I felt like eating Lebanese food recently. I can never get enough of it, more so our colorful tables of mini plates which are always ready to satisfy the cravings of the most demanding gourmets. Knowing what I felt like eating, I just had to choose the place...
On the main highway to Bickfaya, up the road from Naccach and before reaching Mazraat Yachouh, in a place known as Panorama center is a restaurant, a small restaurant open for the last decade or so. Al Machawi is a local Lebanese restaurant known for its Lebanese specialties as well as a selection of sandwiches.
I'm not sure how to describe it because this eatery is not an upscale Lebanese restaurant like Al Halabi, nor a street food eatery, but something cozy and in between. A small place, calm and well lit where the owner himself welcomes you and makes sure you enjoy your experience.
A white ceiling, a ceramic floor, large glass facades, golden-colored tablecloths and an open kitchen welcome you. On the tables, the menu is ready to be browsed while the owner approaches for the order.
On the Menu:
- Hors d'œuvres
- Viande cru
- Boisons desserts
When we arrived, music was fabulous. A calm Latino background that I found unique despite the Lebanese aspect this restaurant has. I enjoyed it so much until it was changed to the average commercial tunes we hear so often.
Food started arriving on the table, which was decorated with a plate, a fork and a knife as well as a saltshaker, but no pepper mill. The hummus, though it wasn’t too generous and didn’t look particularly appetizing, was really good. An equilibrated mix of tahina, lemon and mashed chickpeas with a correct, straight taste that we enjoyed. The Arayess was not the arayess kafta we all know, but some special labneh and Kawarma arayess toasted to perfection. Toasted bread filled with warm labneh and fresh meat bathing in its fat. The fat is absorbed by the bread and gives it a flavor and an additional crunch. That really should be tried. After that, chicken liver landed on the table, and was amazing. Fresh and tender chicken liver with no chewy or hard borders and without an excess of pomegranate. Lemony, light and flavorful chunks: Recommended indeed. I ordered tabbouleh without onions and believe me it was as good as the normal type. The strong lemon touch, the crunchy bulgar wheat, the diced tomatoes and all of that enjoyed in fresh crunchy lettuce. Even the toasted bread is well done and enjoyable. Best for last, Lebanese goat cheese, which I devoured and kept for myself.
After the starters, we moved to the grilled dishes. Two skewers of meat, two of Kabab khechkhach and two of kabab Machawi, a local speciality. The meat was good, not tender like the one at Kababji, but firm and full bodied. It's as tender as you’d expect. The kababs are really exceptional, well spiced and full of taste. Nuts in the Machawi kabab give them a unique taste and texture.
Dinner was good, we enjoyed the ambiance and loved the food, but the best of the best was their homemade Arak. I rarely drink three cups of Arak, I did that day, and I went back home as if nothing had happened. No headache, no aftertaste, no side effects. If something will bring me back here, it’s their Arak.
The little imperfections:
- Since smoking is not allowed, the cheap glass ashtrays with cigarette support shouldn’t be there, they don't even match the decor.
- We didn't order a plate of pickles but it was served and charged anyway raising the price a bit.
- A Lebanese restaurant, but no fruit was offered at the end, instead we received five mini balls of ice cream in a tiny little cup. Not impressive at all, I would have preferred something Lebanese.
- When the plates were changed, the forks and knives were transferred to the new plate: I can't stand that unprofessional move. It costs nothing to change them over.
- A pinch of generosity is missing...
- The food is good.
- The prices are reasonable: We paid $30/person all inclusive.
Feeling like eating Lebanese in the upper Metn area? There’s no need to go down the road to Antelias or Mtayleb. Al Machawi a good selection of tasty bites.