that I found a little lacking. The bread was moist, but I prefer a pain perdu that is more soaked and filled with the milky mixture. Hence, I would still rather their heavenly moelleux au chocolat. Last but definitely not least, an important issue noteworthy of stating is that the waiter was very friendly and professional. We felt comfortable and we will definitely be back to Goutons Voir and all of the sister eateries that never disappoint!

Al Forno – Beirut

Like most parents seeking a restaurant in an area where the children can play in, we headed to Zaitunay Bay. The sun was out and we were armed with a tricycle, but first it was time for lunch. Pasta never fails with a toddler it seems, so we decided to go for Italian, hence Al Forno. It was a pleasant surprise. First and foremost, I would like to commend our waiter who couldn’t have done a better job because the service was excellent. We ordered a variety of dishes to get a gist of everything. The fried shrimps were very crispy, and although the zucchini was not cut into thin slices, the breading was so crunchy that it didn’t matter. With my pregnancy, it seems that I am fixated on certain food at certain times. Nowadays, it is the risotto. So, I ordered the shrimp risotto and chicken escalope to share, and they were both tasty. The risotto sauce was a bit dilute but still had flavor, and the breading on the chicken escalope made a pleasant crunching sound beneath our teeth. Al Forno surely did know how to make their breading, and the escalope was not oily at all. For my sweet tooth cravings, I had the pain perdu and the cenci. The extra touch of cinnamon added to the pain perdu was pleasing. As for the cenci, I enjoyed trying something new but the dough was a bit heavy for my taste. All in all, however, we left with a satisfying experience ensuring our definite return.

Le Rouge – Hazmieh

Restaurant complexes are popping out everywhere nowadays. One such complex is called City Walk, where Le Rouge is now located. We used to frequent Le Rouge when it was popular in Hamra (and sometimes Gemmayze), the target being their grain mustard sauce smothering pieces of succulent chicken, and the focaccia bread they welcome you with. That was the reason we decided to go to this restaurant; to relive the nostalgia. As soon as we arrived, a staff member calls to us from the inside ushering us to come in. I felt that that was slightly desperate as opposed to being welcoming. Then, he scoops up my toddler into his arms with the intention of helping me lead him indoors because he was fighting to have another go at the escalator. Another waiter then also carries him and the whole invasion of personal space becomes bothersome. Anyway, so we finally sat at a table and ordered our platters. The waiter was attentive and accommodating to any alterations we wanted to be done to the dishes. We were greeted by the focaccia we were familiar with, and eating that calmed my nerves (even though the background music choice was not that great). However, the bread was soft and warm in the middle and a tad unpleasantly crunchy on the sides. Yet, I was awaiting that grainy mustard sauce. I tried the escalope which tasted comforting and homey, but the accompanying pasta was a bit overcooked. Then the chicken with grain mustard sauce arrived. Honestly, however I did not taste the chicken because it was tinted pink when I cut into it. The same had happened to my mother as well, so I did not want to point it out again. The waiter readily took my mother’s chicken and cooked it some more, but being pregnant I just decided to refrain from eating it altogether. But no! I was adamant to try that nostalgic  sauce, so I drizzled it onto my wedges. Thankfully, the sauce lived up to its memory in my head. I actually enjoyed the seasoning on the potatoes and the tasty sauce that covered them. Now, it was time for dessert, so we ordered the apple tart and pain perdu. The pain perdu was okay, although I needed to have extra caramel to sweeten it further. All in all, I do commend the effort of the staff, but unfortunately the food and ambiance was lacking and paled in comparison to the Le Rouge that I remember.

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.

Fadel – Bikfaya

Fadel is a patisserie that I first encountered during my childhood. We went up for the occasional ice cream fix, to get a black forest cake to celebrate a birthday, or to get some freshly baked bread. Since then, a large number of pastry shops have opened their doors, but we still do visit Fadel once in a while. Their classic black forest cake was the cake we resorted to recently for my mother’s birthday, certain we wouldn’t disappoint. It surely did the trick; the cake was fluffy and light. The last time I tasted products from Fadel, I had a cheese croissant, a chocolate chip muffin, a piece of success cake (succès“), and their thyme pain au lait. I know croissants are the epitome of buttery concoctions, but the cheese croissant was too buttery and heavy, in my opinion. As for the muffin, it was fine, and I appreciated their generosity with the chocolate chips. Their succes was okay, but not as successful as another patisserie makes them; I go to that pastry shop exclusively for their succes, yet that is a story for another day. However, the very successful item at Fadel is their thyme pain au lait. I have tasted the regular one with no filling, as well as the one filled with cheese, but it is the zaatar one that I love. The bread is very soft and there is thyme sprinkled in the dough and used as a filling simultaneously, which highlights the taste. That is one item I am sure I will return for.

DIVVY – Hazmieh

For another eatery to whisk my sister away from work on her lunch break, we headed to DIVVY in Hazmieh to try out items from their new menu and not so new menu. We started off with the Crispy Strips and an appetizer we always order: the Brie and Blueberry. I love how the purple color of their signature blueberry dip is so vibrant, and needless to say, its delicious taste went perfectly well with the melted cheese cubes. Another way to visit this lovely coupling is in their tasty DIVVY Brie and Blueberry Burgers. In fact, that specialty burger was the reason that I decided to try out the new burger on their menu; the Grand Burger. The meat was juicy and if you like your patty on the thicker side, this would do. However, the component I couldn’t get enough of was that bun! It could not possibly get any softer. Also, the sauce was good, but all in all, I do still prefer their Brie and blueberry burgers. We also ordered the Beef Teriyaki platter, which has great comforting flavors, and the Caesar Sandwich. For dessert, I was very excited to try their new Salted Caramel Pain Perdu and I was not disappointed. It was decadent. The moistness of the pain perdu chunks topped with the salted caramel’s just right sweetness was a delightful end to our meal. On the whole, it was a satisfying lunch, and one shouldn’t forget to commend the presentation of their dishes, as well as their friendly yet professional service. Additionally, although I did not order it this time, I would like to recommend their Countryside Steak Sandwich, which never ceases to awaken my taste buds with its bursts of goodness.