In this part of the world, if you are living in a major city and consider yourself a citizen, you most probably already have that Lebanese restaurant as a backup plan when the main restaurant you are heading to doesn’t have free seats that one night you forgot to book.
It’s our way of “being backed up” when taking a lady out.
“Oh, you don’t have a reservation? I’m sorry sir, there are no seats free tonight!” the sexy lady taking the guests to their tables said.
“Don’t worry darling! I have the perfect place for us. Hope you like lamb!”
While you’re on the seaside…
… you might either feel that chocking desire to have a good hummus (don’t know if we’re crazy or maybe there are other crazy people out there craving for hummus, so raise your hands there in the back will ya?) or, like us, you think about a good place that you know, tried and tasted already, that is open at that precise hour and you know you have a chance to find seats.
For us, while coming back from some trip around Mamaia where most probably I took some pictures and we most probably visited something, the evening didn’t prove to be “the right moment”. The place is open and we know it. We even thought that we should be able to get a table there, in the evening of an already closing season. But we were wrong.
The place is not like we used to know it and in terms of crowdedness, the fact that the resort is growing rapidly didn’t help. What we knew didn’t fit with reality. So we came back during the day when our bet (to find empty sits and avoid reservations) stood.
Restaurant Babel is the name and one way or another is part of a big hotels chain called Phoenicia. It’s a weird combination between poor taste luxury while it’s being also Lebanese, which in my opinion doesn’t necessarily go well with this “tuxedo” things. Anyway they don’t succeed in it so what’s left and I think it’s the most important is:
I guess that’s what everybody would ask you if you’d know this place:
“How’s the hummus, man?”
It’s God damn good. Basically, we go to this place FOR THE HUMMUS. Everything else is just a plain side dish for us. They’ve got different kinds of hummus but the one I love is the one that they sprinkle some roasted pine seeds onto. Together with that virgin olive oil and the steaming little fluffy pita, they bring in, the whole assortment is delicious.
What’s nice about the place is that to a certain degree they grow their own spices. One of the racks is even displayed in the middle of the restaurant, as a centrepiece around which tables are laid out. I guess that’s one of the reasons their hummus is so good. And it’s fresh, not that long, refrigerated paste they bring you in a cup. This one is creamy and full of flavour.
More than that is the things they bring you as complimentary. They bring a mix of vegetables, fresh, uncut, together with salt and olive oil so you can play nicely with those things if you are totally hungry and not afraid of a “live” cucumber. They bring this right away after you’ve ordered so it came in real handy when we came to this place, hungry as wolves, from some distant beach or something.
And the little sauces/salads…
I guess I’m a sucker for starters (and that’s a thing you should know about me) but damn they know how to greet the guest.
The fresh greeneries in the pots (who knows what the middle class Lebanese might grow in a pot eh?!) make for a tasteful tabouleh salad, that’s a sure thing.
In my opinion, that’s the second thing you ask about a Lebanese restaurant:
“Is the tabouleh fresh or the parsley was killed a week ago?“
The parsley is still kicking in this one, that’s how fresh it is. I suppose they have a parsley garden somewhere in the back (in the front it’s the beach so it would be impossible). It takes a lot of parsley to be sacrificed into tabouleh as we’re speaking about 30-35 tables, each with at least 4 people on average. That’s a lot of tabouleh man.
I know it’s not a big deal to make a good tabouleh but where I come from this is not a given fact so we learnt to appreciate small things. What can we do?
Even though it’s set right on the beach, the view is not the best. It’s a nice feeling to be there, to have the sound of the Sea to accompany whatever ethnic band is playing, but the fact is that the beach strech is very wide and the sound of the Sea gets lost on the way. In the other direction, there were some building works going on to the hotel rising behind the hotel; the picture I took was just to be bad to be included.
By the way. Getting there won’t be easy. First time I went down that road I thought I suddenly entered some moving village for the construction workers from the highways, in the States. Small dwellings, on each side of the road, very shady places, no light on that small street, just right after you’ve left behind a 5-star resort. A map (below) could get handy.
Another thing that may be important for the occasional travels who happens to be in the area, is the fact that they make a great lemonade. I guess it’s a good deal to come to the beach in their area cause you’ll have yourself a hell of a lemonade. Sweet and refreshing. With mint from the plantation inside, nicely cheopped and very well stirred. They also got those “flavoured” ones but I’m really into deviating from the classical recipe so I tend to try and keep my bearings.
As a conclusion, I’d say that I can’t really mention the second course I took. It never really was spectacular and somehow this restaurant is a sacrifice we have to do in order to get the starters. I took the chicken on the grill, in the Lebanese style or at least what these guys can present in that way. Not great, I’ll tell you that much. They bring it together with a decent paste of garlic. I say decent because I know my garlic, yes sir, and that one was way too oily and greasy and it sure looked to me like it got oxidized.
Maybe I’d recommend the place but only as a place to have great hummus and great starters. Maybe the lamb is good, couldn’t really know…
I don’t eat lamb.