Lime Tree Dbayeh: Cuisine a l'Americana, Shisha and More
When you walk into Lime Tree restaurant on the Dbayeh highway, exactly where Appleby’s used to be, your mind and body are overcome with a sense of relief. There’s something so soothing about the venue, with its calm grey and lime-green hues; extreme spaciousness, which means tables are not grouped close together; high ceilings; impeccable ventilation; glass panels from floor-to-ceiling to maximize the view of the outside; and comfortable sofa chairs. The restaurant’s occupancy is 400, and it’s readily apparent with seating along the panoramic window, at the sushi bar, near the salad bar, and everywhere in between.
No detail has been overlooked. Wi-Fi is available to diners. There’s a stack of magazines and newspapers not far from the immaculate restrooms. There are even backgammon tables for those seeking tranquil entertainment with their dining companions. I found Lime Tree to be a great meeting point for social gatherings among friends and family. Waiters are friendly without being doting, leaving you to peruse the menu offerings and dine at your own pace. Tables are spread sufficiently apart that you don’t risk attracting uninvited eavesdroppers.
How about the food—is Lime Tree’s a deal-maker or breaker? Well, pick up the menu, behold the restaurant’s aphoristic slogan (“delicious is always in season”), and leaf through the many pages, where each dish has an enticing description to go along with it—clearly, the marketing team has done its homework. There are appetizers ideal for sharing; salads and a salad bar; sandwiches; burgers; platters; pizza; kaak; sushi; and desserts. Light options are noted under each section. Arguileh is also proposed.
With the help of our trusty and insightful waiter, Boudy, we were able to make a selection for the four of us. But before our appetizers arrived, a basket of fresh mini kaak—the sesame-crusted ones that resemble a purse and are sold by street vendors—descended upon the table along with a thick cheese spread akin to shanklish. They’re adequately petite that they don’t fill you up, only whetting your appetite. I found them to be adorable!
|Mini kaak welcome starter|
We’d ordered the “Spin Dip,” Lime Tree’s specialty (15,000LL) featuring a warm crock of creamy spinach, hints of artichoke and melted Parmesan along with a mild salsa and non-greasy tortilla triangles for dipping. We also split the “Chicken Tenderloin” (12,000LL), six fingers of chicken breast lightly seasoned and battered and accompanied by a honey mustard sauce. Handle them with your fingers—they don’t leave a trace of oil! The appetizers were our first glimpse of the kitchen’s craftsmanship, and we obliterated both in a matter of minutes.
|"Spin Dip" spinach-artichoke-Parmesan mix with mild salsa|
For mains, we opted for a classic chicken burger (18,000LL) with all the fixings complemented by Lime Tree’s “crisscuts,” or double-ridge fries, and coleslaw. A word about the burger: it contains a hulking chicken breast and not some limp, adulterated patty. Its portion size is notably generous--the only place I've ever seen a chicken breast of that magnitude is in the USA.
|A thick chicken breast forms the patty of the chicken burger|
The “Fiesta Lime Chicken” (23,000LL) stars a grilled chicken breast smothered with an oozing cheese mix and Mexican Ranch dressing over a bed of crispy tortilla strips. I replaced the fries with a steamed veggie medley of corn, carrots and string beans. Quite frankly, they’re an afterthought next to the main attraction. The chicken is juicy, tender, and irresistible with its cheese jacket, a tasty adaptation of Tex-Mex cuisine.
|Chicken Fiesta features Tex-Mex flavors of the American Southwest|
|Look how thick that cut of chicken breast is!|
The “Chicken Parmesan” (26,000LL) is an explosion of flavor combinations. A massive, lightly-breaded chicken breast comes coated in a marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella, Parmesan and Italian herbs. Think chicken meets pizza. But wait, there’s more. A full serving of fettuccine pasta tossed in a spinach and mushroom Alfredo sauce and adorned with more grated cheese occupies half the plate. This is a dish for two, else you'd have to be supremely ravenous to devour both elements of it on your own.
|Chicken Parmesan is chicken meets pizza, along with fettuccine Alfredo for the voracious|
If you’re the classic steak type, go for the Sirloin Sensation (30,000LL). Nearly half a pound of grilled faux filet emerges accompanied by a savory mushroom sauce on the side, steamed vegetables, and potato wedges. I’m convinced it weighs north of 250g, which reinforces how liberal Lime Tree is with their portions. Very Americana.
|Sirloin Sensation is a healthy option for steak lovers|
So what’s my verdict? Scrumptious! This is the foodstuff, both in flavors and bounty, of the American diner chains. Prices are affordable compared to the Lebanese market for restaurants of this class. The ambiance is that of a shisha café with strict standards—perhaps a scene out of Dubai hospitality.
I did a bit of background research, and Lime Tree is run by the same folks who operated Appleby’s in Lebanon and who are the franchisees of the country’s Burger King. Thus, these people are not strangers to the criteria of hygiene, service, food quality, and consistency typically found in international chains.
Honestly, I credit their intelligence for proposing an American menu and all its American emblems against a shisha backdrop, the centerpiece of popularity in this region (and to a rising extent, the Western world). I’m certainly not one to frequent arguileh joints by self-will, but I wasn't even mildly annoyed at Lime Tree because the ventilation sucks out all the smoke swiftly. You quickly forget its presence.
The only things I would nix are the sushi and salad bars. Lime Tree doesn't need them! The place already has its own mojo going on—why confuse it with more clichéd offerings simply because they’re trending in Lebanon? Stick to your American menu and casual tones, and let them work their magic.
|The soothing ambiance of greys and lime-greens at Lime Tree|
|The restaurant's apt slogan|
|More hilarious placemat jokes|