Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cool Finds at Wesley’s Wholesale In Hazmieh

It’s been over three weeks now, and Wesley’s Hazmieh is pulsating with life! If you haven’t had the chance to visit the two-story megastore nestled on Camille Chamoun Boulevard roughly opposite Galaxy, “missing out” just doesn’t start to capture it. Your meek existence in Lebanon will totally transform with just one Wesley’s shopping spree, but don’t let me sway you. Let the products do the talking.

Wesley's Hazmieh staff

Spread across 3,000 square meters with two separate entrances and five check-out stands, Wesley's Hazmieh is split into food and nonfood sections. The former encapsulates fresh, dry, frozen, chilled and bulk sizes. The latter gathers up everything home and bedroom (linens, pillows, home organizers, plastics), cleaners and laundry, health and beauty, cookware, furniture, basic clothing, pets, and paper (toilet, towels, and disposables). 

The store is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 9 pm, and the parking lot accommodates over 175 cars (happily no valet!). Shipments come in twice a month, so there's always something new on the shelves.

Now let's dive into some of my cool finds from Wesley's inventory!

“Toula, put some __ on it!” Can you fill in the blank? You guessed it, my fellow “Big Fat Greek Wedding” fanatics! Guys, there really is no replacement for Windex, that stuff is the water of life! Well not quite, but still, it’s terribly effective on windows and mirrors, and possibly zits, but I can’t vouch for that. Wesley’s sells a sizable Windex Pro 32-oz. bottle for LBP 9,750 LL.

Photo source: newsledge.com

Moving right along. You almost forget just how soft Kleenex-brand facial tissues actually are. They are nothing short of a REVELATION, plush as velvet despite their strong and absorbent fabric (160-count, 2-ply for LBP 5,000). Forget Fine, Mimosa, Gypsy, and all that other sandpaper – Kleenex is king. And thank you, just thank you, for that sturdy cardboard box the tissues come in. Where did Lebanese brands even conceive the idea of a plastic sack for tissue casing? Supremely odious.

Clay 1 Clay 1
Soft and smooth as silk, I kid you not! 

Are you an avid home baker? I’ve got good news for you, because Wesley’s has aisles full of topnotch bakeware and cookware brands like Cake Boss and Circulon. 

Cake Boss baking novelties

Back up to the ground floor, you’ll find an aisle dedicated exclusively to Bob’s Red Mill flours and meals, cereals, granola, ready mixes, grains, beans, seeds, and oats. Anyone tried their gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix? Killer.

Red Mill flour range

While you’re there, check out my favorite aisles (yes, there are two!) housing the boxed cereals, mueslis, and granolas. They’ve got the healthy stuff, like Barbara’s, Weetabix, and Honey Bunches of Oats, but your kids will find solace in Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes, so it’s a win-win! 

And since we’re making concessions, I bought a hulking 35.3-oz. box of Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola (LBP 19,500) that sent my husband reeling in revulsion. He dismisses it as bird food, but what does he know? Amidst its heavenly rolled oats, brown rice flour, sea salt, molasses and cinnamon, this blend contains 700-mg of Omega-3 per serving, which is nearly half the recommended daily value! I’m still not sharing.

Another thing the Americans excel at: tortilla chips. I’m talking Tostitos crispy rounds (10-oz. bag for LBP 8,500) that have the perfect structural rigidity to scoop up Tostito's chunky medium all-natural salsa (16-oz. jar for LBP 7,250). Or how about Kettle Brand Chips, those beautiful, tawny gold-color potato lamelles seasoned with spices and fresh-from-the-field character? They come in flavors as bold as red curry, jalapeno, sriracha, honey Dijon, and maple bacon.

Kettle brand chips in bulk!

Italian cuisine amores, rejoice, for not only is Wesley’s importing goods from the New World, but they’ve got your beloved boot-shaped country at heart and are shipping in its finest. Traditional Genovese pesto? Check. Olio Basso’s extra virgin olive oil with chili pepper? Double check. Pepperoncini-infused penne pasta? Check. Don’t forget tricolore spaghetti, and balsamic sauces and glazes galore.

Most of all, I’m rejoicing that I’ll never again have to pathetically beg for an extra quarter slice of a whole dill pickle on future visits to Deli.co. I can finally stock up on my own by Vlasic, courtesy of Wesley’s (46-oz. for LBP 12,000).

Whole dill pickles (photo source: https://tailgatepartycartusa.com)

If all this hasn’t whetted your appetite, I have no words for you. Sadly, your condition is hopeless. In fact, you should probably check out Wesley’s gourmet chocolate rack for high-strength treatments. Caution: swallow responsibly!

Taza Chocolate -- you haven't started living until you've had Taza

Wesley's Wholesale
Blvd. Camille Chamoun
Antoine Gharios Center

For other branches, see here.


Beirutista has joined forces with Wesley’s Wholesale as Brand Ambassador. What exactly does that mean? Well, if you liked this post, you can look forward to similar ones every month or so. I’ll also be blogging about a variety of exciting new projects Wesley’s has underway, in addition to sneak peeks and product leaks! Expect cool new product giveaways from time to time, and if you’re a real Wesley’s obsessive like I am, I’ll gladly hook you up with 10% off your next visit. Just shoot me a message at any of my contact coordinates listed here

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Summer Lives On: Weekend Escape to Byblos Sur Mer

After my initial rapture with Byblos Sur Mer some three months ago, when we lunched at its seafood restaurant Dar el Azrak, a revisit was due. Located squarely at the port of Byblos, the five-star boutique property perches right on the Mediterranean and boasts an expansive seaside cove. Therein sit Sophia Bay, a zen for sunbathers and seafarers, and Al Marsa café.

Saturday found us checking into our charming junior suite. In fact, “charming” is the best adjective to describe the hotel, from the cream-colored, chandelier-decked lobby with local artwork on display, to the den-like breakfast buffet site turned evening pizzeria, Café Tournesol.

The lobby inside Byblos Sur Mer

Our room, a comfortable 44 square meters, featured a proper balcony with views of the Crusader castle and the Byblos port. This is precisely where you'd want to sip on wine at sunset as you survey tourists passing directly beneath. 

View from the junior suite balcony

Back inside the suite, a firm king-sized bed; writing table; and salon area with sofa, armchair and coffee table facing a satellite TV rounded out the scene.

Salon area of the suite

King-sized bed with plush pillows

The bathroom is sheer luxury, bedecked with a gold-framed mirror running the length of the wall above a capacious tub (honeymoon material!). A separate walk-in shower with bathing products by French brand Azzaro render the restroom its own cathartic paradise. 


If you can will yourself to tear away from the room, which with its soundless air conditioning is so ineffably therapeutic, make your way down to Sophia Bay and bask in the strong rays of the Mediterranean sun. A small pond-like pool shallow enough for young children provides refreshment. If you don’t mind the salt of the sea, descend into its waters naturally cordoned off by rocks.

Al Marsa Café by day, and beyond it, Sophia Bay

In the evening, the same arena houses the canopied Al Marsa Café, where beautiful beats accompanied by live singing animate your dining experience. Saturday nights present a BBQ formula, comprising the mainstays of the traditional Lebanese mezza followed by a selection of grilled meat.

View of Dar el Azrak from Al Marsa Café

Nothing could be more delightful than stuffing a hummus-smeared pita pocket into your mouth as you peer over the placid black waters where schools of small fish vie for your attention (and breadcrumbs). Stuffed Swiss chard leaves, rocket with fresh thyme salad, eggplant caviar, plump makanek sausages, and kibbeh teardrops flesh out dinner.

Lebanese mezza on BBQ night at Al Marsa
Kibbeh teardrops along with cheese-filled filo fingers

Afterward, thread your way through Jbeil to take in the throbbing nightlife. The Old Souks are lined with pubs brimming at capacity, and in the central courtyard, restaurants scramble to win over aimless passersby. Back by the Mina, past the typical fish restaurants, amble to the “jetée,” or pier, where you’ll discover late-night picnickers, romantic couples, and teenagers blaring music from their mobile phones. Ah, the characteristic “sansoul” experience!

In the morning, when the appetite beckons, do not miss breakfast at Café Tournesol. The homey bistro invites guests to its corner location on the first floor of the hotel, overlooking both sea and port with sunlight trickling in. Furniture is a kitschy blend of old-fashioned white wooden tables, fluffy print sofas, and low-rising coffee tables suitable for afternoon high tea.

Cafe Tournesol's kitschy furniture

Lovers of the Lebanese breakfast will find solace here, as the buffet counts in its repertoire cooked broad beans (foul mdammas), balila, labneh, local cheeses, zaatar in olive oil, crisp veggies, and tahini. Fresh to order manakish pies? You got it, in both cheese and zaatar varieties. You can also customize eggs to your liking!

Lebanese breakfast
Viennoiserie and baked goods
Fresh-baked zaatar mankoushe

Sweet tooths (including yours truly) might have a bit of difficulty satisfying their sugar cravings. In the healthier department, there’s a fresh fruit medley as well as Taanayel flavored yogurts. But there’s little in the way of baked goods, besides miniature chocolate-chip muffins and a plain tea cake. The highlight are the homemade jams – apricot is supreme – as well as the locally sourced honeycomb.

After breakfast, saunter back into the old city for a glimpse of daytime activity. Engage the shop vendors for their frivolous knickknacks; visit the wax museum; light a candle inside one of the many churches dotting the landscape; and check out the fossilized fish exhibits not far from the castle, nestled beneath Locanda Corsini.

Most importantly, take notice of the breathtaking sights from every angle. Jbeil is replete with hidden passageways and restaurants, as well as century-old residences fenced off to nosy wanderers. For as far as the eye can dart, there’s something uniformly enchanting about this city. Here, the historic fuses with the contemporary. The new doesn’t blot out the old, only merely complementing it as in a palimpsest.

One of the narrow passages in Jbeil

And Byblos Sur Mer, its premier boutique hotel, echoes that spirit exactly. Present moments with precious pieces from the past adorn the walls to form a heritage collection. Inside suites, discover hand-woven decorative lace mounted on walls, and stones from the sea serving as closet door handles. Throughout the property, cherish silk-woven carpets, antique furniture, vintage books and a restored Mediterranean Byzantine mosaic picturing birds native to Byblos.

Spend a day at Byblos Sur Mer, guest to its rustic hospitality, and you’ll lose all notion of time.

A deluxe room starts at $180 per night, an executive room at $200, and a junior suite sea view at $240 (TVA exclusive). All arrangements include breakfast. For more details on rooms, rates, and bookings, visit http://byblossurmer.com/booking/. You can also nab promotional rates on booking.com. 

Byblos Sur Mer
Sea Road, facing Historical Port
1401 - Jbeil, Lebanon
+961 9 548 000

Friday, September 16, 2016

Inheriting My Mother's Fate

I never thought I’d relive my mother’s plight.

My intention in moving to Lebanon some five and a half years ago was really to be an anchor. An anchor that would gravitate my parents back to their motherland. An anchor that would reunite my mother to the family she abandoned in the height of the Civil War when she wed my father. An anchor that would take me back to my heritage and deepen my roots in the nation of my ancestors. An anchor that would transcend the artificial charm of a vacation for a gritty and real presence year-round.

Growing up in the US, I was conscious of my mother’s split existence. Her body was in California, but her heart, mind and soul were firmly entrenched in Lebanon. Sure, she’d willingly left her mother and siblings to start a new life with her American-nationalized husband, but not for a second did she live mentally unshackled for having done so.

She wrote long, lyrical letters to her sisters. She’d wait from week to week to make a quick, rehearsed phone call through the New York central operator – back then a call overseas had to be routed and queued, and the first three minutes of talk time commanded a whopping $15! When she went shopping, she constantly picked out items for her family in Beirut and stashed them in a suitcase in the garage.

In essence, Mom got through the year by living vicariously through thoughts, memories, letters, phone calls, and an earnest anticipation of the summer, when we would make the grueling 24-hour journey from LA to Beirut to reunite with relatives.

Photo credit: www.huffingtonpost.com

I along with my brothers echoed Mom in our passion for Lebanon. Summers here were packed with nonstop excitement: frolicking with cousins, working a sweat at the country club, frequenting the movies, eating out, touring the country from North to South. Compared to our mundane, study-centric lives in the US, Lebanon was absolute paradise.

Which is why I promised myself I would come and settle in Lebanon once my educational objectives were fulfilled. Quite honestly, I pined to attend the AUB as an undergraduate, and I applied, even scoring a rare full-merit scholarship. But my parents weren’t too keen about leaving me, at 17, to fend for myself.

Years later and three academic degrees wealthier, I made the colossal leap of faith. I’d already attempted employment in the UAE and detested it, so the least I could do was give Lebanon a chance. It was now or never. And in my mind, I would be building the bridge across which my own parents would traverse, incenting them once and for all to make Lebanon the permanent home they dreamt of for close to three decades.

Photo credit: www.mybs.com

Alas, reality seldom sticks to the plan. Mom and Dad came, for several months at a time, but never one-way. Their visits were invariably capped, one reason being my brothers’ continued presence in the US. But if you really probed at the depths, if you brought a magnifying glass to the inner machinations of their minds, you knew that for them, Lebanon had changed. 

Family had changed; folks in general had changed; values had changed; heck, even air quality had changed. And with my grandmother’s passing away in 2014, the glue of the family had totally dissipated.

My mother didn’t return to Lebanon until four months ago, after a year and a half's absence. In years past, she'd come to see her mother, but now, she comes to see me. The source of her agony all those decades – being so far from her mom – has renewed its ugly face with me as object. 

After all is said and done, after my valiant attempts to reunite Mom with her mother and motherland, I instead fostered our own sad separation. I am in the country of her dreams, while she remains in the country of my birth and childhood. Just as she had moved thousands of miles from her mother, I have moved thousands of miles from her.

Is this the world’s weird way of completing the cycle, of balancing the scale and making amends for what has gone before? 

Alanis Morissette sang it best: "isn't it ironic, don't you think?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Unsung Heroes of Lebanon

In this part of the world, one of the toughest things I’ve had to grapple with -- and continue to do so, five and a half years in -- is the pronounced polarization of socioeconomic classes.

Having grown up in the West where from a young age I was taught the importance of self-help and equality regardless of color, race, or creed, I’ve had difficulty coming to terms with the deeply-felt presence of a migrant working class in Lebanon.

Gas stations manned by Egyptians and Bangladeshi who pump your gas and squeegee your windows without you even having to open the car door.

Garbage men balancing precariously on steel rungs in the rear of dumpster trucks, inhaling the fumes of the road and rank rubbish as they descend to the street level to sweep it up.

How about those captive restroom aides who camp inside restaurant and venue wash areas, wiping down toilet seats and counters and doling out paper towels to comers and goers?

Migrant worker keeps busy on phone while manning the restroom
(Photo credit: english.al-akhbar.com)

Ever noticed how the janitors inside restaurant kitchens are almost uniformly dark-skinned?

I haven’t even gotten to the most common form of immigrant employee you see in Lebanon, and that’s the domestic servant, nanny, governess, or whatever euphemism you want to reduce her to. She comes in Filipina, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, Kenyan, Cameroonian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, or Burmese, and if you spot her inside a mall, she’s invariably on the heels of her mistress, tending to the kids’ every need.

The sight of these ladies wrenches my heart, because I don’t know how they get on psychologically, how they justify their daily bread slaving for others. Sure, they come to this country of their own volition, seeking to secure a more relaxed existence for their families and children back home. But the second-class treatment they’re sometimes the recipients of, the tiny personal space they’re relegated to, and the cold shoulder we can be guilty of giving them makes me uneasy.

Migrant workers rallying in Lebanon (April 2012, The Daily Star)

We Lebanese have a reputation for washing our hands clean of menial affairs. Anything requiring back-breaking labor, we typically enlist the help of foreign laborers. 

Just look at our public works and construction sector. Who but Syrians are pouring concrete and threading rebars through blocks?

How about the bag boys inside supermarkets? Ever seen a Lebanese pack your groceries or carry them to your car?

The moped-riding men who risk their lives braving traffic (though admittedly, they’re not always innocuous themselves) simply to bring us lunch to the comfort of our offices…are they Lebanese nationals?

Valet parking attendants are exceptionally Lebanese, possibly because their business is highly profitable, and we’d be fools to pass on a pretty penny to a foreigner.

I won’t pretend life isn’t vastly easier with these migrants' presence. You can have your home hosed down for proverbial peanuts, whereas abroad, a house cleaner commands a decent salary. You can afford to juggle a full-time career and household thanks to these domestic goddesses, who occasionally take the reins on the cooking as well. You can have your heavy grocery bags conveyed to the car for tens of cents. And if you’re ever strapped to your desk and can’t get out for a bite, they are the saviors who will bring you nourishment.

Is it wishful to hope that these people will someday be perceived as equals? Equal pay for equal labor. Equal access to all forms of employment. Equal protection under the law. Equal treatment in general.

Photo credit: al-monitor.com

Until that day comes, let’s each do our own small part as a collective whole:

Let’s notice them.

Let’s be nice to them.

Let’s strike up a conversation with them and listen intently.

Let’s hear them out. Each has a story to tell, and you’d be surprised at how positive and upbeat they are about their livelihoods.

Lord knows how we’d cope if ever put in their shoes.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Al Sultan Brahim Anchors in Downtown Beirut

Who knew that Al Sultan Brahim had such a prime perch in Beirut Central District? Spread across an expansive 1,800 square meters in a corner building facing the Biel waterfront, this Lebanese seafood institution is split across three floors: the first, a sleek and modern indoor dining space with sky-high ceilings; the second, restroom central; and the third, a canopied terrace for those breezy summer nights when a sunset drink is imperative.

Rooftop terrace at the new Sultan Brahim in downtown Beirut

Al Sultan Brahim, winner of the Arab Tourism Quality Award 2016, has graced the Lebanese dining landscape since 1961, when it first opened along the Jnah seaside. Hard work and commitment to excellence on the part of the Ramy brothers – Elias, Ibrahim, and Shaker – soon propagated to a network of branches, and today the Al Sultan Brahim – Diwan enterprise finds its foothold in Jounieh, Antelias, Achrafieh, and downtown Beirut. The Ramy’s second generation is at the helm, employing more than 600 people in its holding group.

As with all Lebanese seafood restaurants, the customer has free reign over
which fish he wants and their method of cooking

Last week, we paid a visit to the new outlet in Beirut. A glass of chilled Ixsir white paired with raw almonds on ice made for a grand beginning. Lebanese mezza mainstays descended on our tables in prompt fashion:

Roasted eggplant “moutabbal” fibrous and pleasantly aromatic with that charred aroma.

Roasted eggplant with tahini dip

A perfect fattouch with sweet beefsteak tomatoes and tangy pomegranate molasses.

Finely-minced parsley leaves tossed with diced onions and tomatoes to form tabbouleh.

Creamy hummus that could borrow more of the chickpea purée and less of the sesame paste tahini.

The hummus is heavy on tahini, whereas I'd prefer an emphasis on pureed chickpeas and lemon

Fresh crab meat resting on a bed of purslane with a squeeze of lemon.

Fresh crab salad

We were off to an auspicious start.

The stars of the hot mezza were manifold. Boiled chickpeas awash with olive oil, cumin and salt comprise a nutty “balila.” Potato cubes sautéed in butter and dusted with sumac pair nicely with fish “makanek,” spicy sausages usually reserved for beef fillings. You could hardly make out the difference.

Potato cubes sauteed in butter and dusted with sumac

The “samak ras asfour” features chunks of fresh fish lightly breaded, fried then doused in a lemony soy sauce -- sweet and sour fish, perhaps? Seafood fingers draw on filo pastry dough bundling seafood and shredded vegetables in what is highly reminiscent of a spring roll. White fish finished with bold teriyaki sauce rounded out the course.

Samak ras asfour, or what I like to think of as "sweet and sour fish"

White fish filet finished in bold teriyaki sauce

Rarely does one make it to the main course, but Al Sultan Brahim’s food is inexplicably light on the stomach. We dove into the grilled prawns, which, untethered from that trite cocktail sauce, still pack a punch of flavor. Baked grouper (“lokkos”) in salt yield a perfectly white, supple filet that yearns for nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon to amplify its taste profile.

The savory portion dazzled, but the sweets left a bit to be desired. “Nammoura,” or semolina cake, comes sweetened with honey rather than the conventional orange blossom syrup. Sure, it’s more gourmet, but it doesn't quite take off. 

Nammoura drenched in honey

What seemingly appeared to be “maamoul mud” didn’t correspond in taste, though these squares contain the usual trio of date paste, crushed walnuts, and pistachios.

Semolina cake with crushed pistachios

I’d have preferred the Lazy Cake, or biscuits au chocolat, rich with bittersweet chocolate. The milk variety is rather subtle when paired with tea biscuits and doesn’t deliver those strong solid notes I look forward to in this assembly.

Lazy Cake

The highlight of the evening was witnessing co-owner Khalil Ramy earnestly conversing with guests, even seated at the table soliciting their feedback. For a restaurant that’s been around for decades and has clearly been doing things right, it’s admirable to see they take interest in what their customers have to say and continue to allocate resources for improvement.

An institution like that is in it for the long haul. 

Al Sultan Brahim
Downtown Beirut
+961 1 989 989

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Loyalty Programs Go Digital Thanks to Merits App

Who remembers the Foursquare hysteria when everyone and their mother, quite literally, used to digitally check-in to any and every hole in the wall, provided it was listed? Whether it was truly about searching for new venues, browsing through visitor reviews, or amassing accolades for every check-in, review, and photo posted, I think we can all agree how pathetically duped we were. Hard work should be rewarded, ideally with tangible prizes. Otherwise, as with Foursquare, boredom and eventual withdrawal will ensue.

Fortunately, the folks at Merits grasped that self-truth early on and wanted to do something bold about it. So they created an app to reward user loyalty with real incentives. 

It’s quite easy. Check in. Collect. Track. Redeem.

First things first, download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play onto your smartphone. Registration is straightforward, and once you’re logged in, navigation within the app couldn’t be more seamless.

There are three tabs at the foot of the screen. The first captures “My Merits,” or the points you accumulate by spending money at all participating venues. The second sorts “Nearby” venues in ascending distance from you, in list or map view. If the venue has a gift icon next to its name, it has a loyalty program in place via Merits. The third tab is a “News Feed” that briefs you on the various deals around town.

You can view outlets in proximity to you

Click on the “Nearby” tab, which has a search field at the top followed by a list of venues in ascending order of distance from you. Venues are accompanied by a thumbprint image or logo, exact street location, and a brief description of the sort of products or services they render.

Map view for venues in your region

You can scroll down infinitely through the directory to find every type of vendor in the book, F&B or otherwise. If you decide to exploit the search tool, you can refine your search by applying filters such as category (e.g., restaurants), loyalty programs, special offers, new arrivals, and the like.

Here’s an example: 

Bata's profile page includes a description of its products and services

Enter “Bata” in the search field, and you’ll find two entries for both the Beirut City Center and Dbayeh locations. If you click on either, you’ll be taken to a profile page that tells you more about the shoe store’s products and services. Contact links (e.g., phone, email, and website) as well as social media accounts (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) are all displayed, and in the top right corner, the “Loyalty” gift icon spells out the details of point collection.

Click on the gift icon in the profile to reveal the loyalty scheme

Bata offers you 1 point for every 10,000 LL spent. Collect 30 points to redeem a 30,000 LL discount. That’s equivalent to 10% off a purchase of 300,000 LL.

It should be noted that Merits is very new to Lebanon, so don’t expect to find all your favorite hotspots yet on the app. At present, 350 brands translating to a total of 450 branches have signed up. The hope is that over time, more and more venues like Classic Burger Joint and the like will catch on and advertise their services on this interface.

In the meantime, chuck your Pokémon Go aside, and ready your thumbs for the ultimate check-in challenge. It's time to capture some legit savings.

Merits first spread its wings in Canada and has since landed in France, UAE and most recently Lebanon. It offers businesses a platform to connect with customers and create effective marketing campaigns.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Backyard Hazmieh's Hidden Rooftop

Apart from Broumana, Hazmieh has quickly become our haunt for dining and reclining on breezy summer nights. Its Backyard is host to over a dozen food and beverage concepts, and with places as varied as Tsunami, Classic Burger Joint and Abdel Wahab all under one imaginary tarp, there’s something for everybody.

But few take notice that stretching across the entire southern wing of the outdoor complex, above Les Malins and Dip ‘n Dip to the very tip of the peninsula at Lina’s, is a beautiful rooftop terrace dubbed Kitchen Yard.

A tucked-away elevator between CBJ and Dip ‘n Dip takes you to the venue threshold. Walk in and behold loft-style seating against a white landscape with an open kitchen and bar on the far right. Descend the stairs on the left to the mezzanine and terrace, where a winding dining space terminates in an open-air bar.

Soft music – I love the covers on playback – seems to emanate from the shrubbery, and as the sun sets, you know only a pick-me-up can make the scene any more idyllic.

I tried Le Lemon Fizz (17,000 LL), a saccharin blend of gin, lime, thyme, passion fruit, and soda. Blueberry Mint Lemonade (18,000 LL) muddles lemon, blueberry, agave syrup, rosewater, mint and soda. Both cocktails are liberal on the booze and sugar, so take caution!

Le Lemon Fizz with gin (foreground) and Whisky Sour (background)

Appetites whetted, it was time to sate the paunch. We started with Chili Hummus (7,000 LL), a mélange of cooked chickpea purée and tahini topped with radishes, paprika and toasted pita squares. The grissini-like breadsticks Kitchen Yard puts out have the requisite firmness to scoop this thick vegan-friendly paste!

Chili Hummus

Now here’s where things got really interesting, borderline wild. Wonton triangular pouches come stuffed with halloumi and basil pesto, paired with a small salad of halved cherry tomatoes (12,500 LL).

Halloumi-pesto wontons with tomato salsa

Marinated shrimp and avocado are garnished with cilantro, tossed with roasted sesame seeds and dressed with a fiery hot chili dressing (Shrimp Jap, 19,000 LL).

Spicy Shrimp Jap salad (I cringe when I see that ethnic slur "Jap" being thrown around,
though I know it is without any mal-intention)

The pizza dough is paper-thin and crispy, which will go over well with fans of cracker-type flatbread. The Pesto Goat Cheese (21,000 LL) is an aromatic pie wafting with the basil-garlic spread and chockfull of sun-dried tomatoes, Grana Padano, wild rocket leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s tasty but admittedly dry.

Pesto goat cheese pizza

Where the pizza falls short in the juicy department, the Spinach & Artichoke Dip (15,000 LL) makes up for it in a piping-hot mixture heavy on the namesake veggies with a blanket of molten Parmesan. Tortilla chips are the vehicles transporting that goodness to your boca in one swift motion.

Spinach-artichoke dip

I’ve never had a burrito in Lebanon, so when I beheld it under the sandwich section of the menu, it was a no-brainer. A duo of griddle-kissed soft tortilla rounds are loaded with grilled marinated strips of beef and bell peppers and slathered with mashed avocado (19,500 LL). Melted cheddar enrobes the wrap exterior, though I’m not sure “burrito” is an accurate description for this TexMex rendition (I couldn’t see or taste any beans!). Think fajita wraps accompanied by pico de gallo and unusually sweet sour cream (possibly unsweetened whip cream?).

"Burritos" with wedges

Where in Lebanon can you have a grilled salmon filet alongside Lebanese mezza staples like "batata harra" (spicy potato cubes) and "hindbeh" (chicory)? Nice job, Kitchen Yard – brownie points for achieving fusion and healthfulness in one go (33,000 LL)!

Pavé de saumon

Dessert at this point was mere gluttony, but we were riveted. Red Velvet Cheesecake (14,000 LL) boasts alternating layers of strawberry financier crumb and white chocolate compote, crowned with red currant raspberry coulis, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. Seriously decadent.

Red velvet cheesecake

The verdict on Kitchen Yard – the brainchild of the folks behind Lime Tree – is clear: delicious creative cuisine; reasonable prices; smart service; and the ultimate perch over Hazmieh's Backyard. 

Kitchen Yard
Backyard Hazmieh
76-347 346