Ramadan Nights at Ward el Cham
We arrived to Ward el Cham just two minutes to sunset, and a lavish spread of Iftar essentials already awaited us. From a plate of dried figs, apricots, dates, and walnuts, to two clay pots of soup – lentil and veggie – nothing remained to be desired as the signal to commence eating was bestowed.
A hearty lentil broth flecked with cumin marked the beginning of our meal, after which we dug in to the cold mezza items on display. Baba ghannouj (moutabbal batenjen) jeweled with pomegranate seeds; eggplant pulp (batenjen raheb) blended with diced green bell pepper, tomato, and onion; a creamy bowl of hummus; fattouch salad topped with fried pita chips; and fatayer and cheese rolls tickled our palate as our appetites were whetted.
|Dinner was already set in anticipation of sundown|
|Spinach fatayer and cheese rolls|
The warak enab is exceptional, neatly bound inside moist grape leaves and kissed with pomegranate molasses. The kibbeh cups filled with labneh are also pleasant, with sufficient crisp and crackle from the grains of bulgur in the crust.
|Kibbeh cups filled with either labneh or hummus|
Before we could start conjuring up images of the next course, a parade of hot dishes descended upon our table. Soujouk à la Swiss roll tempered with cool Ayran dip. Makanek sausages doused in a lemony bath and garnished with parsley. Tender chunks of ras asfour veal swimming in pomegranate molasses. Fried cubes of potato seasoned with paprika and coriander. Battered halloumi horseshoes in salsa fresca. Just enough sizzle to snub the hunger.
|Soujouk wrapped in dough with a side of diluted plain yogurt dip|
|Fried potato cubes tossed with paprika and coriander|
A portable brass grill was placed in the middle of our table, bearing two long kebab fingers along with taouk and veal brochettes. At this point, I was too stuffed to nosh on the meat. In fact, the pace of the entire meal was slightly too swift for my comfort, but that could be attributed to the subsequent suhoor service scheduled for later in the evening.
|Grilled meats on a brass mankal|
After our table was wiped clean from any vestiges of the savory, a platter of fresh fruit and another of traditional Lebanese pastries beckoned us. A handful of endearingly tiny maacroun; a single karabij in a foam of nattef; a cup of mafroukeh topped with clotted cream; a fried kellaj cheese pocket; a pair of atayef stuffed with cream and another with crushed walnuts; and sha3beyet all rounded out the saccharin offerings.
|Fresh fruit always tempts|
|A selection of Lebanese pastries|
We sat in a complacent stupor for a good half hour post-meal to chat and absorb the lively ambiance of Ward el Cham and neighboring sister restaurant Caprese. Other diners puffed on arguileh and tossed dice over backgammon boards, while waiters ambled about preparing the vacating tables for suhoor. A musician tested the mike for what promised to be a lively late night of entertainment.
We stepped out in the breezy evening air just as another Ramadan night got mystically underway.
Iftar service is priced at LBP 57,000 (USD 38) per person.
Rachid Karamé St.