I am feeling fantastic right now! Truly and blessfully happy! Why? Because I have been to Lebanon today. You would probably think that I am completely crazy as I do actually live in Lebanon. But swear I am not out of my mind! I have exprienced the real Lebanese oriental spirit, which I was hunting for all these months. And of course this experience includes the food (how else can it be here, ah?!). The place is called Em Nazih (Nazih’s mum) and it is located right in the heart of Beirut.
It is not easy to find cafe Em Nazih at the first time, since it’s hidden from the eyes of passers-by. You can reach it going down the old stairs surrounded by the walls with graffiti. It will appear in front of your eyes as a compact, very cozy and secluded spot encircles by the trees. It will seem to you like you came to stay in a typical Lebanese village, invited by tetah (grandma).
Special attention should be paid to the interior that leads us to the Lebanese past, when the local population gathered in small coffee shops to drink coffee, play tawleh (backgammon) and smoke arguileh (hookah); when there was no pathos like now, no exaggerated plastic operations, and people were easier, more open and friendly.
I was most attracted by the tables’ design, which is easier to show than to describe. For this reason I am attaching its photo taken by me today 🙂
Now let’s move to the culmination of the story – FOOD. I should mention that it’s a self service cafe so we didn’t expect anything extraodinary from it. But the positive part is that the prices are very pleasant and affordable. The taste of food was good! We didn’t go for barbeque but ordered typical Lebanese mezza (appetizers). As for the drinks, my husband refreshed himself with Mexican beer (with lemon juice and salt) by the local famous brand Almaza, which has started its production in 1933. As for me, I don’t really enjoy alcohol, so I took a traditional oriental drink called Jallab (fruit syrup). Each Lebanese knows the names I just mentioned, but for non-Lebanese I will gladly briefly explain the “composition” of each. I am saying briefly, as I’m planning to describe the recipe of my favorite mezza separately from this post.
Our order was: hallumi (white unsalted cheese, usually consists of goat’s and sheep’s milk, but sometimes includes cow’s too) served with cucumbers, tomatoes and olives; shakshoukeh (fried potato slices with coriander, garlic and mashed tomatoes); labneh (plain yoghurt, in our case mixed with garlic and dried mint); mutabbal (a paste made of smoked eggplants); r2a2at (cheese rolls); soujuk (spicy sausages) and fattoush (a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, reddish, fried pieces of bread, purslane and mint topped with olive oil, lemon and pomegranate juices). My drink, Jallab, was made of dates, grapes and rose water.
Cafe Em Nazih is a perfect place for tourists who want to feel the real Lebanon, but it is definitely a calm relaxing corner for the locals as well. It offers a variety of entertainment such as live Arabic music on Fridays and Saturdays and Quiz nights for groups on Wednesday. That’s what we are so eager to try with our friends!
If you are in Lebanon, don’t forget to pass by. If you are not, then buy a ticket, take a taxi from the airport, tell the driver to bring you to Gemmayzeh street, try the food made by Nazih’s mum and experience Lebanon as it is!