Disclaimer: This is my review of the food served during my visit. Keep in mind that taste may change over time, depending on the restaurant’s consistency. Just keep munching~
Wish I can say I’ve recently been to Beirut, which is often considered the Paris of the Middle East, but this is just a restaurant review~
What nudged me to come here was something very simple: I’ve been munching a lot of tahini sauce lately. I ran out of a 200g jar within days and my local food store is currently out of stock. So the craving keeps coming, and it brought me here.
For some reason, a lot of Indonesians I know think Middle Eastern food is full of spices and chili as with in India. They shun from me at the very mention of anything typically considered exotic, such as Indian/Middle Eastern/South American/South African cuisines. Maybe it’s because of the notion that your body may smell after eating these types of foods, but that’s just a form of prejudice. Take Lebanese cuisine, in this case – it’s actually part of the larger Mediterranean cuisine (including Turkish food). Among the many things about the Levantines that I love is that they whipped up a boring old sesame paste into tahini, yogurt into an amazing dipping sauce, and even stuff I hate, such as filo pastry, into something delicious. None of these staple ingredients come close to smelling like fenugreek or turmeric, and certainly, you won’t do your business in the bathroom like crazy after eating them.
In reality, yes, I super duper love these “exotic” cuisines purely because of their vast use of different spices (and no, I don’t consider chili as a spice), and these abundant fragrances simply add up a lot to the taste of food, as whenever I cook I almost never exclude some kind of spice. But if you’d open up to a whole new world when it comes to food, you’ll find there are numerous tasty things out there beyond the crowd-pleasing East-meets-West/traditional-with-modern-spin/pan-Asian dishes that pervades restaurants in Jakarta.
So we started off with the classic appetizer of Middle Eastern food, the falafel (IDR 40,000). I grabbed the corner shop’s versions on the go often when I was still living in the States, and none of what I’ve eaten has ever come close to the size of the portion served here at Beirut Lebanon restaurant.
Normally I have my falafels the size of a standard meatball, but this comes at the size of a toddler’s palm.
Also, I was actually hoping to satisfy my herb/spice cravings as well when I ordered the falafel, but the lack thereof, not even the slightest green like parsley, made these fritters look as clear as Japanese croquettes on the outside. But don’t judge the book by its deep-fried skin – the inside is bloated with chickpeas; loved every bite of it, loved the tahini-yogurt-lemony dipping sauce, and ate 95% of the whole serving myself – even ordered 2 additional servings of the sauce by the end.
For the main carb dish, we had the Riz Basmati Biryani with dajaj, “chicken” (IDR 60,000) (also available with lahem, beef for IDR 80,000), which is basically fried basmati rice with chicken on top, peppered with turmeric, paprika, nuts, and raisins.
This is not the best biryani I’ve ever had, but that grilled chicken was really well-seasoned. Take every raisin, nut, and dried spices out of the mix, and you have a super bland fried rice – the only way to make the taste of the whole dish come together was to slather all of that chili sauce on the side throughout your plate. You might even want more chili to finish the plate.
And what’s a Mediterranean meal without the classic grilled-meat-and-fatty-dipping-sauce combo? We had the shawarma with sliced lamb (IDR 80,000) (also available with chicken or beef for IDR 70,000 and IDR 80,000 respectively).
Many of you know I don’t eat much meat, and especially in the case of lambs, I’ve had a couple of dining experiences where the next morning I’d already be up with a sore throat. But I thought, what’s the point of ordering a chicken shawarma when we’re already having chicken biryani? Plus, lambs are the classic choice for the Levantine specialty. So yes, lamb meats take a while to chew until it’s swallow-able … but again, the tahini-based sauce saved the day. The flatbread underneath was also moist enough to meld every texture so far (meaty but soft from the lamb and uber thickness of the sauce) together, unlike those dry white buns in Chinese food for eating roasted ducks.
All in all, I think Beirut Lebanon makes for a pleasant casual-dining experience, whether for lunch or for dinner. Not only did it sate my tahini cravings, but the fact that it’s a Middle Eastern restaurant makes it (wait for it … and I know you already see this coming …) a NO PORK restaurant. Yes, a.k.a. my kind of food :p My unbiased ratings on Zomato was a 3.5 out of 5, but if they’re based on a decimal rating system, I would’ve given it a 3.8 – the space was pretty neat!
Jl. Haji Agus Salim No. 57AB
Jakarta Pusat 10340
+62 (0)21 3193 8147
M – S 08:00am – 02:00am