A Sunday, a busy Sunday, a full house, a restaurant loaded with people, I came for lunch with my family. Abdel Wahab is a restaurant that's often referred to as one of the best Lebanese eateries in Beirut. Located on Abdel Wahab Street, the restaurant is named after its location.
Leave your car with the valet parking before entering this wide space. A closed terrace, a large dining space and a bar. A welcome area prepares you to proceed to the tables. We had reserved outside where the pleasant light of the day added a touch of freshness. Everyone was smoking heavily so we sat next to the window and opened it up to get some fresh air for the kids. Ventilation is very bad.
Personalized plates, grey table cloths, an olive oil and napkin station, the tables are all prepared for lunch. I loved the table napkin, which is not found at many Lebanese restaurants.
Before we start, I should tell you about the service. Not one, not a single waiter smiles. Rude waiters shouting at each other and throwing plates on the tables while passing in front of my camera or pushing cups away while you drink. I even asked for a child's chair which was answered with no more than a nodding head.
Food, on the other hand, is exactly what you expect from a famous restaurant. We started with the fatteh. Crunchy, fried bread, thick and condensed laban as well as pine nuts on a bed of fried eggplant; I loved it. The French fries had a homey taste to them. Hommus is tasty. A fresh Hummos, showcasing the real flavors of tahina, lemon and chickpeas. Nothing over powers the other ingredients. Makanek is correct. Tabbouleh, "koulouna lel tabbouleh"... If a restaurant doesn't succeed a tabbouleh, it better close. Cut in small sizes, parsley is mixed with diced tomatoes and green onions which add a better and more enjoyable flavor than white onions, a strong lemony feel and some olive oil for the finesse. I liked it. The best today was the simplest ever: The fresh salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley; I'm not sure why, but it's indeed exceptional.
Hot plates followed. Cheese rolls, crunchy and fresh. The sambousik had a special mix with spices and a good dough. The kebbe was good, especially if dipped in hummos. Chicken tawouk are chunks with a white color, my wife tells me. They had a tender heart but an over dose of garlic, I could smell from more than three meters away. I liked the Kafta, the meat was so tender. Even though the plate's presentation was pathetic, the quality of the meat was excellent.
I didn't tell you about the bread, fresh bread baked in-house. A dough that's tender and stays tender for a long time. Not chewy or bready, even the bread is taken care of to perfection.
I can't but get back to the waiters: Unprofessionalism, for sure... but even more. Discrimination and racism at its best. We were 12 and that day, 6 had lunch and the others didn't. Because the waiter in charge didn't feel like putting plates in front of my kids and their nanny. One side of the table had the food I've reviewed in this article while my wife, the kids and the nanny had only a plate of Hummos and French fries. Not only that, before serving the meat, all the table's plates were changed but only on the left side, the other was not even approached. Shame on people who act as if slavery still exists.
- Service is way below average; “Ahwet el Ezez style”. Where are the professional well dressed head waiters taking the order and making sure every detail is mastered to perfection? Where are those mature men wearing a tie like Al Halabi and Mhanna restaurants do it? Is Abdel Wahab in the same category or what?
- Plastic bottles are still used. I don't believe they fit in an upscale restaurant. Reminder: we do have glass bottles in Lebanon.
- The place seems old. A full fledged change of decor should be planned.
- The meat plate looks pathetic.
- Ventilation is very bad.
- Valet service is horrendous. A bunch of guys lacking finesses, wearing clothes that are not fit for work, smoking while welcoming the cars and not even one of them smiles or knows how to welcome you to a restaurant. They make sure to count the money before moving away from your car. The first and last impression at Abdel Wahab and many restaurants around town is becoming unbearable.
Bad valet parking, unprofessional service, smoky air but, good food. A restaurant experience is much more than the food.
Good food...But it's not enough.