The Best of Beirut
on Apr 23, 2014 By Danielle Issa
In the past couple of years, Lebanon has seen the introduction of Southeast Asian cuisine to its culinary sphere, representing nosh from nations like Indonesia, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam. Food from this region ranges from simple fare to spicy dishes full of ingredients that will tantalize your taste buds. Combining many unique tastes and flavors from the sweet to the sour, the salty to the tangy, this is one cuisine you will instantly fall in love with, particularly when you realize how healthy it can be.
Dust off your prized bamboo chopsticks and follow me on this mini-tour of Beirut’s best eats from the heart of Southeast Asia.
Photo via Facebook
The first Vietnamese restaurant in the city, Le Hanoi serves authentic eats prepared by a Franco-Vietnamese chef who worked his way through several countries before washing up on the shores of Lebanon. And boy, are we glad he did! The menu features delightful soups, summer and spring rolls, salads, and specialty mains, but I suggest you turn right to the dégustations terres and order the tender, caramelized beef filet slices (le boeuf tranché dans son caramel) served beside a dome of white steamed rice (24,000 LL).
A side of sautéed noodles (10,000 LL) tossed with garlic, bean sprouts, parsley and black mushrooms (vermicelles sautées à l’ail et aux champignons noirs) is an absolute must.
PF Changs specializes in modern Chinese-American cuisine made fresh, simple, and lip-smackingly tasty. The international chain is famous for its open kitchen, dessert shots, and Mongolian beef, so why not start with the latter? Sweet, soy-glazed flank steak seared in a wok along with scallions and garlic will ignite your appetite.
Be sure to follow it up with a dish of chicken breast stir-fried with green onions and ginger and centered inside a ring of lightly steamed broccoli. For those on a calorie spree, indulge in the dynamite shrimp slathered in a zesty mayo sauce and served inside a martini glass.
Photo via PF Changs
A fusion kitchen of Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai influences, Jai in Hamra has become a reference in authentic, spicy Asian cuisine. The kitchen is a modest, no-frills outlet and hosts 5-7 lucky diners at any one time, so reservations are essential. Jai’s Pad Thai (19,000 LL), a world-famous noodle dish both tangy and mildly spicy in flavor, is elevated to the ranks of heavenly thanks to the seamless interplay of tamarind paste, fish sauce, crushed chili, a bit of brown sugar and ground white pepper.
You’re gonna be begging for seconds.
Photo via Facebook
Only a true Asian cuisine aficionado would know that a tiny Thai stronghold by the name of Monks exists in Beirut, tucked off a side street of Achrafieh’s famous Abdel Wahab. What’s particularly enticing about Thai cooking is its emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, as well as a delicate balance between the four fundamental taste senses of sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. On that note, Monks’ kang kiawan kai is a wonderful harmony of flavors, merging tender-cooked chicken green curry with a soothing coconut cream. In fact, you really can’t go wrong with any of their curry-based dishes, all tempered with coconut.
Photo via http://angsarap.net/
The jewel of Beirut City Centre’s expansive food court is hands down Attila’s Mongolian Grill, which captivates crowds of awestruck customers salivating at the food being freshly prepared before them on a massive eight-foot-round grill. With numerous varieties of meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables, sauces, and noodles on offer, the range of possibilities is endless, and you dictate exactly what your winner dinner will be. Everything is fresh, lean, oil- and grease-free, making this destination any dieter’s sure utopia.
Beirut City Center
Photo via Facebook
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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