Category Archives: Reviews

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 an S4

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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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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.

So I Watched Bébé

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I didn’t like the trailer and I wasn’t planning to watch the movie but I ended up going after I read that over 20,000 have seen the movie in its first 4 days. I also went through the movie’s Facebook page and saw that a lot of Lebanese actors gave the movie a positive feedback.

However from the moment the movie started till the last minute, I couldn’t understand what the hell I was watching or what was this movie’s purpose. Moreover, I couldn’t believe people actually thought some scenes were funny and were laughing out loud. The plot made no sense, some of the actors were horrible (Specially Bébé’s brother), most of the jokes lame and let’s not talk about the ending.

Mirva was hot though.

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PS: The movie will start showing in Dubai on the 5th of December 2013.

Mir Amin Palace Hotel: A Perfect Getaway

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The Chouf is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful areas in Lebanon. It boasts the biggest Cedars forest in Lebanon, historical palaces built by the Emirs of Lebanon, most notably the magnificent Beiteddine palace, as well as beautiful old Lebanese houses, monasteries and attractions. It’s the perfect getaway from the city, the noise and the pollution and the Mir Amin Palace Hotel is the ideal place to stay when you’re planning a weekend in the Chouf.

The Mir Amin Palace was once a residence of the last Emirs of Lebanon back in the 19th century, and has been restored and turned into a splendid five-star hotel overlooking the Chouf Mountains. I went there to spend the weekend in September and I was completely blown away by the beauty of this palace, its historic courtyards, its room and suites, its spacious terraces and its great food and ambiance.

It’s really hard to describe in words how awesome this place is, so I will let pictures speak for themselves and add small captions below them.

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The road from the highway to Mir Amin Palace is well paved and surrounded by trees and forests.

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Entrance road to the Mir Amin Palace Hotel

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Entrance to the Mir Amin Palace Hotel

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After you check in, you step out to see this beautiful terrace

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Mir Amin Palace’s spacious rooms decorated with antique beds and furniture

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Walk around the palace and check its beautiful courtyards

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An Arabic lounge outside the hotel’s suites

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Hall Arcades

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What was once the residence of a Lebanese Emir

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View of the Palace from the pool

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Beautiful pool and a breath-taking view

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The Outdoor terrace

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Great Lebanese food

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and entertainment

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Overlooking the Chouf mountains

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Sunset

Overlooking the spectacular mountain valley view’s to the sun kissed terraces and the shimmering Mediterranean below, Mir Amin Palace Hotel Beiteddine Lebanon welcomes you to experience a tangible sense of history escaping from life’s stresses in the city.

This is exactly what this hotel offers its guests and more. It’s a great escape during the summer and I can’t wait to spend a weekend there during the winter with all the snowy mountains around us.

You can check out more details on the hotel’s [website].

The Happy Prince – Mar Mikhael

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The Happy Prince is a pub-resto open in Mar Mikhael on Alexander Flemming Street (Right down the street from Internazionale). Even though it’s not a burger joint, I’ve been hearing a lot about its burgers so I decided to go check it out. I went the first time last Friday but the kitchen was closed (It closes between 3:30 and 7:30) and the place was empty so I left and thought I’d come back for lunch on Saturday. I got there around 2pm on Saturday and the place was packed this time but there were no more burgers (as per the manager). I thought it was pretty weird that a restaurant known for his burgers runs out of burgers so I just left again and was annoyed this time.

Yesterday, I had few errands to run in Beirut and I found myself next to the Happy Prince around 7:30 so I parked and walked in. The place was totally empty so we sat and asked for the menu. We ordered a grilled corn salad and two orders of “The Cheeseburger”, which is the only burger they serve and consists of “selected cuts of US Black Angus beef served with house made french fries”. I had a drink while waiting for the burger and asked them if they had any carrots or crackers or chip but they didn’t serve any which is pretty weird for a pub.

PS: Around 7:40 people start coming in and the place was full before 8.

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The salad came after 20 minutes and it was really good. I loved how they mixed avocado with the grilled corn. Some 20 minutes later, the two burgers were finally here. As you can see below, the platter consists of small crispy fries with a slice of tomato topped with two slices of onions, a bowl of ketchup and the burger. I ordered my patty medium rare and my friend ordered it well done. The seating was comfortable but the tables were very close to each other which annoyed me. In fact at some point, they decided to add a chair to a nearby table and the guy who sat was almost sitting right next to me.

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My burger was delicious. I loved the bun even though the bottom was too thin, the patty was juicy and tasty, not too salty or too greasy. It was one of the best burgers I’ve had in Lebanon. My friend’s burger was also good but the patty was too salty for some reason (I took a bite just to make sure). As far as the fries are concerned, the portion was big enough for one person and I loved them.

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All in all, I loved The Happy Prince’s burger and it’s definitely on my top 3 burger places in Lebanon but I didn’t quite enjoy the experience at that place. What I mean is that I had to go three times to actually taste their burger, I couldn’t reserve in advance even though the place is relatively small, there’s a limited number of burgers everyday, the kitchen has limited opening hours, it’s hard to find a parking lot around the place and the service is kind of slow.