It was a Friday night, but I wasn't expecting to see that many people at Al Mandaloun sur Mer. More than a hundred loyal customers, fully packed tables, a busy ambiance and positive vibes, tonight seems to be promising.
Publishing my Top10 fish restaurants of 2014, Al Mandaloun sur Mer was not on the list not because I don't like the place but because I haven’t visited it after starting NoGarlicNoOnions, but surely, it is one of the country's best fish restaurants.
Located on Beirut's waterfront with a clear view over Beirut's port and Jounieh on the far end, the restaurant is surprisingly grandiose from the inside out. Reach BIEL, leave your car with the valet parking and take the couple stairs to enter the huge space. An olive tree welcomes you, as well as an aquarium, the fish display that continue right to the dining area. The space is divided into many sections on two levels.
Wooden tables surrounded by relaxing dark blue chairs, high ceiling, indirect lighting and stone. Stones take over the space; parquet covers the floor to create a space that's soothing, relaxing and enjoyable. Glass surrounds the space offering a view on Beirut.
As we sat, a plate of mixed vegetables and pickles landed on our table with a basket of crunchy Lebanese homemade bread topped with sesame seeds. With that design plates filled with nice nuts. Two plates, a fork and knife, large water glasses and an olive oil bottle fill in all the tables. They also use recycled paper placemats.
After choosing the fish, dinner was ready to start. I loved the ambiance of the restaurant. People chitchatting, everyone is happy, professional waiters touring around the tables while everything flows in style.
- Salmon Carpaccio, white fish and tuna, three designed plates each containing four slices of fish beautifully decorated with capers or nori leaves created like chips. They're not only great to look at but very tasty as well. The thinly sliced salmon with their lemony juice, the simple tuna that's simply awesome with a strong long lasting spicy explosion and the white fish is super that's extravagantly tasty. Delicious
- Hummus, yes, the hummus is exceptional. So light, so smooth, so fresh prepared without garlic and served with cooked chickpeas. I enjoyed the zesty flavors, its smoothness and the way it melts like whipped cream in your mouth, and that hint of salt... I'm a big fan!
- Moutabbal is as good as the hummus. A fresh feel of lightness without strong tahina flavors decorated with pomegranate. I'm not a big fan of Moutabbal but this one is surely to try.
- The stuffed grapevine leaves and their intense flavorful ingredients. Wow!
Now for the hot appetizers.
- Fried balls filled with shrimp mousse; a crunchy border, a molten heart and powerful shrimp flavors. Tasty.
- Fish kebbe; green kebbe filled with cooked onions and fish alongside a rich juice, which makes all the difference.
- French fries are brownish and well fried. With a light crunch and a soft heart, these simple fried potatoes are exquisite..
- I was not that impressed by the Spring Rolls, especially after trying some good bites…and the same goes for the fried calamari.
- The fish, fried or grilled, were both enjoyable.
- Perfectly battered and fried, the fish is soft and moist on the inside eaten as is without the need for tarator. This paragraph doesn't need to be elaborated further because fish should not be oily yet not dry and should be flavorful. They surely managed to fry them perfectly well.
- Grilled, the fish is as good prepared in a salt shell and served with tajen, samke harra sauce and tarator on the side. I fell in love with its tenderness and juiciness. Simply add some spices, lemon and olive oil for a trip to the button of the sea and back.
Now that dinner is over, we were offered warm wet towels to clean up our hands and refresh before moving to desserts. Placemats were changed; and the table was cleaned while every member of staff made sure to continuously have a smile on his face.
Desserts are an eye candy. A long metallic tray stacked with cups of ice cream, cups of Lebanese dessert creams, maamoul, biscuit and loukoum. Another plate filled with seasonal fruits cut in individual bites and a third of jams. This is a dinner on its own. I tried the meghle, which is good and adequately sweet where the nuts are left at the bottom of the cup. Custard is also tasty as for the mouhallabiya, I find it to be too sweet.
One experience after the other and the evening was not over yet. At least not before the coffee man approached our table.
Food is great, service is professional and the ambiance is pleasant... Everything will put a smile on your face making your experience a pleasant one. A place I recommend for sure and to which I'll be coming back for sure soon.