As you may have noticed, I’ve just been to Beirut. Beirut has always been lauded as the Paris of the Middle East and while this may certainly be true, the Lebanese also know how to cook and eat really good food. Beirut always has a new bar or restaurant opening and some new hot-spot to check out. Following my trip, I’ve updated my favourite and trusted hangouts and added a couple of new ones.
Casablanca in Beirut. This place most definitely belongs to my ultimate favourites. I believe it was here that I realized just how much I love good food and good drinks. So, where to begin? The place is owned by a Chinese woman and the food reflects that. The Asian influence in the dishes are perfectly integrated. However, the food is much more than Asian fusion cuisine and includes Mediterranean, Lebanese and American inspirations. While this may not sound so enticing, believe me it is! The food is delicate and spectacular. The drinks are too. Also, much of their food is organic, which is always nice in my opinion. The place itself is beautiful too, overlooking Beirut’s corniche and the Mediterranean sea. I will go so far as to claim that this is one of my favourite restaurants world-wide!
Ironically, it was in Lebanon that I found my love for Japanese cuisine. And I did so at Yabani. This place is considered to be among the best Japanese restaurants in Beirut. The new location, while not as extravagant or unusual as the old one, is hip, sleek, and elegant. The most spectacular aspect of Yabani is of course the food. Everything I have tried and tasted here has always been delicious…so go and try everything that appeals to you. Though I admit the Japanese Moshi ice cream is definitely a must! They have also opened a smaller, chic take-away location and restaurant called Y by Yabani in Beirut Souks!
And of course there is delicious Lebanese food in Lebanon! There are a couple of Lebanese restaurants I like in Beirut. First, Falamenki (Damascus Road, Sodeco). I love coming here because of its location, flair and food. It has a beautiful green open-air courtyard (which is a true treasure in Beirut), where you can play Tawla (aka Backgammon) and smoke Nargile (aka hookah or shisha). The food is traditional Lebanese, so lots of Mezze to satisfy the many cravings.
Another establishment I like to visit is Tawlet (12 Rue Naher, Armenia St). This restaurant is much more than simply a restaurant; all their produce is organic and locally grown, the cook changes on a daily basis and always comes from a different region cooking food particular to that specific region, and the profits are used to support the local farmers and cooks. The food is always served as a buffet and guests are able to choose their own menus. The restaurant has a fresh and healthy ambient and that is reflected in the food. Also, with care toward the decor, the food and the local community it is most definitely unique in Beirut, where organic, eco-friendly and community projects are rare and often outshined by the glitz and glamour that Beirut offers. They also have a weekly farmers market!
Zaatar wa Zeit! This is a chain found across much of the Middle East, with various locations in Beirut, and that should be kept in mind when going here. But nonetheless it is one of my favorite places to go to for a tasty (potentially greasy) quick bite. It specializes in Manouche, often referred to as the Lebanese version of Pizza…Manouche is like pizza dough that is traditionally covered in the local herb concoction called Zaatar or folded with cucumbers, tomatoes olives and labne inside. There are however, many different toppings, my favorite being melted cheese or haloumi…oh, I have cravings simply writing this down. So, trust me, go and try some and you wont regret it. (On a side note, Manouche are served everywhere throughout Lebanon and are always worth a try wherever you are.
On my last trip I discovered Café Diem – I love the play of words 🙂 It is a lovely little Café that serves delicious tea (which I love) and has a perfectly selected menu – French breakfast, sandwiches, salads and light lunch. Cute and hip little cafes aren’t an easy find in Lebanon, making this all the more special. It is perfect to meet a friend and catch up or simply take a magazine and enjoy the delicious tea!