WHERE TO EAT SYRIAN FOOD IN BEIRUT
Ever since we first moved to Lebanon and fell in love with the Lebanese cuisine, we’ve kept hearing how Syrian food was supposedly tastier. Giving Syria a visit sadly wasn’t an option, so instead we decided to explore the Syrian scene in Beirut. While many dishes are quite similar –let’s not forget that the two countries are neighbours– we discovered a few jewels, which we’ll definitely be craving. Here are our favourite Syrian spots in Beirut, (although do bear in mind that many also serve other cuisines). #Sahtein
Located just off Barbar in Hamra, this spot got us drooling. Step inside what appears to be a kebab/shawarma fast food joint, turn right, step into the elevator and get yourself to the first floor. There you’ll find a homey oriental dining room filled with shisha smoke, satisfied diners and, sometimes, live music. Founder chef Abu Wassim used to call himself the king of the shawarma in Damascus. After taking refuge in Beirut, he opened this joint, which has become a sort of haven for Beirut-based Syrians. As for the menu, we absolutely recommend that you get the (Iraqi) roasted chicken with lip-smacking biryani rice. For Syrian delicacies, you’ll have to check out the changing daily platters [LBP 16,500], which (FYI) are written in Arabic!
Nkoula Mrad Street,
This cosy neighbourhood restaurant located in Sioufi offers a selection of mouth-watering dishes. The menu is full of real Syrian delicacies (especially the plat du jour so make sure to inquire!). What we particularly loved were their large plate of sweet-and-sour Cherry Kebab [LBP 25,000], the hara b asabo’ (a kind of lentil soup with lightly fried dough), kbeibat Plate (boiled kibbeh dumplings) [LBP 8,000] the Maamoul bi Jebneh [LBP5,000] –which is a Syrian variation of the Lebanese Maamoul that comes stuffed with melted cheese– and xx. The waiters are also particularly sweet and on point. Oh and they deliver; so if you live in the area, make sure to hit that!
Sit el Sham
Verdun and Unesco Intersection
The first thing you should know about this place is that it was originally stationed in Damascus until it had to close its doors due to the unfortunate situation. Its new location is now in Verdun (right by Unesco) and is open 24/7. At first glance, the menu seems pretty Lebanese, with the exception of some Iraqi touches (such as the flat-bread made of green onion, saffron, turmeric, parsley and sheep fat). The few Syrian dishes that did stand out were their unusual selection of fatteh. Originally from Damascus, fatteh has bread, laban yogurt and chickpeas as its foundation. Here, they serve it with sheep brain, feet and tongue. We picked the brain one – and it was absolutely delicious.
Anecdote: While the place appears to be none-drinking, the (extremely kind) staff let us order arak and, I believe, went to buy a bottle at a nearby shop. They even asked us whether we wanted 2/3 Arak & 1/3 water– which sort of showed that they had no idea how to make it. #Bless
Ward el Cham
Rachid Karame Street,
Facing the Russian Cultural Center,
This dreamy spot –filled with narguileh smoke and oriental ornaments– is located in the heart of Verdun, and is often packed. The thick menu includes many Levant classics and a few Syrian delicacies, like the Kebbeh Kassabiyeh (dough charcoal grilled and stuffed with nuts served with onions and green pepper) [LBP 13,500] or the absolutely delicious Batresh Halab (Deep fried eggplant stuffed with mince beef & pomegranate molasses served with special yogurt sauce) [LBP 16,500]. Order the Egg with Kama (eggs with Syrian truffles) [LBP 12,500] if you’ve never tried Syrian truffles, otherwise spoiler alert: they’re pretty tasteless and nothing like the real thing. For dessert the Special Halawet El Jeben [LBP 12,500] and the cheesecake barazek (cream cheese over crushed cookies topped with a thick layer of sesame that is mixed with honey or simple syrup on one side while the other is dotted with pistachios) [LBP 12,500] are sumptuous. And if you’re feeling cray-cray, get the breaded sheep’s brain [LBP 13,500], because why not?
Typically authentic Lebanese restaurants tend to also serve a few Syrian dishes here and there, such as Set el Hesen located in Ain el Mreisseh, which has the Damascene dish basha wa asakro as a plat du jour every Tuesday, which means “the pasha and his soldiers.” It’s kibbeh and minced meat stuffed dumplings in a warm yogurt-based sauce. To savour Kaak Bi Loz (pastries from Aleppo made of fine almonds, sugar and orange flower water and are a specialty of Aleppo.), head to patisserie Arzak and Patisserie Le Marzipan.
Please support The Good shepherd Sisters community center in Deir el Ahmar, located in the Bekaa valley. The organization schools 350 Syrian refugees (from the ages of 6 to 12). We aim to raise $8750, which is the sum needed to feed the pupils warm meals for a week. If you would like to make a difference in these children’s lives: please donate.
Stay tuned to find out about the land’s most delicious dishes, desserts and much more.