Showing posts from July, 2014

Summertime Sadness in Lebanon

While most people wait year-round for the summer season in Lebanon to get underway—and every year, summer seems to arrive sooner than the year before—I’m actually of the opposing camp. Summers in Lebanon can be miserable, and here’s why. The heat and humidity are insufferable. Temperatures in Beirut climb to the high 80s and occasionally the low 90s (that’s upward of 30C for those who profess to the metric scale). Factor in the 60-80% humidity and you’re suddenly equipped to fry eggs on the sidewalk. A brisk five-minute walk at midday will transform you into a sweaty beast, and if you’ve got frizz-prone hair, you may as well buy a quarterly subscription in the Everyday Is a Bad Hair Day Club . You will never win “Most Photogenic” this summer. Fine, you may counter, go cool down at the beach. Take a dip in the Mediterranean, and you won’t be able to distinguish what’s hotter—the air or sea temperature! Pools are heavily chlorinated and teeming with people, so don’t expect a relaxa

Traditional Lebanese Fare Reigns On High At Liza Beirut

Possibly the most clichéd thing on the Lebanese restaurant scene—right up there with the rising tides of Italian pizzeria, French bistros, Japanese sushi bars, and American burger joints—are old Lebanese houses revamped into restaurants. Haven't we all tired of this craze, from Frida in Furn el Hayek, to Enab in Mar Mikhael, the Hangout in Gemmayze, Julia’s along Abdel Wahab, Casablanca in Ain Mreisseh, Bagatelle in Hamra—and I’m sure I’ve overlooked no less than a dozen others. Those were the thoughts pacing my mind last week as we made our way over to Liza in Achrafieh. Oh boy, I mumbled, another trite house-turned-eatery, no doubt serving up the trite Lebanese grub with a twist. I’d just about had my fair share. Until I stumbled upon Liza . I stared up at the grandly-lit façade that housed the restaurant. Majesty incarnate. You ascend the yellow stone stairs to reach a landing, from where you enter a small lobby to take an elevator that climbs only one level, to the first

Cleaning Up Our Lebanese Landscape

We all know that Sukleen is Lebanon's sanitation arm, tending to dirty highways, emptying sky-high dumpsters, and even turbo-sweeping some streets with pressurized water, as can be witnessed early mornings in the Beirut Central District. Sukleen roams and reigns over the roads, but there's still a lot that can be done. Take, for example, a fenced-in field in Mansourieh, totally unoccupied but littered with hundreds of bags of trash. It's a veritable brewing ground for mosquitoes, rodents and other nasty pests, posing a huge human health hazard if one of these carriers bit a passerby or resident in the vicinity. The field is adjacent to a duo of dumpster trucks Sukleen manages, but for some reason, the field has never been tackled. And it’s been like that for years. I'm not sure if the municipality forbids entry onto this private property, but surely an exception must be made, because the mounds of rubbish are unsightly and potentially dangerous. A few months

Chili's Beirut: A Godsend of Texmex Flavors in Lebanon

Since childhood, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for Chili’s. This was the restaurant that used to award grade school students with vouchers for free kid’s meals if their academic performance was impressive. Talk about a tasty treat! So with every straight-A report card or Student of the Month certificate I took home, a visit to Chili’s was assured. Perhaps more telling, it was the last eatery I dined in before permanently moving across the Atlantic to this part of the world. I still recall those juicy, marinated Mushroom Jack fajitas I had on that Last Supper—oh so mouthwatering. I’d known about Chili’s Lebanon since my arrival here nearly three and a half years ago, but I never had the occasion to drop in. Perhaps it was my concerted effort to expand my horizons and appreciate the local food offerings that I unintentionally renounced my subscription to American mainstays like Chili’s (and TGI Friday’s). But last Saturday finally found me transported to a space a

Lebanese Restaurant Wars: Scam or Not?

Let’s play a little game, shall we? I’m about to recount a scenario, and I want you to tell me whether it falls under decent or indecent business conduct. On Saturday, we wandered in to a well-known resto-café on the ever-popular Cresus Street (what I prefer to call Arguileh Avenue) in Antelias. With still an hour to go before the highly anticipated Brazil-Chile match at 7pm and few other guests besides us, we were invited to sit either inside or outside. We chose inside, as the weather was stifling hot. Almost as soon as we pulled out our chairs, a 1.5-L bottle of water landed on the table and was swiftly opened before we could process whether or not we wanted it. Fine. Water is good. Always room for water, we mumbled. How nice of the waiter to have our health at heart. A “special” menu soon made its way into our hands and featured everything BUT typical munching matter suitable for sports viewing. No nachos, no quesadillas, no shrimp rolls, no fries—no appetizers, come to t