May 24, 2014 Gemmayze & Mar Mikhael Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Kanafanji: Knefeh has a New Address (Restaurant Closed)

Phone Number: +961 70201920

Address: Mar Mikhael main road, Next to Bank of Beirut, Al Mandaloun bldg, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon


Price Range: 4-8 $


Welcoming: 4/5

Food Temperature: 7/10

Ambiance / Music: 7/10

Menu Choice: 3/5

Food Taste: 18/30

Architecture / Interior: 7/10

Food presentation: 7/10

Service: 6/10

Value for money: 6/10

Kababji, Shawarmanji, maybe soon enough we'll be hearing about about Burgarji... But for now a new edition to the "ji" list is Kanafanji. This new kenafe 'specialist' is located in the heart of Mar Mikhael, one of Beirut's most popular spots hosting a huge number of restaurants, bars as well as innovative concepts like this one.... After a night out partying or maybe on your way back from work, I suggest you stop by Kanafanji and try some innovative bites of kanafe, knefe or kenafe... However way you write it, it's still the same favorite Lebanese breakfast indulgence.
Kanafanji cannot be missed. A nice wood facade with Kanafanji logo nicely designed in green and orange will definitely grab your attention on Mar Mikhael. A few meters before reaching the Adlieh road, the house of Kanafa, located in Al Mandaloun club building, welcomes you 24hours a day, all week long for quench any sweet cravings.
After asking the manager a few questions, I quickly understood that Kanafanji is planning to revolutionize the breakfast industry in Lebanon, while offering a new approach to the way we enjoy the traditional knefe - imagine a knefe with chocolate chip, and another with Hershey chocolate bits and a large selection off dips and sauces. "Why eat a crepe with different fillings and sauces... and not a knefe?"
The entry level knefe is exactly like the others in town and costs LBP5,000. You can ask for more and order the Kanafanji special for LBP8,000 or the extra for LBP9,000.
Let's understand the concept first:
  • Kanafanji promises to offer knefe specialties; a process under development
  • The Kanafa is priced at LBP5,000 for a sandwich of 180grams. The platter containing 260grams is for LBP7,000.
  • Open 24hours, you can enjoy this Lebanese favorite dessert all day long
  • A coffee shop and dessert parlor, try their selection of coffee or cakes all with a Lebanese approach
We reached Kanafanji, opened the glass door and entered a small shop where a large tray of Kanafa is on display. To change from the ones we know and maybe minimizing space, the Kanafa cooking tray used here is rectangular. To the left is a fridge displaying a selection of cakes.
The place:
  • Kanafanji is a small cozy place on a corner street
  • Simple wood, covers the walls and floor
  • A nice logo, simple and straight to the point attracts customers driving along the street
  • Green, yellow and brown are the three colors that represent the brand
  • The shop can welcome three guests at a time, three beautifully designed seating spots... but one chair
  • You'll find a fridge and a Kanafa display and two staff members standing behind them
The menu:
  • Kanafanji special
  • Maamoul bi achta
  • Maamoul bi joz
  • Nammoura
  • Nammoura joz el hind
  • Nammoura bel mkassarat
  • Nammoura bi ashta
  • Sfouf
  • Sfouf bi mkassarat
  • Sfouf bi Laktin
One knefe please: The bun, a 12 centimeter Kaaka is first opened and filled with sugar syrup which is absorbed by the bread. The excesses is then removed and a large piece of kanafa is stuffed inside. They put in one large piece and not two small squares which make the sandwich easy to eat without dripping. It is then wrapped in aluminium foil and served. You can ask for it as a takeaway, where you'll get it in a hamburger-like carton box for easy transportation.
My first impression:
  • This version of the Kanafa is different. The cheese is lighter, melts more and feels less fatty
  • The Kanafa as is- in my opinion- needs more body and lacks consistency. One single kind of cheese is not what people expect from a Kanafa. When you eat that kind of dessert, you don't think about your diet. The topping, the semolina dough - again in my opinion- is too thin. It's not proportional to the thickness of the cheese. I'm not sure if the comparison is adequate but I felt like I was eating a cheese Mankoushe with added sugar syrup.
  • The bun on another hand is a bit chewy for this kind of dessert. It steals away from the enjoyment you would expect to feel from the filling. It feels like "Kaaka 3asrouniya" made smaller. I'll personally work on that issue
  • Close your eyes and you'll feel like you're eating a sesame sandwich; too much sesame on the bun, way too much. It's unpleasant to chew, unpleasant to feel and unpleasant to feel stuck between your teeth
The knefe is not bad, it's actually good but it's not extraordinary. When a place is single branded, you would expect it to offer magic... And that's what I didn't feel.

I tried something different; I decided to go for the special plate. This way I could be more accurate with my opinion on the place. I tried the special plate is an Ashta Kanafa, served cold on a round plate and covered with fruits. Beautiful and mouthwatering, this is a dessert I recommend. Be prepared, that's more of a portion for two persons. A round, single portion ashta Kanafa surrounded with strawberries and covered with pineapple and kiwi slices. Imagine an exotic Kanafa with chocolate or caramel sauce on top. I personally loved it; although too sweet and too heavy for a single meal, but it’s a nice thing to try. Order it and share it among friends. For LBP9,000, be sure you'll be getting your money's worth. An interesting consistency, good thickness, and tasty flavor with rich ashta - you'll enjoy.


Ok, so what else can we try? Let's try the maamoul and sfouf, I was curious to taste what individual portions taste like. Kanafanji is working on producing individual portions of Kanafa as well as our favorite desserts like maamoul and sfouf. The maamoul is rich with prominent walnut taste wrapped by a crunchy envelope but unfortunately feels dry. The first bite is enjoyable... The second is too much, the third is hard to swallow. Who created maamoul madd and added ashta to it,did that on purpose. I'll personally make it juicier or serve it with a dip. The sfouf is a big no. These are nothing close to sfouf. Dry, thick and hard to swallow, like a dry English cake. Sfoufs should be moist, sticky, juicy, and tender and melt under your palate. This recipe should be reconsidered. 

I liked: The individual portions of Kanafeh proposed in a plastic box and wrapped in carton. No cutting is needed and no filling. It is baked and ready to take away.
Let's do this constructively and wish these guys a bright future... I believe in this brand and honestly believe that it can represent Lebanon abroad. Kanafanji can expand and become a drive-through concept, as well as a reference for an enjoyable breakfast. But before that many things have to be fixed:
  • Clean the place up, make it perfect and neat. It's an upscale version of the street Kanafa after all. The first impression should be breathtaking while it's not at the moment
  • Using rectangular trays is a good idea but they have to be smaller to fit in proportionally in your tiny shop. The presentation is unappealing
  • Remove those ugly nylon wrappings. The buns, the cakes and the Kanafa trays are wrapped in ugly and unprofessional nylon wrappings: It's unacceptable and unappetizing
  • Being unique and new is something but changing the original taste is something else. I'm sure that the objective is to be healthier but unfortunately here, the taste has changed
  • Reduce the sesame seeds of the bun: Urgently
  • Since the place is now open, the chocolate sauce and other innovative ideas should be already on sale
Conclusion: I like the concept and some of the things they offer. I strongly believe that the brand has big potential for a bright future. It only needs to be looked at closer, more tasting and development with a closer eye to details.
I encourage you to try it. The originality is worth experiencing...

Categories: Street Food





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