Took us a while to get back on track, my friends and I, with the #touristinmycountry #touringlebanonin300days goal that we planned few years back.
After the winter’s season is gone, we planned a day in the breathtaking Bekaa Valley, specifically in Ammiq.
Charming scenery, light spring breeze and my camera. That is exactly all you need there. (An additional cup of coffee there wouldn’t harm as well).
Check out some cool pictures I’ve taken of this beautiful place in my country.
“Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to be truly affected by things.”
Experience… Experience… Experience!
Give me the most “Chichi” restaurant to find or a dime-store, I’d still pick the one with the better “experience” on its menu. (For that, I should be scoring high on the Openness to Experience, one of the Big 5 traits of Personality – also known as OCEAN Model – acronym for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism).
Couple of days ago, I knew that “Reservoir Beirut” re-opened, with a new flair.
To those of you who don’t know, Reservoir Beirut was one of the few – actually the only – pub to exist in Ramle Bayda, Beirut. The shop was closed in early 2000s. I know about this place, because back then, when I was a young teen, pubs were still a no-no for my generation yet older people talked about it as if it was the “Hub”.
Flash forward and here I am, on the main entrance of Reservoir Beirut, the place that kept the name, yet changed the feel… Indian Style this time.
I entered the shop. Different from the images I created across the years in my head. Different yet Interesting much.
Welcomed by the co-owner, I sat with my friend waiting for the menu.
I told you earlier, it is the experience that keeps me going to such places. And that’s exactly what the co-owner managed to show me!
Here, I will highlight the main experiences that will make you want to go (or in my case, go back):
1- The Story behind this place:
When welcomed by the co-owner, the place was a bit quiet. Only two other customers were present (to be fair and square, it was 6:00, a usual dead time in Beirut – right after moving from work and just before heading to dinner).
She was very pleasant, introduced us to the place and told us some info on the Indian traditions and the type of food presented. The interesting part of the story is that, this co-owner was a waitress who used to work in this place long ago, before it closed. Days passed, and after studying abroad, she came back, passed by this place full of early adulthood memories for her, and set her mind to revive the place again. And she did 🙂
When asked about the reason behind choosing Indian for a cuisine, her answer was that through the years of study abroad, most of her friends were from the Indian Community. As a result, she learned some recipes and discovered her “talent” in cooking.
Few years later, the entrepreneur student managed to actually co-open a place that is worth checking.
2- The spirit of this place:
One of the things that I liked in Reservoir Beirut when it comes to the setting and display is the actual authenticity. The place is not complicated. No extravaganza, no glitter. A simple place serving simple authentic soul food. The kind of food that doesn’t exist much in the area (Hindi being the only main Indian exception). This simplicity is rare to find in nowadays restaurants.
When I entered, I felt that like I am there, in a local Indian ‘westernized’ restaurant, with true authentic people sitting around one table. The wall dressed with beautiful local portraits and the menu is as simple.
The time we ordered and waited, the co-owner chitchatted with us, and with the other table. Few minutes later, the 5 of us (Our table, the owner and the second table), joined conversations about the place’s history. It felt authentic and real. And that is one experience I genuinely enjoyed.
3- The food inside this place:
Let me tell you something… This place is so “HOT” – take it in any sense you want, and it’ll fit – , you must try it out!
We’ve tried: The Indian Samosas, the Chicken 65, the Indian Corn (Oh my lord, that one is to die for) and the Butter Chicken. Of course, one cannot eat Indian without actually using the traditional Indian bread (Garlic Naan).
- The Indian Samosas, quite like our Lebanese puff pastries, yet with a twist. Triangular in shape and filled with potatoes and peas, oh I can feel the crust. Very delicious and fulfilling as appetizers.
- The Indian Corn, I don’t know what that is… It is one of the simple yet exquisitely made items that will make visit again. Regular corn on the cob, marinated with different spices along with butter and lemon. Simply delicious. Highly recommended as a starter.
- The Chicken 65, small fattening cubes of chicken, marinated with spices and fried with ghee (Let’s add 2 kilos to my already overweight body :D). Quite frankly, a good average dish. Even though mixing it with the garlic naan made it even better, the dish wasn’t somewhat of a signature.I would replace it with another item next time.
- And finally, the Butter Chicken. Okay let’s be real now. Butter + Chicken + Cashew = Deliciousness. Perfect creamy sauce watering the chicken with cashew gave the entire dish quite an identity. Full of flavor and nicely displayed. A ne pas rater!
Cutting things short, the place is new yet one must give it a try… For the simplicity, authenticity and the good – unusual – taste.
Of all the years I lived (a tiny bit over a quarter of a century), I enjoyed “Experience” most. In Psychology, this trait, according to the Five Factors Model (OCEAN – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), is coined as Openness to Experience. (I noticed that I love including psychological terms in my posts).
The fun part in what I wrote earlier is that it doesn’t apply to food for me. My openness to life experiences gets translated into conservatism.
Today I chose a new restaurant to open in Beirut that is worthy of being called a “Food Experience”.
Until 2 years ago, Chinese food was a big no-no to me. Lucky enough, I tried it and ever since, my taste buds crave it from time to time.
Umai Wok, or let’s just call it “OH MY” Wok is a soul experience for Asian Cuisine lovers (Chinese, Japanese and Thai).
- The Place:
Located in Hamra – Makdessi Street, in the Courtyard or mostly known as Alleyway (For my kind of generation). Perfect place as you can have a quick happy hour after work and then hop on the second floor for a decent Asian meal.
Entering the restaurant, a zen atmosphere welcomes you. Peaceful and serene. The beauty of this place resides in its simplicity and its details. The decor is an altruistic representation of a modern Asian home, literally: An entrance, a living room, a kitchen and a dining room. The table is dressed with black monochromatic place-mats, modern and Asian-like. The menu had the same look and feel as the shop. Coherence at its best.
- The Food:
I tried a Teaser (Chicken Satay) and two Mains (Ponzu Beef Steak and Chicken Cashew Nuts). Japanese Sake was also on the list.
- For Thai: Chicken Satay was my number 1 on the Request’s list and my number last on the rating. This Thai appetizer consisting of chicken chunks marinated with peanuts and satay sauce wasn’t impressive much. Chicken needed more marination and the tasty flavor of peanuts wasn’t just there.
- For Japanese: Ponzu Beef Steak, Char-grilled beef tenderloin with shiitake mashed potatoes on the side. I’m so coming back for this guy. Tender beef, perfectly garnished and exquisitely seasoned. Umai (Oh My) Steak! Not only the Chef’s Choice, yet so far, winning the award of Steak of the Year! (We’re in 14 January – so we’re being fair here).
- For Chinese: Chicken Cashew Nuts is a classic. I tried it as I wanted to benchmark it vis a vis Chinese restaurant in Beirut. Not bad, not bad at all. The waiter promised a succulent taste, and to be frank, he was right. Those little chicken cubes marinated with oyster sauce and cashew nuts were just as good as fancier places in town!
- The service:
Well, that’s another thing that I liked about the experience. To me (and I am sure to many), the customer service is one core factor that determines how enjoyable an experience would be. The more, the better.
That’s what I felt about this place. The waiter was so attentive and made sure that the experience is as authentic as it can be. Absolute Chapeau for the great customer focus we’ve received.
- The Overall Experience:
New idea. New Experience. Worth the try.
This sums it up. Having the option to juggle between different Asian Cuisines, indulging your taste buds with food from this corner of the globe and returning with an enjoyable experience is just beautiful…
From food taste to experience to quality for price, I’d give the place a solid 3.5 and I believe it would be a middle ground for Asian Cuisine Lovers, particularly Chinese (On a scale from Chopsticks to PF Chang’s in Lebanon).
Not a fashionista and have never been.
This is how I want to start this blog. Not because I don’t want to, but because I thought I can’t.
Few days back, my friend Lara suggested to style me.
Being a plus-size person (with an over indulgence in Food), I accepted the challenge, knowing that her endeavor might be a total fail (especially that I have tried many times, hopelessly).
To my surprise, she thought of things differently. When all my thoughts were focused on the outfit, she took the periphery and built on it.
Her advice was to actually help me invest in Accessories. When I thought of it, I thought to myself: this girl is right!
I’ve always seen fit girls around me all dressed in black/or any monochromatic outfit yet they looked stunning. What slipped my mind is that they actually wore colorful scarves, trendy hand accessories (from rings to bracelets) and statement make-up.
I agreed to go on with this venture and started noticing that little items like necklaces, shoes or even bags help in building ones unique identity, especially for overweight people.
And this is what we’ve done during this exercise, Lara and I!
Not only did those small items add a nice “flavor” (food related jargon :P) to the outfit, they were easy to have… After all, it wasn’t as complicated as I thought it’d be!
Let me show you some of items we opted to have:
(I was lucky enough to be styled with items from Peer Beirut Shop. The items were so unique, I bet no one in Beirut has the same quality and customer service they had with me).
1- Choker Necklace – Smart Casual, wear it with plain tops to emphasize on the jewel’s uniqueness.
2- Amazingly unique Cross bag – Street smart, perfect shape as it fits your essentials (wallet, cellphone, perfume, etc..).
3- Loafers (Oh those pairs! Leather-printed shoes – super comfy and casual with style).
4- Le Specs Sunglasses – Mirrored and unconventional. Looks great with Business Casual outfits.
With small additions to my actual outfit, the photo shooting session ended up being great! For an hour or so during the shoot, I was that trendy person – not the plus-size person struggling to find outfits.
Here’s a glimpse of how the styling, Peer’s accessories and Photo-shoot looked like:
So to all the plus-size girls out there, trust me, you too can still look trendy…
My advice for you: For plus Size… Accessorize!
It is very important to mention that Peer – No Pressure Beirut shop’s extraordinary collaboration made this event possible. This small shop located at the end of bliss street is one of Bliss’s little hidden gems. Targeting women mainly, this place has it all: From full outfits to shoes, sunglasses accessories, bag and even cool gadgets. This place is a must visit if you are one hell of a fashionista (Some of the items were way too cool for me!) or if you want to find items that are funky and unique!
Last week, my friends and I decided to go discover a new place in Beirut. Passing by the busy streets of Ashrafieh, a new place pops up on the main way to Sassine.
A very “chill” place with what looks like an eco-friendly atmosphere. Located next to Caribou Café, this place looks like a Café but actually for Wine lovers. A terrace with authentic brown chairs (those that remind you of the good old days) and a bike hanging on the wall are the first things you see when entering “Cantina Sociale”.
Cantina is a new concept wine Café opening in Lebanon, yet not so new abroad. It started in fact in Europe as a collaboration of farmers/wine makers to sell their harvest/wine in one place. Indeed, the place is here is wine-full of varieties from different countries in the world (Portugal, Spain, France, South Africa, etc…).
The space is very friendly, casual and good for groups. The servings offered are more of bites, suitable for a café. Nothing too fancy, nor too light. The menu ranges from Salads to Sandwiches, Cheese… oh my… good Cheese and Charcuterie.
The best part of the place is actually the wine machines. Whether you drink or not, you must check them out! Placed in many places in the shops, each specific for a type (red, rose or white), country (France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia and MANY more), those machines operate through a pre-purchased card on the counter. All one has to do is to get a glass from the shelves, insert the card and chose what wine to order (Sip, half a glass, full glass).
We ordered a Cheese Board and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
The food is good. The grilled cheese sandwich was delicious. Full of flavor, perfectly home – made.
Cantina also offered popcorn, refilled every while.
Cantina Sociale’s Pros:
1- New Concept in Lebanon (I am sure it will be a success story) – Wine Lovers, this is the perfect hangout place.
2- Cantina’s location is ideal, on the main road, meters away from Sassine Square.
3- The space is cozy, friendly and very inviting – the decoration is simple yet peaceful.
4- The place is affordable for a café with a twist.
5- Popcorn. Better than salty crackers. Just Yummy!
Cantina Sociale’s Cons:
1- The place lacks music. Adding music (classical is the first to come to my mind), would make the stay more enjoyable.
2- Considering the concept is still new, the service was a bit slow. (Yet to be fair, the place is operating for less than a month and its crowded).
I definitely recommend this place. Cozy, good to try with good company. I enjoyed the experience and would definitely go back there!
Inviting you to try it out, whether for the food, the mood or the joy that comes with new experiences!