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Why You Can Never Truly Trust Online Restaurant Ratings

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As a veteran food blogger, I’m often asked about the importance and reliability of online restaurant ratings. In Lebanon’s F&B landscape, Zomato has filled the role of restaurant search and discovery. Users can look up business hours, menus, photos, diners’ reviews, and contact info to learn more about a venue of interest.
Online data can certainly go a long way in creating a virtual restaurant visit even before the real one transpires. And I was quoted saying that a couple years ago in an interview with Wamda on “How Lebanon’s food scandal spurred startup solutions.” But while one can piece together an impression from the general attitude of previous diners, one would be sorely amiss to rely exclusively on visitors’ remarks.
In other words, Zomato is not an authoritative guide in the everlasting pursuit of outstanding restaurants. Yes, it is a warehouse of valuable data, but it suffers from a set of inherent limitations. And you’re about to be in the know.




False Reviews
Just as with …

Atelier du Miel & The Art of Honey-Based Cooking

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I’ve been following the growth of local organic honey producer L’Atelier du Miel with the same resolve of a bee pollinating a flower. And it’s blossoming.
Established by the trio of an engineer, architect, and consultant, The Honey Shop, as its name translates to in English, came about as a pet project to produce local artisanal honey free from pesticides and antibiotics. Nearly a thousand beehives are moved throughout the year in synchronization with the flower-blossoming seasons. As a result, a myriad of honeys abound, from Cedar and Orange to Thyme and Lavender, each wholly untampered by heat treatment or processing.
And the taste shows for it. I’ve become addicted to Caroubier, tinged with hints of carob molasses, as well as Fleur d’Oranger, aromatic of orange blossom. Each has found a place in my pantry to top granola, pancakes, peanut butter – virtually anything that could use a sweet little drizzle!
The incorporation of honey into our daily cuisine might seem like an amateur missi…

The Scoop on Bar Tartine's All-New Brunch Buffet

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There’s a perfectly good explanation for why Bar Tartine is my no-brainer go-to when dining out is in the cards. To say that the cafe, restaurant, bread baker, and pastry shop in one does everything right might sound overly subjective and ambitious. And any food critic knows there’s always room for improvement.
But gosh darn it, Bar Tartine scores superlative marks when it comes to a tasty purposeful menu; fresh, premium ingredients; great value at affordable prices; smart service; and smooth ambiance. New items are carefully and deliberately introduced to the menu -- the last polish occurred two summers ago, and it’s robustly withstood the test of time. In fact, all the newbies have become my regular orders. (But I’m still wondering about that divine Caprice aux Poires: O where, O where did it go?)
The latest development is a weekend brunch offered exclusively in the Dbayeh outlet. You can imagine how much time, thought, market research, and kitchen experimentation the team must have d…

Sapori e Vini: Authentic Trattoria Dining in Byblos

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Some of the most memorable moments from our honeymoon in Italy were stumbling across family-run trattorias in the cities and towns we visited. Tucked in calm streets away from the footfall of giddy tourists, these dining establishments—somewhere between osteria and ristorante in the scale of formalness—feature casual service, low prices, and an emphasis on steady neighborhood clientele rather than haute cuisine.
I still recall those generous bowls of ribollita, or vegetable stew, followed by seafood pasta swimming in frutti di mare. Dessert comprised uneven squares of tiramisu sliced from a pan. You could wash it all down with a bottle of still or fizzy water and a cup of espresso for a very reasonable €25. In comparison, the Italian restaurants you find in Lebanon are nowhere near as merciful when it comes to price and value.



Two brothers by the names of Jad and Imad Doumet are out to change that. Their mission? To reproduce the trattoria experience here in Lebanon, complete with trick…

Lina’s Lebanon: New Menu, Slashed Prices & An Evolving Identity

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The first time I stepped foot inside a Lina’s outlet was in the summer of 2010. I had just graduated with an MBA from Paris and was meeting the founder of then newly launched startup GoNabit. We sat outside on the deck of the downtown Beirut café, and I sipped lemonade as we exchanged thoughts on the potential of a group-buying site in Lebanon.
Roughly six months later, I was back at Lina’s to meet with a fellow MIT alumnus a generation my senior who was trying to help me prospect for career opportunities in Lebanon. In those chilly months of winter, I opted for a pot of green tea and an apple tart from the dessert tray.
The impressions I formed of Lina’s from those encounters and subsequent visits were two-fold: (1) Lina’s patrons are for the most part business professionals and executives who enjoy comfy armchairs; and (2) the small-font, graphics-free menu as well as its no-frills sandwich and salad items reflect the undeniably Parisian roots of the café.
To a fresh graduate in her m…