Raw Café Delivers a Fresh, Natural Culinary Experience

If you ask me, it’s unfortunate that cafes in and around Beirut have no recourse but to brand themselves as arguileh hangouts in order to effectively draw a crowd. Yes, I vehemently oppose second-hand smoking. Yes, I strive to avoid settings where smoking sullies the breathable air. I’m there for the food – am I part of a dying breed?

While newly opened RAW Café, sibling venture of the nightclub RAW next door, may boast Lebanon’s favorite pastime, the hookah, I have news for you, folks: their cuisine doesn’t cut corners or make compromises on taste, quality, or aesthetics. Even the menu prices are an ode to affordable dining out, something the F&B industry is finally starting to promote in this wretched economy we live in.

Last Saturday, we pushed past the large glass doors and into a space whose industrial motif, high ceiling, lightweight aluminum chairs, and all-glass façade found us hopeful that maybe, arguileh aside, this café would dazzle on the alimentary side. Joanna, our gen…

Housecleaning, Anyone?

Who else finds some degree of satisfaction in doing their own housecleaning? Seriously, now. In this day and age, where everything seems rushed and we're all scrambling for time, does anyone else seek release in scrubbing their bathrooms, hosing down the balcony or veranda, mopping the floors, dusting the furniture, and ironing their clothes? Or am I perhaps part of an esoteric breed?

Here in Lebanon, hiring help is extremely cost-effective. Whether it’s a live-in maid or a housekeeper who drops in once a week, most folks in my immediate entourage outsource the cleaning to the cleaning specialists. At just 7,500 – 10,000 LBP ($5-6.67) per hour, it’s an offer you can’t resist, especially when you work full-time outside the home, have a family to tend to, and can afford to allocate your free time more productively.

While I do opt for that route on occasion, particularly when it comes to cleaning the windows and accordion glass doors, I don't mind getting down and dirty and working…

The Unlikely Well-Paying Job in Beirut

Last week, I slipped into a Careem car. For those of you residing outside the Middle East, Careem is the #1 ride-hailing app in MENA, Pakistan & Turkey, with operations spanning 100 cities and 14 countries. I was first exposed to Careem (which means "kind" or "generous" in Arabic) two years ago while in Amman, when I discovered it would cost me a whopping 50 Jordanian dinars (US$ 70) if I booked a cab from my hotel at the Dead Sea to Queen Alia International Airport versus a meager 20 JOD (US$ 28) via Careem. I even scored a rookie’s discount of 5 JOD, and that inaugural trip paved the way for my incessant addiction to the transportation network company here in Beirut.
A social creature by nature, I like to strike up conversations with Careem captains. One unmistakable pattern I’ve noticed is that many of them are well-educated, multilingual, and worldly. I kid you not. On this particular trip, Fadi* opened up genuinely about his profession.

I asked how long he’d…

Beirutista Featured in UK Best-Selling Magazine

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by an associate editor at Psychologies magazine, the UK’s biggest and best-selling mindful living publication. They wanted to feature me in their Blogger Spotlight, on a page capturing Feasts of the Middle East.

The October 2018 was just released, and for those of you who manage to get your hands on it, find me on page 126, alongside cool kitchen tools and various cookbooks detailing our region’s cuisine. It’s a rare honor to see my name adjacent to that of chef, restaurateur, and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi, whose book Simple was recently launched. To be singled out among the rich roster of food and culture bloggers in this neck of the woods instills immense pride, so I am thankful for the reach you as readers help foster when you share my articles or interact with my posts.

Along that train of thought, I felt inclined to check the blog’s page views by country, which since inception has attained nearly 1,100,000 hits! The majority of readers are…

The Skinny on Beirut's All-New Eggslut

Controversial name? Check. Niched menu? Double check. Pricy fare? Somewhat, though not unreasonably so.

Here’s why I loved Eggslut.
It’s a tall order trying to concentrate the principles of fine dining in a fast casual concept. When you’re a foodie – these days who isn’t? - you demand high-quality ingredients. You care a little too vehemently about presentation. You prefer an open kitchen, a seat-yourself sort of setting, and a well-lit dining space (it’s all about Instagram-worthy snapshots). You’re a staunch omnivore. Vegans amuse you, and you might admire them, but life’s too short to reject cheese. Or eggs. Or beef. And the gluten-free diet? Leave it to the 3% of the population who suffer from celiac disorder. Why deprive yourself of a beautifully buttered brioche bun if your body was built to process gluten anyway?
If any of the foregoing resonated with you, Eggslut is your new safe-haven.
I’m going to the mirror the conciseness of the menu and just stab at the yolk for you.

If you do…

Sapori e Vini: An Italian Trattoria Built to Last

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Almost everything in Lebanon is transient. Whether it’s a hip new lounge, or a cozy little pizzeria; a widely successful international chain, or a ritzy eatery with outlets in a select few metropolises worldwide. There is no guarantee it will thrive and stay alive in Lebanon. Like the morphing façade of our own natural landscape, restaurants in this country are fleeting.

Few, though, somehow make it through, quietly chugging along and braving the ups and downs of the sinusoidal wave that is our state’s economy. And after over six years of rigorously studying the food and beverage scene in Beirut and beyond, I’ve found that several factors promote restaurant permanence: unwavering commitment to excellence and generosity; never, and I mean NEVER, skimping out on quality, freshness, and authenticity; easy parking; friendly service; an immaculate space and inviting atmosphere; and a damn good selection of dishes.
Sapori e Vini in Byblos is one such …

The Rise of Excellent Shawarma across Beirut

If you’re here to read about shawarma icons like Barbar in Hamra or Joseph in Sin el Fil, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m not one to dabble in the trite or commonplace. And I’m going to be frank: the last time I sampled the pickings at Joseph, it was I who was sorely disappointed. Like almost every eatery that rises to fame and snatches acclaim, the trajectory is parabolic. No doubt I’d had much better.
So for the past year or two, I just couldn’t recommend a shawarma joint wholeheartedly. There have been so many I’ve frequented over the years, but they’ve all shuttered: Shawarma Show in Jdeideh, TSC Signature in Beirut Souks, Sheikha in Sassine. Like most things in Beirut, food outlets are transient around here. So when you discover something good, become a loyal patron. And by God, spread the word.
Here are not one but two of my recent finds in the world of shaved meat from a rotating spit. The first, I’d surprisingly forgotten about; the second, we stumbled across in a mall. Both …