There are places that I visit on a monthly basis, experiencing the same pleasure I had when they first opened and Downtown Kaslik is one of them. When many failed to survive in Jounieh, when Beirut became the hub, when Dbayeh tried to position itself... When new concepts emerged, succeeded and failed... When social media is used to generate buzz... Downtown is still Downtown and will always be.
The story started back in 1985, and the same location has survived up until today. Downtown has an amazingly simple concept that proves to be successful, offering an international cuisine without any pretension whatsoever, all set in a cozy atmosphere that calls you to come back again and again. For its regulars, Downtown is like their home, a place to have good food which caters to different tastes and a pleasant service. It’s a place we love to go back to on a regular basis.
I've been coming here often and surely not writing a review on a monthly basis, but today was different. I entered a place that's fresher with a retouched design, making this restaurant feel younger and closer to the heart.
Downtown is made for people who seek guarantees and consistency; you always know what to expect… The same professional waiters, the same simple menu, the same delicious taste… The same great experience our parents discovered and liked before us.
As you enter through the big door, the bar, still facing the entrance, welcomes you before you decide to take a right of left. The left side has never appealed to me, I feel it’s too dull, too calm or maybe specialized for romantic dates. The right side is a square centered on the salad bar. This area now has a window next to the door, the tables filling the space are smaller while six lamps hanging from the ceiling add the right amount of light. How happy I was to take beautifully lit shots of the food. Next to the salad bar, the cutting table hosts some Iberico ham and a rustic red cutter while pork legs hang from the wall. The major changes were the plexiglass separators, red and orange, adding some intimacy to the corners of the restaurant. Downtown is now younger in style but the menu is still the same and most importantly, the waiters we all have become used to.
Amazingly enough, their waiters are the same ones from the 80?s which gives you a homey feeling! They know the names and favorite dishes of their regulars. Ever since I was old enough to have a Coke Light, I drink it in a large beer glass with ice and a slice of lemon; I can assure you that even before I’m seated, my glass is awaiting me next to their famous popcorn.
Now about the food, it’ s a great mix of the finest you can find in each cuisine. For example, Chich Taouk from the Lebanese cuisine, sushi from the Japanese, pasta and pizza from the Italian, frogs and mussels from the French and not to forget everyone’ s favorite salad bar.
As we reach the restaurant, the ritual has been to start with some edamame, dumplings and a couple of salads of which an all time favorite is the Duo Japonais. After the usual olive tapenade and butter, the waiter approaches you for the order equipped of his touch device. Following that, I had one of my favorite plates, which I’ve ordered many times before, the chicken liver and fries, which I happily enjoy every time. Chicken liver prepared in the pan, different from the ones offered in Lebanese restaurants and enjoyed with crunchy French fries. Just order it without garlic for even more pleasure and a calmer night of sleep.
I love some of the details:
- The unique salad bar, the finest in Lebanon
- Very nice and pleasant wine glasses with a 15-page wine list from the four corners of the globe
- Relaxing chairs
- A pleasant soft musical background; It was Light FM tonight
- Adequate lighting
The food was as good as always, fresh, juicy and full of taste... Except the sushi. Bizarre, with a sister company creating one of the finest rolls in town, down at SO Achrafieh, Downtown never managed to get it right.
Makis and Sushi need some work:
- The rice is sometimes over cooked and other times undercooked and al dente
- The wraps fall into pieces every time you grab one
- The special wraps were way too big. Huge and very hard to chew. That day, the sizes were reduced, but maybe became too small
- The normal soy sauce (red) is provided by Kikoman, while the low in sodium one (green) is by another unknown brand. I didn’t understand why
- The rice was cold, way too cold, removed maybe from the freezer, not the fridge
- Even the Duo Japonais' white fish quality was not exceptional that day
In my previous reviews, the rolls were too big and unpleasant to eat. On another visit they were too soggy but today, improved in size, the rice was undercooked and removed immediately from the fridge. A hard and cold rice that is very unpleasant to eat. What a bizarre thing, I never ever enjoy sushi in here when they have the ability to make them perfect. I'll fix:
- Get Jimmy from SO Achrafieh train them how to do Sushi rolls
- My Chicken liver plate's fries portion was too stingy. A small detail that can mean a lot: Keep the generosity flowing
Dinner ended with their unique chocolate truffle ice-cream balls and a lemon sorbet rich in flavor and intense in content. I'll be back for more, again and again, one month after the other.