The Best of Beirut
on Jan 28, 2014 By Danielle Issa
From fragrant curries to tandoori-grilled meats, we love Indian cuisine for its rich spices, flavors, and versatility. The vegetarian stews are meals in their own right. The leavened naan is a wonderful flatbread with bubbles. Samosas are like Lebanese sambousik but stuffed with a medley of veggies and spices.
Beirut has a tasty collection of Indian dining outlets where you can satiate the spice-lover in you, and here are our favorite picks.
Photo via mozarestaurant.co.uk
Yasmina is a self-dubbed Indian fusion restaurant, and we tend to agree to the extent that traditional Indian dishes are tailored to the Lebanese palate. In other words, the spices are restrained; eggplant fatteh made it to the menu; and the samosas are stuffed with goat cheese.
But we absolutely love their butter chicken (or murgh makhani; 37,000 LL), a very mild, creamy curry with tender, yogurt-marinated chicken simmering in a rich tomato sauce and melt-in-your-mouth onions.
Order the spicy potato side (9,000 LL), which is equivalent to the Lebanese batata 7arra, crispy and golden on the outside, soft and piping hot on the inside, delicately kissed with black pepper and turmeric.
Congratulations: you've tasted perfection.
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You’ll love Jaipur for the condiments they bring round before your meal. Mint (Pudhina) chutney is a mild yogurt-based dip comprised of mint and cilantro with a hint of lemon. The tamarind chutney is a sweet concoction with actual pieces of tamarind dates, but take note: it is piquant. The pickled peppers steeped in oil are absolutely spicy and will light your mouth on fire. Use the mint sauce to hose it down. Scoop these dips with the papadams—very thin, cumin-flavored crackers that resemble giant round tortilla chips.
This welcome starter kit will adequately whet your appetite and kick up your metabolism for the feast of flavors that’s about to unfold.
Markaziah Monroe Suites
Al Hindi brings together comfort, elegance, and modernity in a very un-Indian setting. But don’t let that shatter your expectations, because their food is quite authentic, generous, and easy on the wallet.
We’re not gonna lie: some of Indian cuisine’s finest items are fried, and the pakoras (7,000 LL) are a must. Vegetables crusted in dough and fried in flour batter, these are perfect for sharing. The samosas (7,000 LL), too, are our favorite in town: the pastry shell is thin and crispy as it should be, giving way to a mildly spiced stuffing of curried potatoes and green peas.
For a real treat, try the Chicken Do Piyaza (26,000 LL), cubes of tender boneless chicken breast sizzling with onions in a hearty tomato stew. Be sure to wash it all down with cardamom ice cream (9,000 LL for 3 scoops).
Palm Beach Hotel
Ain El Mreisseh
Photo via googleusercontent.com
Maharaja is an oft-overlooked establishment in the Raouche’s Sporting Club overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The décor inside the restaurant will transport you to India, with an intricate replica of the Taj Mahal and traditional Indian tunes playing softly to the crash of waves below you.
Nibble on a samosa (3,000 LL) to uncover a soft, spicy core of mashed peas and potatoes laced with curry. Dipping it in Tamar Hindi makes for a satisfying sweet-savory contrast that will have you begging for more. Our favorite mains are the chicken tikka, grilled cubes of yogurt-marinated chicken breast garnished with parsley; and the chicken masala, a dish of roasted chunks of chicken in a spicy, creamy, orange-tinted sauce (25,000 LL each).
The strength of spices is neither muted nor overpowering, perfectly adapted to the local taste. After your meal, you can stroll along the seaboard and watch fisherman swing their rods for the day’s catch.
Photo via dubaiinternetmarketing.com
We saved the best for last: Moti Mahal earns our vote for supreme Indian eatery. In fact, Moti Mahal is a chain of restaurants established in Delhi with over 90 franchises in India alone. It is credited with having introduced tandoori cuisine to the world, and boy are we grateful!
At the Zaitunay Bay outlet, ask to be seated inside so that you can admire the chefs meticulously at work behind the glass panel. Everything is sublime. The daal makhani (24,000 LL), or black lentils in home-churned butter, are thick, hearty, and a meal on their own with the stonefire-baked naan. The palak paneer (24,000 LL) is a silky concoction of creamed spinach dotted with soft roasted cottage cheese.
But you haven’t tasted tandoori chicken until you’ve sunk your canines into Moti Mahal’s. Go for the murgh bathed in mint yogurt (36,000 LL): six generous cubes of mildly-spiced, tender white chicken breast that are sure to delight your palate. Skip dessert: you’ll want the flavors to bask in your mouth the whole day/night through.
Minat Al Hosn
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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