Restaurant Review: Latest Version Diner

Saturday night we headed over to Latest Version Diner (LVD), pumped up in anticipation for their premium burgers. Anytime a restaurant has to remind you that their fare is "premium," you can bank on the fact that it won't be. If you're a leader, do you have to spew it to the world? Certainly not. But we ignored the obvious, because we were desperate for a real burger in a country where the frankfurter is deemed bliss in a bun.

The roasted shelled peanuts offered upon our arrival were promising. Even the napkin that was covered with print descriptions of Angus versus Wagyu, marbled meat, and the merits of each was enlightening. But the rapture ended there. We ordered 6oz. Angus beef burgers, expressly asking for no mayonnaise on any, along with sides of potato wedges and a green salad. The waiter tried to convince us that the wedges would be divinity incarnate if topped with chili con carne, but we politely declined. A burger without the frills, please.

After a reasonable wait time, the burgers came out decorated with little flags proudly stating their weight. Elegant touch. But after popping off the top bun to scan the burger assembly, we noticed that mayo was slathered on the bun's underside. One platter also had chili resolutely affixed to the fries. Stubborn waiter, what have you done?

We hailed Karlo, as his name tag read, and explained to him the faux pas. Rather than nicely admitting the mistakes and taking the platters back for adjustment, he swore the mayo was an innocent little bit and flavored the burger beautifully. My dining partners grew quiet with humility, but I didn't relent, kindly insisting he take it back. This is not a car dealership, and he is not a salesman, I thought to myself. A waiter's job is to describe, suggest, stir one's senses perhaps, but never to shove food down your throat! Though Karlo owned up to the chili addition, he persuaded us to leave it as is. We didn't want to appear the fussy, frivolous guests.

What's the verdict on the burgers? The bun was too buttery, and the meat didn't have a hint of marinade. No wonder Karlo'd championed that mayo. The fries, while generous in quantity, were over-crisped, half of them hollow and inedible, and the other half hot enough to sear your palate. The salad was despicably tiny, a few leaves of spring lettuce and half a cherry tomato swimming in lemon juice. We were miffed.

Upon asking for the tab, we watched Karlo disappear to the cashier for a few minutes and then come back to our table to announce the difference we owed. We had used vouchers from Makhsoom (the Lebanese equivalent of Groupon), but even so one is usually presented with a printed receipt to clarify the items ordered and their prices. Apparently not at LVD. But that aside, the bill seemed disproportionately large.

We were in a state of befuddlement, so we forked over the cash silently but sat confused as to whether Karlo deserved a tip for his bizarre behavior. My mind wasn't at rest, so I beckoned Karlo back to the table and asked for a receipt. He acquiesced, and moments later, we were staring at the 9,000LL ($6) for the supplementary chili we hadn't even wanted but were exhorted into accepting. We couldn't decide what was worse: the unreasonable price of the chili topping (to put things in perspective, the side orders of wedges and salad were a combined 3,500LL [$2]), or having to pay for something we hadn't ordered.

I marched over to the manager on duty, who was hovering over the cash register, and as if he could intuit my complaint even before I opened my mouth, he raised a white flag in surrender. "Sorry, sorry, sorry," he gushed. "We don't want you disappointed, and we insist you come back." He sent Karlo to fetch 9,000LL. I asserted it wasn't about the money but the fact that we'd been willed into swallowing mayo and chili against our volition. Furthermore, not producing a receipt was inappropriate and unprofessional.

The manager hastily noted my number and claimed he'd give me a call the next day to discuss our experience at length, but he hasn't. And frankly, if he does, I won't waste my time. LVD, more aptly Low Value Diner, won't victimize me twice: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Comments

  1. Ouch, what a bad experience Dandoon... so where then does one go to find the best burger in Lebanon?

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  2. Still on the hunt for the best burger, as many of my favorite joints have ironically gone out of business! But there's a place in Mar Mikhael called The Gathering, featuring three kitchens, one of which is a "butchery." They make wildly delicious and tender burgers. When you come for a visit, we'll also try their Italian cuisine!

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