Frida: A Lasting Gem In Calm Achrafieh

I honestly had no idea Frida survived the inclement F&B scene in Lebanon, what with restaurants opening and shuttering almost weekly in the capital. I remember first discovering it in 2011, when Frida was all the rage for its delicious Lebanese cuisine with spicy Southwestern influences. That summer we went at least half a dozen times. But evolving routines and dining-out habits soon found us removed from the quartier where Frida perches.

Imagine my delight when I learned it's still thriving. A foodie meetup allowed me to rekindle my fondness for the home-turned-eatery nestled in Furn el Hayek, Achrafieh.

Ascend a dozen steps to alight at the terrace, ideal for summer nights and shisha gatherings. Walk past the threshold and behold a long spacious foyer terminating in a bar. There are several dining rooms branching out from the vestibule, and décor is kitschy, with scarlet lampshades dangling from the ceiling. The tiles date back to the house’s construction probably 100 years ago and are impressively intact.

Equally impressive is the fact that the menu items remain wholly unchanged since the restaurant's inception. Readers can empathize with the distress a guest feels when she discovers her favorite dishes have been binned. Not here, not at Frida, where history and tradition go beyond the floors and walls, penetrating to the kitchen.

You’ll be greeted with markouk bread served in a straw basket, and insist on it being warm and supple. I particularly adore the one with black and white sesame, as well as another with aniseed and sultanas. A small bowl of grated cheddar and spicy green olives is also offered, and though a unique touch, shredded cheese proves a bit onerous gathered up in markouk (cubes would be preferred!).

A welcoming basket of markouk bread

Grated cheddar and spicy green olives

Order the Frida Guacamole, which animates the typical avocado mash with pomegranate seeds. In fact, anything Frida dishes up decked with the ruby seed is scrumptious, including a fresh purslane salad with avocado, cucumber, and pine nuts.

Purslane salad with avocado, cucumber, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds

Kebbet karaz are little cups fashioned from meat and burghul. They come brimming with either an Armenian sour cherry mix fishna or the infamous Aleppan dip muhammara. Admittedly not very Mexican, they are nonetheless delicious.

Open cups of kibbeh filled with sour cherry coulis and mouhammara with walnuts

Take a detour back to the markouk with the special Lebanese-style quesadillas, featuring a medley of cheddar, jalapeno, bell peppers and mushrooms inside soft round flatbread.

Quesadillas in markouk bread

The halloumi basking in a warm tomato salsa is exceptionally flavorful, as is the shrimp-chorizo stew, which gets a kick from lemon zest, parsley, and garlic. 

Grilled halloumi in a warm tomato salsa

Shrimp and chorizo with garlic, parsley, and lemon

Unfortunately there was no room for dessert on this occasion, but if memory serves me correct, the lazy cake topped with rose petal ice cream is heavenly. There’s a slew of other sweet somethings I’m tempted to go back for, including the Fokharyé Chocolat (a ramekin of melted chocolate) and cheesecake topped with rose jam.

On the whole, service at Frida is faultless, thanks to the devoted wait staff and the congenial managing partner Sabine, who can be seen circulating throughout the restaurant and surveying customers for their satisfaction.

Frida is your destination for a heart-warming rustic dinner in a homey setting. Put it on your restaurant radar.

Furn el Hayek - Achrafieh
01-333 226


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