Rustic Byblos, Far From The Crowds and Tourists

Every time I visit Byblos, purported to be the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, I discover some new shop, eatery, or museum I'd never noticed before. 

The ancient seaport, located 40 kilometers north of Lebanon's capital, concentrates numerous al fresco restaurants in the town square. There are but a handful that lend shelter from inclement weather, complete with cozy ambiance for chillier months.

One such godsend is Le Salon d’Adonai, the finer dining counterpart to Le Petit Adonai occupying a corner of the old souks. Salon is perched perpendicularly to its elder sibling, a stone’s throw from the wax museum. Saunter in to the inviting space, and you’ll be welcomed by a bar, wine racks on opposite walls, and comfortable seating with wooden furniture.

The path up to Le Salon d'Adonai

The concept is rustic Lebanese mezza presented in terra cotta pots (or fokhar). Portions are generous and doused in extra virgin olive oil, in line with the homey feel of the venue.

The welcome kit: olive tapenade with toasted corn chips

Ask for a bottle of Chateau Nakad red and toast off to the feast that beckons you.

I rarely crave tabbouleh outside the home, but honestly I had a deep-seated curiosity about Le Salon d’Adonai’s, and wouldn’t that be the ultimate test of the restaurant’s worth? Indeed, we were assured that all salads – namely, the Lebanese staples of fattouch and tabbouleh – are prepared to order and not in advance.

Sure enough, the tabbouleh emerged a forest of greens, with perfectly manicured chopped parsley; plump, juicy tomato cubes; an inkling of diced onions; and a pinch of borghol. A capacious bowl for four (15,000 LL) could in actuality feed eight.

The essential tabbouleh

The next marker of merit: warak enab (9,000 LL). I usually wince at the tart acidity of vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, but Salon’s were spot-on sensational. A perfect balance between lemon and pomegranate molasses, these veggie rolls depleted in no time.

Stuffed grape leaves

If you can resist rkekat in any Lebanese spread, you’re not of this earth. Hands down, my favorite concession are these wands of dough, and at Salon d’Adonai, fillings include molten cheese, basterma, and shawarma (6 for 10,000LL/12,000 LL). No need to even mention you prefer them grilled, because the restaurant’s premise is built around healthy cuisine, so you can bet these arrive fresh off the grill in a plain clay cup. 

Rkekat, or pastry rolls stuffed with savory fillings

The cheese edition is touched with herbs; the basterma is piquant and salty as cured meat is wont to be; but the shawarma is where the magic’s at. This baton of aromatic minced chicken with delicate spices and onions evokes the flavors of msakhan.

Another must-have are the grilled kibbeh teardrops (8 for 16,000 LL). Their gustative glory lies in the fact that they’re grilled, which dons them a hard shell you can only bite into rather than pierce with a knife. Inside, a piping hot mélange of meet, onions and pine nuts. If you want to elevate the euphoria, smear a glob of labneh bi toum (9,000 LL) on each bite.

Grilled kibbeh teardrops

Labneh (strained yogurt) with garlic and mint

There really was no space for breakfast in our line-up, but we succumbed to a fokharet bayd bi akkawi, or eggs scrambled with white cheese (12,000 LL). Akkawi is characteristically very salty, so it may be wise to pair this dish with ras asfour, a sizzling sauté of cubed lean beef, onions, and pine nuts in tangy pomegranate molasses (16,000 LL).  

A boat of scrambled eggs with Akkawi cheese, sumac to taste

At this stage, we were too timid to order dessert for fear of being scorned as gluttons (guilty as charged). The waitstaff picked up on our hesitation and without missing a beat, they offered us a duo of their specialties.

The essmallieh (12,000 LL) is a toasted vermicelli sandwich with silky clotted cream, topped with crushed pistachios and syrup to taste. That crunch – never had fresher!

Esmallieh, or a vermicelli sandwich with clotted cream and pistachios

Lastly, the ashtalieh bi 3asal (12,000 LL), or what you might recognize as milk pudding (mhallabieh) smothered with raw walnuts, pistachios, and sultanas. Welcome to the land of milk and honey!

Ashtalieh, or milk pudding, with honey, nuts, and sultanas

Le Salon d’Adonai is a mesmerizing discovery in the heart of Jbeil, and by 10 pm on a Saturday evening, it is abuzz with pleasant chatter (nope, no tacky one man show here!). If you’re fortunate enough to find it, don’t think twice.

Le Salon d'Adonai
Byblos - Old Souks
+961 70 236 778


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