Category Archives: Reviews

Quick Review: The Expendables 3

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If you loved the previous two Expendables movies, you will definitely love this one. There’s a nice twist to the story towards the start and the new additions to the team include some really cool characters, except for Antonio Banderas who doesn’t belong in this movie in my opinion. I thought the movie was a bit long though as it’s over 2 hours but it’s action-packed and the final battle lasts a good 25 minutes.

I wish they’d stop here and stop making Expendables movies, but it doesn’t look like Stallone wants this franchise to end anytime soon. Expect to see Pierce Brosnan, Hulk Hogan and maybe Dwayne Johnson in the fourth film.

The Expendables 3 starts showing today in Lebanese theaters.

My Trip To Jordan: Part1

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As mentioned previously, I was in Jordan for a week back in May along with a couple of bloggers and media people courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board. Before talking about the trip, I have to say I am quite impressed by the initiatives taken by Jordan to promote tourism in their country and through the JTB as opposed to what the Tourism Ministry does in Lebanon.

Moving on to the trip itself, and given that it was 1 week long, I thought I divide it into 2 parts:

- The first post covering the first 3 days of the trip that includes a short stop and dinner in Amman, the Pope event at Amman stadium, the dead sea and baptism site visits and the stay at the mountain resort Ma’In Hot Springs Evason in Ma’In.

- The second post covering the visit to Madaba (Mount Nebo), the desert experience in Wadi Rum, Petra by day and by night experience and last but not least our final stop in Aqaba.

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We took an early morning flight from Beirut to Amman (there are 7 flights every day) and got to Amman in less than 2 hours. It was my first time on a Royal Jordanian plane and the trip was quite smooth and the staff were very friendly. Upon arriving to the newly renovated Queen Alia International Airport, a bus and a tourist guide were waiting there to help us out and pick us up. The first hotel we stayed in was the Regency Palace hotel as it was very close to where the Pope’s mass is taking place and to the Jordanian cultural center where all the press conferences were being held.

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Night out in Amman and a selfie with Pope Francis
To be honest, the Regency Palace hotel was by far the worst hotel we stayed in during our trip to Amman as the rooms were dirty, the food was average and the hotel was right on a busy highway. After resting for a couple of hours, we headed out to the city center and had dinner at a beautiful authentic restaurant called Sufra. The restaurant is an old renovated house with a beautiful interior and a splendid terrace. The food was also quite good as we got to try few Jordanian dishes which were quite interesting (specially the Kafta wou Batata with T7eené instead of tomatoes).

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The second day was quite a busy one as we had to be ready by 10am for the Pope’s visit and we spent the whole day between the Jordanian cultural center and the Amman stadium. The security measures taken were quite drastic as there were 2 or 3 police officers every 20 meters and a lot of security checks. Nevertheless, everything went as planned and I got to see Pope Francis which I admire and respect a lot. I even took a selfie with him!

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The Dead Sea Experience: At the lowest point on Earth
Our next stop after Amman was at the Movenpick Hotels & Resorts which is located on the dead sea. As opposed to Regency Hotel, this was one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever been too. The resort was splendid, the rooms were amazing, the food was great and the facilities were everything one could ask for. As far as the dead sea experience is concerned, I went for a swim and it was quite a weird feeling as you float the whole time. I stayed for around 20 minutes as this is the recommended time then put some of that “magic” mud on my body. Note that it is not recommended to swim if you have a cut, nor is it advised to dunk your face in the water as your eyes will hurt real bad; you just have to lay back and navigate with your hands as if you’re in a tube.

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The whole dead sea experience took less than an hour and we spent the rest of the day sunbathing and walking around the resort. I even found some private Jacuzzi entrance and managed to get in after one of the hotel employees gave me the pass code. It was one of the best Jacuzzis I’ve stayed in as well. If you ever want to visit the dead sea, there are a lot of cool resorts along the coast just like the Movenpick.

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Baptism Site

After leaving the Movenpick and before heading to Ma’In, we passed by the Baptism Site for a short visit. The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, also known as Al-Maghtas, is one of the most important religious destinations specially for Christians. Despite its symbolism, there’s nothing much to see there except for the few churches and the main site next to the river.

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What was quite amazing there is that we were standing right on the Jordan River and the people on the other side of the river were in Israel. Even though we were separated by few meters only and no barriers, no one dares to cross the river from both sides.

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Evason Ma’In Hot Springs

After our short stop at the Baptism site, we drove for like an hour to get to Ma’In, a region situated in the mountains and hosting a beautiful resort next to Ma’In’s famous waterfalls. The resort is called Evason Ma’In Hot Springs (I have no idea how we pronounce Evason) and consists of a hotel and a spa, the Six Senses Spa, set underneath one of the three waterfalls found there.

The hotel itself is really nice and ideal for a weekend escape, the rooms were tidy and clean but there wasn’t much lighting at night for some reason. The biggest waterfall found there is not accessible to the public, but there are two other waterfalls that you can go to. One of them is located inside the Six Senses spa and you have to pay to go there while the other one located right outside the resort is free. There’s also a pool 200 meters away from the hotel but I didn’t like it much to be honest, as I would have preferred some infinity pool inside the resort with a couple of Jacuzzis to relax specially that they have a breathtaking view.

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As far as the waterfalls are concerned, it’s quite a unique experience and it feels quite weird to be standing underneath them. They call them the “healing waterfalls” because they apparently relax the muscles and make you feel better. All in all, I highly recommend this resort if you are heading to Jordan for a week and looking for a weekend escape. You don’t need more than a couple of days at Evason Ma’In Hot Springs.

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This pretty much covers the first part of my trip which I enjoyed quite a lot, but the best is yet to come to stay tuned for the second post where I will be talking about Petra and the desert experience mainly which were mind blowing!

A Sneak Peek Of The Roof’s New Menu At The Four Seasons Beirut

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Summer is almost here and The Roof is opening “officially” very soon at the Four Seasons Beirut with a new menu and a couple of cool features added to the venue. I got an invite to try out the new menu last Friday and the weather was just perfect for an evening at The Roof.

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For those of you who are not familiar with the Roof, it’s the highest rooftop in Beirut overlooking the Zaitunay Bay, Beirut’s new Water Front and the St. Georges club. It’s a great spot to go after a long working day or in the weekend to relax, enjoy cocktails and Asian tapas.

The venue didn’t change much from last year, except for the new mirror ball installed in the pool, the newly enhanced and much cooler wall projections and the DJ booth which was relocated to overlook the venue.

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The menu on the other hand was completely revamped and included quite a view interesting and tasty new items. The App’ N teasers includes Edamame Beans, Spicy Crispy Calamari, Salmon & Tuna Sashimi, a Thai Shrimp Salad and a crispy chicken with green papaya salad. I went for the Salmon Sashimi because I like them and tried the Thai Shrimp Salad which was quite good. In the Wrap N’ Roll section, I went for the good old Shrimp dumblings mainly because the other items had spices or onions in them, which I don’t like.

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Moving on to the best part of my dinner, I ordered a new item called Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pizza made with seafood and shaved bonito flakes. I absolutely loved this pizza as it was rich in flavor and very light. By the way, if you see the flakes moving in your plate, don’t freak out as it’s the steam that makes them move. They are known in Japan as the dancing fish flakes. Other items in the No Main, No Gain! section include a Chicken or Beef Satay, Sea Bass, Chicken with cashew nuts and a Beef Bulgogi dish which includes sweet soy, Korean kimchi and steamed rice.

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Last but not least, we were advised to try the US Prime Beef Filet and the Tiger Jumbo Prawns in the Tep’ N Yaki section. The Jumbo Prawns were ok but I didn’t like the fact that we had to eat them out of a wooden stick. I’d rather have them in a proper plate. As for the beef filet, it was perfectly cooked and quite amazing. The dressing we had with both these dishes was also quite good and included mustard and honey among other things.

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All in all, I love the Roof and it was yet another delightful evening on the Four Seasons’ 25th floor. The new menu items are light, fresh and suitable for such a seating and I am going back soon to have that Japanese Pizza and the Beef Bulgogi.

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Review: O&C The Fresh Market

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O&C is a supermarket and restaurant that’s located on the Jal el Dib highway. I love shopping there as it’s a relatively small market where you can easily find everything you need, but I’ve never had lunch or dinner at their restaurant on the 2nd and 3rd floor. I remember once ordering Sushi and picking up a fish order for my parents, but that’s about it. O&C restaurant only serves fish and sushi.

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Having said that, I reserved a table for lunch last weekend and headed there with my family. I easily found a place to park and there’s of course valet parking for those who want to, then we went in and were seated almost immediately at our table. The place was packed and there were people waiting in the lobby as well. We were asked if we’d like to pick our fish from the display on the entrance, so I went there with my dad and selected which types of fish we wanted, and whether we wanted them fried or grilled. I am usually annoyed by the smell coming out of a fish display in supermarkets but the O&C one didn’t have a strong smell.

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After picking our fish, we ordered some appetizers, mainly Fattoush, Moutabbal, Fries, Chanklish and grilled shrimps. We also ordered around 20-25 pieces of Sushi. The waiters were very friendly but we waited a good 15-20 minutes before we got the drinks and appetizers which weren’t ours. Few minutes after, he got us the correct order and apologized for this mistake, which wasn’t really a big deal.

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The Fattoush was good but I’d rather have it without Debs el Remman next time as it was too sweet for my liking. The Moutabbal, Chanklish and Shrimps were really good and the fries which looked more like potato wedges than fries were good as well. We ended up ordering more shrimps as they were gone in no time and everyone loved them.

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Now the real surprise was the Sushi, which tasted fresh and was exceptionally good. I was told by some friends that it’s good, but I didn’t expect it to be better than Soto and Ichiban, which are two of my favorite Sushi places in Lebanon. I had some O&C sushi delivered to my place few days later as well and it was as good as the first time.

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As far as fish is concerned, the fried and grilled ones we ordered were good and the waiter cleans up and serves the grilled one for you. I usually prefer Mallifa when it comes to fried fish but they didn’t have any. It is worthy noting that the price tags that you see on the fish display do not include the frying (20,000LL extra) and grilling (24,000LL extra) as O&C is a market where you could just buy the fish and go so don’t be surprised to see extra charges on the bill.

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Moving on to the dessert, the waiter came with a selection of desserts that we could choose from, including Jelo, Chocolate custard, Riz bi Haleeb, Sfouf, Maamoul and Kaak bi Tamer, all free of charge. We ended up paying around 35-40$ per person which is a very reasonable price.

All in all, I would recommend O&C for fish and sushi, specially when it’s a rainy weather and you don’t wanna head out to one of those fish restaurants by the sea. I loved their delivery service as well, as they are punctual and have reasonable prices.

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Review: 300 Rise of an Empire

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300: Rise of an empire is the sequel to the awesome 300 movie that came out few years back and that I’ve personally watched 5 times. It’s basically a follow-up of 300 with events taking place before, during and after the epic Battle of Thermopylae that opposed 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas and the might army of the Persian King “God-King” Xerxes.

I watched 300: Rise of an empire yesterday at Vox and I have to say it was a decent action-packed movie but definitely not as impressive as the first one. The battle scenes are nice but a bit fast-paced and Themistocles who’s leading the Greek armies and most of the battles is not as powerful and charismatic as Leonidas. Moreover, the only sex scene in the movie seems a bit out of place, and there’s this scene with Themistocles riding his horse that’s just ridiculously fake. I understand it’s a fantasy action film but 300 was the same and didn’t have such scenes or at least they felt a bit more realistic.

In all cases, I think it’s a decent sequel/presequel to 300 but I doubt that I’ll be watching it more than once.

PS: It is recommended that you watch 300 before watching 300: Rise of an empire in order to better understand what’s happening.

Review: Nokia Lumia 1020

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Update: Nokia has officially released its first Android phones, the Nokia X and Nokia XL.

The Lumia 1020 is probably the best Windows Phone out there at the moment, and its camera is the best smartphone camera you could ask for. I am really impressed with the quality of pictures and I am barely using my Samsung S4 camera these days, however a smartphone is not only about a camera and I am still not fully convinced with Windows Phones. I love the 1020 and am carrying it around with me all the time (and don’t want to give it back :P), but the whole Windows OS experience is still second best to Android and iOS smartphones.

Moving on, here’s my take on the design/build quality, the performance, the camera and battery life.

Design/Build Quality
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The Lumia 1020 is a relatively heavy smartphone, but somehow much lighter than the Lumia 920 despite the camera lens popping out of the back of the phone. The one I got came in matte black, and even though I loved the feel of the phone, it was a bit more slippery when compared to the previous Lumia phones that came with a glossy finish. The screen offers a 4.5-inch PureMotion HD + OLED display and is a very solid one (Gorilla Glass 3). There are no buttons or ports on the left side of the screen, while the right side has a volume control button, a power/standby and camera button. The Lumia 1020 can never rest flat on a table because of the camera lens standing out at the back. The round bump looks weird but it didn’t bother me to be honest.

Performance/Software and Battery Life
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The Lumia 1020 has a Dual-core 1.5GHz MSM8960 Processor and is lightening fast. the Windows 8.1 runs very smoothly just like the previous Lumia phones and the 2GB are more than enough to run all the tasks you need. This is a major advantage over the often bloaty and laggy Android but the thing is Android is more user friendly and convenient than the live-tile filed Windows Mobile OS. Take for example the simplest of options, the bar shortcut and notifications drop-down are not available on the Lumia. Moreover I hate the keyboard and you can’t change it.

As far as the battery is concerned, it could easily last an entire day if you are just using it to browse the internet, check emails and take few pictures. Of course if you are using the professional camera and the Xenon flash, expect the battery to run out more quickly. Speaking of photography, Instagram is available but in a BETA mode.

The Camera
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If you are into photography and like taking good pictures, you will fall in love with the Lumia 1020. Just like the Pureview 808 was impressive, the six-lens 41-megapixel PureView camera paired with a Xenon flash is the best smartphone camera by far. Of course you won’t need to take high-res pictures all the time as the default camera is more than enough to produce awesome pictures to upload them on Facebook or share them with friends, but if you want to experiment with the pro camera, then I advise you to read this document first. If you’ve never used an SLR Camera before, you will find it hard to change between the settings so I recommend in that case that you keep all the settings to auto in that case and let the camera do the work.

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As you can see from the above screenshots, you can play with various manual controls, such as the brightness level, the shutter speed, ISO, focus and white balance. You can get see a live preview while setting the controls. The one thing I wasn’t able to do is shoot macro shots with the 1020 but you won’t need to as you can easily zoom in any picture without losing any quality. Trust me the level of detail that this phone captures is something you’ll never see on any other camera phone and I will be posting later on a list of High-Res Photos taken all over Lebanon.

Here’s an example on how good the Lumia 1020 camera is:

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Photo taken by the Lumia1020

Final Verdict
I loved the design and solid build of the Lumia 1020. The camera is an obvious winner too but the Windows OS is a major turn off for me to be honest. The notification system is lousy, large live tiles, tons of settings and no quick bar or shortcut buttons. I’ve tried hard to get used to the Windows OS but it’s not working out for me. Either a serious change needs to be done and Microsoft is more than capable to do so, or Microsoft should let their phones run on Android and I heard they are already considering it.

Review: Her (2013)

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I just finished watching Her and I already feel like watching it once again. An outstanding movie, a brilliant concept and an odd yet captivating love story. “Her” makes you think about where we are today in terms of human interaction and relationships and where we might be going with all this progress in technology. It makes you wonder on the importance of technology in our everyday life and whether we should embrace it or not. It’s a strange love story between a man and an OS yet it feels at some points much deeper than many other real love stories in other movies.

I loved every single bit of it and I highly recommend it!

Review: Liza Restaurant – Beirut

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Liza Restaurant is a contemporary Lebanese Restaurant that first started in Paris and has recently opened in Achrafieh, Beirut. I’ve already been 3 times to Liza and every time the food and atmosphere were great. The restaurant is located in Achrafieh above La Posta Restaurant in a beautifully renovated old Lebanese villa. Liza consists of several rooms, each named differently and nicely decorated in an elegant oriental yet modern style.

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As far as the food is concerned, it is beautifully presented, looks fresh and tastes great. The portions are neither too small nor too big, which is great because you get to try out a lot of different dishes and actually finish them. The menu is quite rich and offers plenty of options for vegetarians, those who like meat and other traditional Lebanese dishes, picky customers etc ..

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Since I’ve been there few times already, I’ve had the chance to try out different dishes every time and here are some of the stuff I tried or recommend you try:

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Chanklish: I love Chanklish and theirs was among the best I’ve had at Lebanese Restaurants. It’s not mixed with onions and tomatoes like in other restaurants, which is the way I like it. It was a bit spicy though but fine by me.

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Moutabbal and Hummus: The dishes taste as good as they look.

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Makanek: They are bigger than the usual and really good. A couple of friends who were with me tried the Soujouk (I hate Soujouk) and loved it too.

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Halloum Grillé: This is by far my favorite starter at Liza. Halloum tastes great and the “confiture de tomate” in the middle is amazing! I usually keep aside the tomatoes in Lebanese dishes but this one has some jam in it and is a must-try.

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Mashewe Platter: The portion is barely enough for one person if you’re really hungry but the meat and Taouk were delicious.

If you want to try some special dishes, I recommend you try the Kharouf Bi Khams Bharat platter or the Moghrabiye Bel Sfarjal. If you are a Siyaddiye fan, they do it the proper way with Loukoz fish but it’s not always available. Their Kébbé méchwiyé is also worth a try. As far as desserts are concerned, my favorites are the Sfouf Bi Laktine and Achta aux agrumes.

Price-wise, Liza is a bit more expensive than your average Lebanese restaurant but it’s worth the price given that you’re in a sumptuous house with a lovely atmosphere and great food (and no arguile).

Here are some more pictures of Liza:

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For more info about Liza Beirut, click [Here].

Quick Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is based on a short story by James Thurber. The movie is about Walter Mitty, an average man whose daydreams take him to a world of adventure, heroism and romance. Honestly, I had high hopes for this movie but I didn’t think it was that great. The story is nice, the plot is interesting, the views are breath-taking but the movie is slow-paced and a bit boring. Mitty’s character is quite interesting and you get attached to it but then I lost interest at some point and wanted the movie to just end. The end was nice and emotional even though it was predictable.

It’s definitely a feel-good movie and I don’t regret watching it, but I thought for some reason it would be much better than that. I do agree with Patrick though that the movie’s soundtrack is amazing!

Review: The Wolf Of Wall Street

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The Wolf of Wall Street is about a young stockbroker called Jordan Belfort who began his Wall Street career as an intern at a highly reputed investment firm, before losing his job following the Market crash in 1987 “Black Monday”. However, the young and enthusiastic Belfort does not despair, and soon after being introduced to the world of penny stocks, starts making millions and decides to kick off his own business. He recruits some of his friends, including a drug dealer, and that’s where everything spins out of control. Drugs, Sex, Corruption, Dirty Money, Excessive spending, Crazy Parties, Excessive Substance abuse, Hot girls, Troubled family life etc …

Martin Scorsese made sure to document every aspect of Belfort’s rise and downfall by delivering a 3 hours long movie. Just like in Goodfellas, it’s a story about a young man working his way up to become rich and powerful, except this time it’s Wall Street and not the mob and the guys wear suits and work in offices.

There’s a bit of everything in this movie, from drama to humor to action, and I thought it was an absolutely thrilling and excellent movie! Leonardo DiCaprio played his character to perfection and deserves an Oscar for his performance (My favorite scene was when he’s totally wasted and crawling to his car). Belfort’s partners are hilarious and perfectly chosen too, specially Donnie Azoff who’s played by Jonah Hill. Naomi Lapaglia, Belfort’s wife is played by Margot Robbie and is unbelievably hot.

The movie earned an 8.7/10 on IMDb. Personally, I’d easily give it a 9/10.

Note: I unfortunately watched the censored version which is only 2 hours and 30 minutes long, but this post says the full version will start showing as of today in Lebanese theaters.