Villa Beirut is a beautiful Lebanese Restaurant with a perfect setting for families! Located in Marina Village, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, this one is a bit hard to find (located near Bounce Abu Dhabi – right at the back of the mall). With plush yellow walls, classic windows, patio-style furniture and a cabinet full of goodies, this restaurant is everything about comfort. The food is aptly portioned and fresh! With a surrounding that resembles what I can only call home, and a variety of fresh food available to order, there’s no reason why Villa Beirut can’t be the “go-to” place for a nice weekend family dinner if you fancy Lebanese.
Villa Beirut takes pride in dishing out traditional recipes from the early 1900’s. A young girl named Dalia pictured a beautiful vibrant restaurant, as her mother’s authentic cooking kept inspiring her. With the vision of a family enjoyable dining experience couple with traditional music, Villa Beirut was her goal. It started out with only 4 members of staff, and became quite a hit in Lebanon. As the restaurant succeeded in the following years, in 1942 Villa Beirut never got around to opening its doors for unknown reasons. However, her dream lives on through her recipes handed down by her grandchildren, one statement of which you can find at Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi.
Walking into the restaurant is like walking into someone’s house. Giving you an instant feeling of comfort, you know its a place to relax, sit back and just enjoy the meal! With walls that scream yellow and furniture of blue, I’m quite sure you haven’t entered a Lebanese restaurant that doesn’t speak colors of gold and dim lights as what usual Lebanese restaurants do.
As we were greeted by the immensely friendly staff, we noticed one thing on the table that made us feel even more at home. Traditional porcelain plates with rose style prints were just what we needed!
Greeted by our host with an introduction to the story behind the restaurant, we started off the night with some fresh juices. A Carrot Orange and a Mango Pinacolada made their way to the table in cute little mason jars. A sip of each and we were already impressed. Freshly squeezed, the juices were nothing but amazing. A little light on the pulp (which could be a let down for some), these juices were definitely worth it!
As we gulped this down, we were greeted by a beautiful platter of mezzeh. Traditionally, mezzeh comes in two forms – cold and hot. This ranges from Hummus, Tabouleh, etc. to Kibbeh, Fatayer, etc. Relatively, this is a tapas version of starters in Lebanese cuisine. Now the best part of this is the warm bread served, keeping the khubbus aside. Now I know its just bread, but you can imagine how good it was…
To keep room for the mains that was to come, we took our mezzeh in small portions. Did I mention how fresh they were? Well, without using the word repeatedly, I’m going to re-iterate it. The Mouttabal (Roasted Eggplants turned into Hummus), the Tabouleh (Freshly chopped Parsley mixed with Onions, Tomatoes and Lime) and the best of all – Hummus Chmandar (essentially a Beetroot Hummus). Now I am not really a fan of beetroots. However, this version of a hummus, which wasn’t creamy but perfectly coarse, really got me addicted!
Moving on to the hot food, we got a chance to try out the Fekhairyet – a hot dish somewhere between a mezzeh and main course. Villa Beirut dished an interesting take on the usual traditional Lebanese sausage. We tried out two versions – a Makanek and Sojok. I must warn you that these might look tiny, but they are indeed filling.
Makanek is an interesting version of Lebanese Sausage that is seared and served with a Balsamic sauce and Pine nuts. As a result, this dish quite tastes like a slow cooked version of steak. Rich in flavor, it quite certainly does hit the checklist of goodness.
Sojok is quite simply sausage stir fried with onions and tomatoes. Again, topped with pine nuts, the dish lacks that “punch” you would otherwise expect. Quite seemingly “regular” to some, it didn’t fare up to any expectations. Probably something you could give a quick stir-fry at home. But then, we have the main course to impress don’t we…
With a lot of food already down, we thought it was best to order something that would represent Villa Beirut as a whole. The quality of a Lebanese restaurant can be easily judged from it’s mixed grill. A mixed grill is traditionally served with mixed meats (chicken, lamb & beef) along with french fries, arayes and grilled onions & tomatoes. Now the version at Villa Beirut did seem expected.
With the usual serving of all 3 meats, everything seemed tender and moist. Moreover, it was fresh and juicy! The arayes, however, was a tiny let down. Arayes is Lamb Kofta stuffed in khubbus, and grilled over charcoal. Unfortunately, the version at Villa Beirut seemed more like paste, which was a bit disappointing – however, the rest of the meat made up for it. I do recommend keeping some Beetroot Hummus aside for this – it just goes with everything!
Last but not least, we moved on to desserts. Stomachs full from the excessive amount of protein and carbs, we decided to stick to a simple “Rice with Milk”. As many might think of it as a kheer, this serving is quite the perfect way to end a heavy meal. Not extremely sweet, the rice with milk was delicately flavored with pistachio and seemed just right!
Of course, it doesn’t end there does it?
After your meal, it’s best to ask Mr. Ahmad (the fun-waiter) to brew a good cup of Turkish Coffee. Why? Cause you will need it after being tied down to your seat after dinner. Take my advice, it definitely helps.
My next visit to Villa Beirut is most certainly going to include the Beetroot Hummus, a Sawda Dejaj (Chicken Liver cooked with Garlic & Pomegranate Sauce) and the Kunafa (Cause who doesn’t love Kunafa!)