We wanted to have dinner at a restaurant located not too far away. I have tried the Brioche Tropezienne at the Hazmieh branch, but did not really like it. However, I have also tasted their pizza previously at this location, which I did like. So, finally we decided to eat at Bar Tartine in Dbayeh for dinner. The service was great; our waitress was a trainee and she did everything just right. She was professional and friendly, and worked efficiently. The ambiance was nice, although a tad noisy. For my meal, I had the Salmon & Couscous platter this time, and I loved it. The salmon was succulent and majestically stood on a bed of extremely soft and fluffy couscous. I enjoyed the delicious pairing of fish and fluff with each bite. It made me want to come back again to try more dishes, and maybe also brunch.
I recalled that I had been to Tavolina in Mar Mikhael but, weirdly, the only thing in my memory from that experience is the transparent plastic curtain that, in my opinion, took away from the charm of the restaurant—I don’t know if it still exists. Anyway, Tavolina recently opened its doors in a new complex of restaurants called Zero 4 in the Naccache area. I decided to go try it again there, and I was pleasantly surprised. I wondered why I had not remembered that the food was actually good at this eatery. We started off with the Frittura Mista. I have had this platter at several Italian restaurants elsewhere, but it is here that I loved the battered eggplant and zucchini the most. They were sliced thinly and that resulted in the vegetables being less oily and more crispy. Obviously, the battered shrimp were also good, but I wish they weren’t so outnumbered by the calamari. Sometimes I am in the mood for a homey spaghetti bolognese and so I ordered their Spaghetti al Ragu. I fell in love with it. I know it is a simple dish, but so many restaurants get it wrong. I was happy with the “al dente” pasta, as well as the well-seasoned sauce. In addition, the pepper sauce of the Filetto di Bue al Pepe was deliciously thick and creamy. The service was friendly and the waiter readily answered our questions and adjusted food constituents based on my restricted diet (me having to eat for two), such as cooking the steak till it was well done (not how I would usually order it). I will definitely be back to taste more items from their menu!
Ummi is the newest addition to the Chef Hussein Hadid street of restaurants. This time the focus is on Lebanese cuisine. Ummi has a lovely interior with a copper color dominating the ceiling and walls. However, the ambiance is a tad too noisy, and we had the scorching sun rays in our eyes for the duration of the meal where we were seated. The eatery has an open kitchen, which I love. I visited the hard-working chefs for a couple of minutes, and they seemed happy and passionate; this added to my enjoyment of the live cooking experience. What was refreshing at Ummi was that all the staff was friendly and welcoming. We ordered several mezze dishes, the mixed grills platter, and half a roasted chicken. I was disappointed that a couple of items on the menu were unavailable, namely the kibbe neye and the akkawi & kashkaval oven baked toasties. It was a while before our food started arriving to our table, but when it did, it was presented well and tasted good for the most part. Although the fattoush and batenjen salads were fresh and tasty, my personal preference would be to have bigger chunks of the ingredients in both. The hummus with lahmeh was nice and creamy. Two plates that were very flavorful were the arnabeet with tarator and mousakhan oven baked toasties. The mousakhan had that extra tang from the sumac and drizzled syrup on top, which was great. As for the balila, the chickpeas were cooked to perfection. Also, I loved the coriander that was generously mixed with the cubes of potato in the batata bi kizbara. The kafta fatteh was good as well, and the roasted chicken was tender. Then, the mixed grills platter arrived; the kafta, chicken, and meat were all succulent. I really have to mention that the accompanying garlic paste was amazing. When it was time for dessert, I asked the waiter to provide me with the menu because I had my eye on the atayef and umm ali (yes, I check the dessert section at the beginning of my meal). Yet, he told me that the only three currently available desserts were karabij, bohsaliyye, and knefe. No atayef and umm ali for me, and there was a discrepancy between the menu dessert offerings and the ones we were told verbally. Anyway, we had the knefe and bohsaliyye. Honestly, they were mediocre in taste and my sweet tooth had to be satisfied elsewhere.
I will pause on the “Bits and Pieces” for now, and finally begin with my most recent visits of restaurants in Lebanon in my upcoming posts. My archive of photos of food from when I did not know I would decide to post them in a blog have more or less come to an end (unless I happen to stumble upon some misplaced photos from that era anytime soon). As you have probably noticed, I personally prefer not to crop photos I have taken because I took them this way at that time, and I feel like I would be taking away from the authenticity of the memory they elicit in my mind if I remove parts of them. However, I promise that I will try to take better photographs now, since I am aware that I will be sharing them with whoever wants to see them. Anyway, enough about the hows and the whys. Salted Caramel loves to talk about food, so here goes.
First up is Sapori E Vini in Byblos, as the title has so cleverly foreshadowed.
Ok, the decor really needs to be recognized; hence the separate gallery. I love the interior. I love the planted trees bringing the garden indoors. I love the touch of gravel that is placed on a section of the floor in front of the wine bottles; when feet step on it, a pleasant sounding crunch tickles your ears. The hanging pots and pans, the fresh fruits and vegetables on display, the warm red bricks, and the wooden tables and chairs; they all complement each other and the attention to detail is amazing. Another lovely area to sit in is actually the real outdoors where a pergola stands on the green grass overlooking the terrace. If it had not been so hot, I would have opted to sit there. I should mention that there is an additional element for the children outside; a small form of playground that they can enjoy. All in all, one really needs to appreciate the effort that has been put to create a beautiful environment to sit and have a meal in.
Now let’s get to the food prepared by Italian chef Ignazio from Tuscany. First, they placed a dainty compilation of breads on the table. They looked really rustic and pretty, being meticulously arranged in brown paper. After scrutinizing the menu, we ordered the marinated tuna carpaccio which was good. For salads, we had the chicken quinoa salad and the shrimp salad. I really liked the chicken quinoa salad, but the item I liked the most was the pizza. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the pizza crust was delicious. I usually prefer to eat the tasty insides of a pizza, as opposed to the crust; but with this one, I had to have the crust too. The tomato sauce was a flavorful base for the toppings to be scattered on. I would definitely order the pizza again. The tagliata had delicious flavors too, but the meat had a sort of tough exterior that takes away from the taste of the juicy inside. As for the shrimp pasta dish, the sauce was too fishy for my liking, but that is a matter of preference. They then offered us ice cream on the house; it was homemade gelato which deserves respect. Another homemade item on the dessert menu was the chocolate fondant infused with raspberry. The cake holding the chocolate sauce tasted amazing. However, the savor of the raspberry was muted and did not seep through with the overpowering flow of chocolate. On an ending note, I have to add that the service was great, and I would visit this restaurant again.
Another take on the ile flottante and gazpacho; this time together in one meal. A Parisian restaurant next to the Eiffel Tower, Cafe Constant is on the Michelin Guide and is owned by French chef Christian Constant. If you have read my previous blog posts, you might already know by now that I love this red soup and that sweet softness. The former was cool and refreshing, while the latter was good but not one of the best I have had; the salted was better than the caramel in this case. However, I really loved the batter-fried vegetables. They made vegetables more exciting for me (although granted, less healthy); I was surprised that it even made them stand out among the other dishes which are among my favorites.