The last time I was here was in 2011 and since then I’ve remembered the tasty food I had. Now I'm back, three years later, to discover the offerings of the cedars, the cedars of God, the pride of Lebanon, symbol of our patriotism.
The Cedar Tree, Al Arze, is a restaurant in the heart of a village facing the forest and an alley of wood products. Mr. Hani Keyrouz, his brother Toni, his wife, and the extended family all work together hand in hand to please the hungry clientele, who come here, knowing the address as one of the best restaurants around.
Park under the tree and walk a few meters to the restaurant. A rectangular space, a low ceiling covered with wooden panels, nylon covered tables and the bar.
After taking the order, Hani ran to the kitchen to help with the preparations; Hummus, labneh, tabbouleh, fattouch, meat skewers, Tawouk, everything Lebanese, and fat stuffed Kebbeh, a Northern signature.
While we waited to be served, Hani offered us their arak. Arak el Khemmara, specially produced for the restaurant.
Let's enjoy some good Lebanese mezze:
- The hummus is homemade, and most importantly, is without garlic because they believe that the real flavors of the dish are felt without it. A good hummus indeed.
- The tabbouleh is fresh, crunchy and full of taste. You feel the crunchiness of the parsley and the tomatoes while the berghol cracks in style.
- The chicken liver is rich, full bodied and offers an interesting texture and a good taste. I loved its tender feel, which is different from the commercial ones we know around the capital.
- Mtabbal, grilled in-house, reminded me of my grandma's cooking.
- The stuffed grapevine leaves are served warm, just out of the cooker. The rice was overcooked for my taste and lacked the strong, lemony feel you expect from this plate. Something hard, which slid unpleasantly under my teeth. It could have been better.
- The meat surely needs improvement or more marination. It’s too hard, over cooked and too chewy.
Now for the best, the finest, the kebbeh, the North’s pride. Amazing. Kebbeh stuffed with fat or meat ready to be devoured. A premium kebbeh mix with crunchy edges, add some hummus and melt. I personally loved the overdose of berghol.
I enjoyed my meal, the food and the welcoming from a restaurant that's far up the mountains. It's not Al Halabi, and surely not Mhanna, but the food served here is good enough, even though I was expecting better to make me want to come back.
Al Arze Restaurant, The Cedars: +961 6 678114