Category Archives: Food

Smoking Bun Mar Mikhael: A Joy To Any Burger Lover

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Back when I was in Berlin a couple of years ago, a friend took me to a burger place called Burgermeister located in a tiny street underneath a bridge. The place, previously a public toilet, wasn’t very appealing but it had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life. The meat was perfectly cooked and juicy, the bun was a bit grilled and tasted great, the fries and toppings were amazing and the price was ridiculously low (7 Euros).

I think Smoking Bun is the closest thing to Burgermeister in Beirut, and it is by far the best street burger place that I’ve been to in Beirut, and in Mar Mikhail more specifically. Smoking Bun is located underneath Secteur in the middle of Mar Mikhail and is a small shop that only offers one burger. It’s small, simple, relatively cheap but its burger is fantastic and the fries are great as well. The meat is cooked medium (medium rare if you want to) and is covered with aged cheddar, the bun is tender and holds up nicely to the burger’s juices and it’s all topped with lettuce, tomato and pickles. The fries are not-too-crispy not-too-soft and come with a house sauce.

Smoking Bun is street food done right and my favorite burger in Mar Mikhael right now (and I’ve tried most of them there). The burger costs 12,000LL, the fries 5,000LL, beer is for 7,500LL and soda for 3,000LL.

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Rating 4.5/5

La Crêperie Kaslik Is Back!

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Ever since I posted sneak peek pictures of the newly renovated La Crêperie, a lot of people have been asking me about La Crêperie’s official opening date, and whether the menu and venue have changed drastically. Luckily enough, I was among the few invited to check out La Crêperie last Sunday and taste the new menu before the official opening which is scheduled for April 28th, so I’m gonna tell you everything you need to know in this post and show you how awesome the new restaurant is.

For those of you who don’t know La Creperie yet, it’s is one of Lebanon’s most authentic and beautiful restaurants and has been serving great food since 1968. The restaurant is an 18th Century Picturesque Ottoman House that offers a breathtaking view across the Jounieh bay and has welcomed several celebrities, presidents, ministers and diplomats. It’s an ideal place for family gatherings, couples, first dates, romantic dinners and events.

So what’s new at La Crêperie?
La Crêperie’s renovation kicked off almost two years ago and was completed a few weeks back. The main purpose was to ensure authenticity of the architecture and to keep the spirit of the place while reinforcing the worn out walls and foundations. Add to that the beautiful landscaping. To begin with, the restaurant’s entrance and parking lot were both enhanced to fit more cars and you are now greeted by a 1000-year old olive tree set right before La Creperie’s entrance. As you walk into the restaurant, you are surrounded by walls of hanging jasmine flowers that lead right to the restaurant’s terrace and main door.

As soon as you step inside, you notice how spacious the new place has become. The big old wooden bar is now gone and was replaced by an open bar in the middle of the restaurant. The paintings on the ceiling were also removed but the tiles as well as the tables and chairs look almost the same as before. The main room is now connected to all others and there are preserved butterflies displayed in glass frames are all the walls. The old chimney room kept its warm feel and looks amazing now.

20150419_212432 A Walk Down Memory Lane

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As far as the balcony is concerned, it’s much wider now and extends to the outdoor terrace and the chimney room on the other end of the house. The old railings were replaced by glass ones and the small tables and chairs by comfy couches and low tables. I have to admit I’m gonna miss the simpler tiny balcony with the small chairs and tables but at least this way, more people will get to enjoy the splendid views across the Jounieh bay. The caves were also revamped and I had a quick look at them but I’m not sure if they will be open next week as well.

Moving on to the most important part which is the food, the menu has few additional items but is very similar to the old one and still has some of the restaurant’s popular dishes (like the poussin desossé, crepe fait maison etc). Speaking of crepes, and this is great news, the same old women who were at Creperie are back and they’re doing the same amazing crepes!

What’s in the menu?
The menu consists of Salads and Appetizers, Pastas, Meat & Chicken, Fish and desserts.

The salads and appetizers include: a nicoise salad, goat-cheese salad, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes, Quinoa halloumi, Chicken Caesar salad, grilled calamari, smoked salmon, frogs a la provencale and bresaola with parmesan. There are 3 types of pastas, the Tagliatelle Alfredo, the Linguine Fruit de Mer and Penne Sauce Tomate. Steaks and Chicken platters include a filet de boeuf, steak frites, cote de boeuf, entrecote, escalope, tartate de boeuf, home-made burger, chicken escalope a la milanaise and a grilled chicken platter. For the sea-food lovers, there’s a seabass platter, grilled salmon, prawns and two mérou platters. Last but not least, the long list of desserts includes the traditional Baba au rhum, Tarte tatin with vanilla icecream, a cheese cake, tiramisu, chocolat fondant, creme brulee, tarte au chocolate, eclair au chocolat, poire belle Helene, salade de fruits, mille-feuille, icecream and sorbets, and the pain perdu.

Here’s what we ordered and some pictures:

Salads And Appetizers:
– Salade Nicoise a la vinaigrette de vin blanc.
– Salade de chevre chaud, sauce balsamique au miel.
– Salade de tomates, Mozzarella fraiche.
– Quinoa au Halloumi, sauce citron.
– Saumon fume ecossais et son toast.

Steaks:
– Filet de boeuf, haricots verts et carottes, pommes puree.
– Cote de boeuf grille pour deux, pommes au four.
– Pave de saumon, pommes rustiques.
– Crepe fait maison (Jambon, Fromage, Champignon)

Desserts:
– Creme brulee aux gousses de vanille.
– Poire Belle Helene.
– 2 Crepe Marron.
– 1 Crepe Chocolat Noir.
– Baba au rhum

As for drinks, we had a Beaujolais-villages 2012 red wine bottle.

20150419_215851 Salade Nicoise a la vinaigrette de vin blanc

20150419_220033 Quinoa au Halloumi, sauce citron

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20150419_221559 Crepe fait maison (Jambon, Fromage, Champignon)

20150419_223834 Pave de saumon, pommes rustiques.

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20150419_230627 Crepes in the making.

20150419_231627 The famous Crepe Marron (sweet chestnut cream)

20150419_232042 Poire Belle Helene.

20150419_232409 Creme brulee aux gousses de vanille.

I enjoyed the salads and loved the quinoa. The salmon and mozzarellah were fresh, the steak and vegetables were great, the crepe fait maison was ok, the salmon was good and the desserts were all amazing! I ordered twice the crepe marron (topped with jam) and I highly recommend the Poire Belle Helene! The pain perdu wasn’t available yet so I will try it next time hopefully. All in all, it was a pleasant experience and I loved how simple the food presentation is and how much the new place reminded me of the old one. The new Crêperie has managed to keep the authenticity and originality of the old one with few changes and brought back a lot of memories from the old times.

Price-wise, the menu didn’t have any prices yet but from what I’ve been told, they haven’t change much and the price range will be around 35-50$ per person. La Crêperie will officially open on Tuesday 28th of April 2015. You can contact them on +96171202022. Here’s a link to their [website] and [Instagram] page.

Rating: 4.5/5

Maamoul Sticks: The Best Thing I Ate This Easter

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The most important food for me during Easter is maamoul and I always look forward to my mum’s home-made maamoul. I like the ones filled with date and walnuts fillings the most but I’ve never really appreciated mixing chocolate with the original filling because the outcome would be too sweet up until I tried Casper and Gambini’s half dipped in chocolate maamoul sticks today. The sticks were just perfect and soft, not too sweet not too heavy and rich in flavor and I have to thank Mustapha for telling me about them before Easter was over. The last time I enjoyed a new maamoul creation was few years back when my dad got us honey-filled maamoul.

PS: I’m not sure though if I should be thanking Casper for sending me a whole box of maamoul sticks because I’ve already had 6 today. For those of you who asked me if they are still available, I don’t think Casper is doing them anymore as Easter is over, but you can always ask (I’m not sharing mine :p).

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On The Issue of Child Beggars In Beirut And What Happened At Dunkin Donuts Hamra

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Almost 2 million people have fled Syria to Lebanon since the start of the conflict in 2011, out of which hundreds of thousands of children deprived of education, food and their most basic needs. As a result, a lot of them had to resort to begging in order to provide for their families, or were recruited and exploited by organized mobs (or sometimes their own families) to make revenues. These gangs usually distribute children at different strategic points and threaten them to collect a minimum amount of money or suffer dire consequences. This is why a lot of children beggars refuse to take food when offered and ask for money instead, and they follow you every where out of fear that they might get beaten up when they go back home. As a result, most of them end up working long hours in detrimental conditions and leading a catastrophic lifestyle which poses many risks on their physical and mental well-being. To make things even worse, some gangs are sexually exploiting these children or even selling their kidneys.

Should we help street children or not?
Child beggars have been present since ever in Lebanon, but their situation has worsened with the Syrian crisis as more families are inhabiting the streets and more children are being forced out of school to beg for their families, or are being exploited by child beggar networks, and this is quite noticeable in many streets in Beirut specially in Hamra where there are tens of families living on the side walks and child beggars all over the place.

Personally speaking, I can’t but help children I see on the street, no matter what their nationality is, but I always prefer to give them food instead of money because I know money is going to the wrong people. Some take the food you offer them while others only want cash and become annoying at some point, but giving them money will make them come back for more which is why I refuse to do so. Of course I wish I could get these children out of the street and put them back in school, but there’s little I can do about that and the only way to help is by spreading awareness on this matter and promoting the NGOs helping refugees and street children, or even doing small initiatives like the one LiveLoveBeirut and JouéClub did back in Christmas based on one of the pictures I took.

Who is to blame for this situation?
Both begging and child labor are illegal in Lebanon and the government is responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit exploiting children to finance illegal activities or for sexual purposes. Moreover, Lebanon is forced to abide by the Convention on the rights of the child that was agreed on in 1991. This being said, it is the responsibility of the authorities and mainly the ministry of social affairs to help get these children out of the street and back into school, and more importantly arrest the gangs that are playing a major role in keeping children on the street.

Sadly enough, this issue has long been neglected by the authorities and the only organization in Lebanon that offers a refuge to both Lebanese and non-Lebanese street children (Home of Hope) is not receiving enough funds to do its job. The organization, established by the Lebanese Evangelical Society (LES), is headed by Mr. John Eter, and offers kids a basic education, medical insurance and most importantly a loving environment.

What happened at Dunkin Donuts in Hamra?
A story has gone viral in the past few days about a Dunkin Donuts employee who “beat up” a Syrian child beggar and kicked him out of the coffee shop. The story spread before it even got confirmed and the picture of a DD employee that had nothing to do with the incident got shared somehow. Eventually, the employee who hit the child got suspended by Dunkin Donuts Lebanon and a police investigation is underway according to what they stated on Facebook, while Al Jadeed interviewed the employee and other eye witnesses who stated that the kid wasn’t beaten up as stated. Needless to say, what this employee did was wrong whether he slapped or beat up the kid and I think DD should have added an apology to their statement but I don’t understand people, specially Dima Sadek whom I respect, who are asking to boycott Dunkin Donuts because of that incident. How is boycotting Dunkin Donuts going to help with anything? When did boycotting ever achieve anything? And did they take into consideration the hundreds of families who are against such practices and working with Dunkin Donuts? What if the child beggar was a Lebanese or a Kurd? Why does it matter that he’s a Syrian?

Moreover, I can easily confirm that a similar incident has taken place in almost every coffee shop I’ve been to in Lebanon, and street children are humiliated, beaten up, slapped and pushed away almost everywhere in Lebanon. Shall we start boycotting all the shops? I think a smarter idea would be to mount the pressure on the authorities to do something about this growing phenomenon and help raise funds for concerned NGOs to help these children. I would also encourage journalists and influential people in the media to tackle this problem with the concerned ministries instead of focusing on an isolated incident.

Can we help Lebanon’s street children?
Lebanon has suffered the most from the flow of Syrian refugees, and the Syrian crisis has proven to be a huge burden socially economically and politically. The international help that we are getting is not enough to cope with the ever-growing influx of refugees and the biggest problem is that there’s a whole generation of children, victims of the Syrian war, that are forced to drop out of school and are destroying their future. This being said, the fact that there’s a single institution in Lebanon dealing with homeless children is unacceptable, and the work that the ministry of social affairs has been doing is less than pathetic. For that purpose, we need a new strategy to cope with this ever-growing problem and as it happens, one LAU student came up with a cool idea that “includes modified and improved methodologies of dealing with beggar children, collecting donations, recruiting street educators and volunteers, and educating the general populous about the situation, through the establishment of a non-governmental organization”. I’m sure there are other proposals and ideas that are as affordable and sustainable and can help provide a better living for all street children of all nationalities in Lebanon. Let’s not forget that 1.5 Million Lebanese are below the poverty line according to the UN and a lot of Lebanese child beggars originate from the Bekaa area so this is not just a problem related to the refugees and concerns a whole generation of Lebanese as well.

Review: Yeh! Frozen Yogurt Café

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Update: One of Yeh!’s owners commented on Facebook stating that they offer different flavors every week and have in total 43 different flavors, so I guess it just happened that they didn’t have any fruit flavors when I passed by. I will make another visit and try out their crepes and waffles as well.

I’ve been hearing about this Yeh! Frozen Yogurt Cafe for the past few weeks now, so I decided to go check it out on Saturday. Yeh! is located in Kantari Beirut right next to Aziz shop. There’s no place to park in front of the shop so you have to give it to the valet or do what I did and head to the nearest parking which is right behind the building and a 4 minutes walk from the shop.

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The place was half full when I went there and I decided to sit inside as it was too noisy outside. One of the waiters welcomed us, explained the concept briefly and asked if we wanted to try any of the flavors. Yeh! is a self-serve frozen yogurt concept where you fill up your cup with all the flavors available, then add all the toppings you want and then you pay for your “froyo” in weight. 1kg (everything combined) is priced at 46,000LL which is definitely not cheap.

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I went to check out the different flavors and there were 8 available:
– Pineapple
– Cake Batter
– Nutella
– Oreo
– Lotus
– Original flavor
– Peanut butter
– Greek Honey

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What caught my attention at first was that there were no fruit flavors except for the Pineapple. I looked up the website and there are tons of flavors there, so I’m guessing they will be bringing more flavors later on but they should have brought more than 1 fruit flavor in my opinion.

As for the flavors available, I loved the Oreo, Lotus, peanut butter and Nutella the most. Greek Honey was ok but I didn’t like cake batter. I added fruits mostly on top and ended up with 540g of yogurt which cost me around 25,000LL.

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All in all, I am not big a fan of the self-service shops as you always end up putting more of one flavor by pressing a bit harder, and I remember having a bad experience with that at Yogen Fruz (which I didn’t like) at Le Mall Dbayyeh. Nevertheless, Yeh! flavors are quick good and it’s definitely worth a try if you are a frozen yogurt fan.

Is it better than Pinkberry?

I don’t think it’s fair to compare it at this point as most of Pinkberry’s flavors are fruity while Yeh! only had pineapple, but Pinkberry’s original and chocolate flavors are better than Yeh! and I still prefer Pinkberry’s concept to the self-serve one. Price-wise, they are both expensive.

Rating: 4/5

Kababji, Roadster, ZWZ And PinkBerry Now Open At Beirut Souks

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A food court opened last Friday at the Beirut Souks right next to the theaters. I thought at first it was only Kababji opening because the color and design were similar to its branches, but then I went in and spotted Roadster and Zaatar W Zeit as well as a PinkBerry stand (Finally!). The court is spacious and is ideal for a quick bite right before a movie. It was also needed because the only place where you could grab a quick bite at the Souks is Brgrco.

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I sat down at Kababji with some friends and ordered my favorite Arayiss Kafta, as well as some Kebab and Kebbit La2teen. The service and food were great and the only item that took some time was Kebbit La2teen (Pumpkin Kebbe which is popular during lent). I wanted to get some Pinkberry after but it was really crowded because they were giving free samples or something.

I think the court still needs a decent ice-cream place and I heard a popular one might be opening soon there but nothing is confirmed yet.

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Brgrco Set To Open ABC Achrafieh By June (And The Raclette Brgr Is Back!)

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It only makes sense for Brgrco to open in ABC Achrafieh specially after its success in Beirut Souks. I’ve always preferred their main branch in Sodeco right next to L’Entrecote but it’s hard to find a parking spot so Beirut Souks is more convenient. Brgrco is set to open in June 2015.

On another note, the Raclette Brgr that you see below is back and is a must! If you are fasting, there’s the Falafel burger which is worth a try with some cheese fries.

Le Bristol’s Sunday Buffet At Achrafieh’s Splendid Villa Linda Sursock

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Le Bristol‘s Sunday buffet has been known for years as one of the best buffets in Beirut and is recently being held at Villa Linda Sursock in Achrafieh as the hotel is closed down since 2012 for renovation. The only other Sunday buffet I’ve tried in Beirut so far was the Phoenicia hotel one so I was interested to see how different and special this one is.

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To begin with, Villa Linda Sursock is probably the best venue they could have chosen for their famous buffet. The gorgeous villa is located on Sursock Street, a relatively calm street, and is one of Beirut’s historic landmarks. I’ve been there several times for events and I’m in love with that villa! Here’s an old picture showing the villa from outside. In recent years, a skyscraper was built right next to the villa with a small part of the building right on top of it. Even though the skyscraper is really nice, I wish they had kept the house by itself with surrounding gardens.

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Moving on to the buffet, the tables are set in the big hall inside the villa that you can see in the first picture and the food is in a separate room. Once you get in, you are greeted by a hostess then seated by one of the waiters. Afterwards, you’re handed a large alcohol selection and served a small plate of mini Cheese, Kecheck and Zaatar Saj Manakish.

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Once we sat down and chose a wine bottle, we headed to the room where the buffet is. There’s a bit of history in every single spot in that villa and the setting for the buffet is just beautiful around the chimney. A large table is set in the middle with all the hot and cold dishes, while desserts are around it with a large fruit salad bowl right next to the chimney in the middle. There’s also a small table on the far left next to the windows for the cheese lovers and an Entrecote station on the side as well.

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There are 3 or 4 chefs ready to help you and guide you through Bristol’s signature dishes. Almost every dish is a special one and I made sure to have a small portion of each to try them all out. Starting with the cold dishes, I tried the following ones:
– Lentil with salmon salad
– Spring Rolls
– Rocket leaves with fresh mushroom and Parmesan
– Quinoa with guacamole and shrimps
– Artichoke with green beans
– Goat cheese cake with cherry tomatoes

The Lentil with Salmon was surprisingly good, the spring rolls and rocket leaves salad were nothing special but fresh and tasty. The two dishes I loved the most were the Quinoa with shrimps and the goat cheese cake with cherry tomatoes.

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As for the hot dishes, they had:
– Kebbe Arnabiyye
– Siyyadiyye
– Curry Shrimps
– Raviolli with spinach
– Chicken with berries

I hate the Kebbe Arnabiyye so I didn’t bother taste it and I don’t eat Carri so I skipped that as well. The Siyadiyye, Raviolli and Chicken dishes were all really good specially the chicken dish. Their entrecote was really good specially with the steamed veggies and potatoes but the sauce should have been a bit hotter.

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Moving on to my favorite part the dessert, I wish I had started with it as almost everything I tasted was amazing. I loved how they made the Karabij in forms of sticks (easier to dip), the mafrouke was really good, the profiterole, the macarons, the mini cakes, it was the perfect ending to a great buffet.

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All in all, I don’t think it’s fair to compare this buffet to the Phoenicia one as they are totally different. Le Bristol’s buffet is a small cozy one where you get to try out signature dishes and the famous gourmandises du Bristol while Phoenicia’s buffet offers a large variety of dishes, which I prefer from time to time. One thing is for sure, both are great buffets and I recommend you try out both of them, specially that the service is impeccable and the waiters are extremely friendly and helpful.

Price-wise, it’s around 65$ per person without the drinks.

PS: For your reservations, call 03-500622.

Rating: 4.5/5

First Sneak Peek Pictures Of La Crêperie Restaurant Before Its Re-Opening

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creperie -lbci This is how La Creperie will finally look like – via LBCI

One of my favorite restaurants in Jounieh is set to reopen soon as renovation works are almost complete. La Crêperie is one of Lebanon’s most authentic and beautiful restaurants and has been serving great food since 1968. The restaurant is an 18th Century Picturesque Ottoman House that is owned and managed by the Khazen and Abou Khater families and has welcomed several celebrities, presidents, ministers and diplomats.

I’ve been going to La Crêperie for the past 15 years and I have a lot of fond memories there. I enjoyed sitting on the small balcony tables and enjoying the splendid view and the food has always been excellent there. I loved their chicken and seafood platters, the raclette during winter and of course the famous crepes and my favorite the crepe maron.

417670_10150615796274985_1728700178_n La Creperie is located on a small hill overlooking the Jounieh bay

The official opening date is not yet set for La Crêperie but I passed by a couple of weeks back and the venue is almost complete and has already hosted a private event so it shouldn’t take too long for it to open to the public. The house didn’t change much from inside as the owners made sure to keep its authenticity but renovated it in a way to make it more spacious. The entrance now looks much nicer with covered parking lots on the right, BBQ is still on the terrace and was renovated as well, the balcony is wider now and the small tables were replaced by comfier tables. The caves weren’t finished yet when I visited but they haven’t changed much. The menu will remain an international one and I was told crepes are still part of it.

Some people were questioning the legality of the renovation works and an article showed up few months ago stating that the municipality ordered the works to be halted but none of that is true according to my sources. The house is not labeled as a heritage one and is a private property (including the rocks), and the only additions done were to support and protect the house and avoid a disaster in case of an earthquake. In all cases, I don’t know much about this matter but what’s for sure is that the buildings that keep popping on that small mountain is what’s ruining the view, not few renovation works, not to mention the arguile places all over the maritime road undernearth La Crêperie.

All in all, I can’t wait to go try out the new Creperie and I will update the post with the opening date as soon as I have it (hopefully very soon). Until then, enjoy these exclusive pictures:

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