August 20, 2015 Beirut Lebanon Middle East

City Centre Beirut: The Food Court Experience

City Centre Beirut hosts one of the few, not to say the only, real food courts in Lebanon, just like food courts in malls around the world with one entrance and one exit, lots of choices and a unified seating area. Down in Hazmieh is a heaven for foodies, City Centre's food court.

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Inside this food court are lots of choices of which some are good, others less so, or not at all, but the immense choice can satisfy all cravings.

I was there for lunch and decided to have a quick overview of the options available at the mall. Enter this large space and start your walk from the right side. Attila the Mongolian grill, Pizzaro the Italian pizzeria, Malak el Tawouk, Food Style, Fat Burger, KFC, Steak and Cheese Factory, McDonald's, Zaatar w Zeit, Kababji, Burger King, Chopsticks, Shawarmanji and Cinnabon, there's a lot to choose from.

Since the choices are so many and I surely couldn't try them all at once, today's selection comes from the right side, and I'm hoping to come back for the left side next week. I ordered a pizza, Lebanese sandwiches, burgers, American style choices, French fries and a dessert.

Let's eat:

  • Steak and Cheese Factory: We ordered the steak and cheese sandwich with fries and Pepsi, a combo meal for LBP16,500. A foot-long meat sandwich served super hot in a tender bun. It tasted better last time I tried it. I loved the fries, prepared a la minute and served in a carton-style box. Lightly crunchy and tender in the middle. The steak sandwich uses fresh buns, a kind of pain au lait stuffed with a mix of meat and grilled vegetables. Extremely hot, the sandwich can burn your lips. A juicy mix of tender meat and crunchy, well cooked vegetables with a light sweetness. A tasty sandwich.

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  • Pizzaro offers a LBP19,000 pizza. The capricciosa, made of tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, oregano, artichokes, black olives, turkey ham and mushrooms. To start with, it looks nice. A beautiful box and inside a very thin pizza topped with fresh-looking vegetables. Juicy olives full of taste, green artichokes and lots of cheese. A thick slice of ham lying on a thin dough with toasted borders. The dough is not the finest out there, a bit chewy, but good enough. The borders are lightly crispy and enjoyable. The pizza leaves a nice after note in the mouth.

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  • Fat burger: A disaster! My last review was bad and today the experience is even worse. The staff are scratching themselves, unwelcoming, arrogant and impolite. Imagine a bad tasting meat stuffed in an old bun, chewy and dry with lots of shredded lettuce like a salad and a thick slice of tomato thicker than the meat. An unbelievable, unappetizing, unacceptable kind of fatty burger one doesn't want to try.

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  • Malak el Tawouk: The special burger is made of tree layers of bread, three thick layers of bread with two layers of meat, cheese, ham, fries, tomatoes, pickles and coleslaw... Everything! It's more of a Kafta burger and tastes like a kebbeh burger with three very thick and unappetizing layers of bread that are way too chewy. The mix of ingredients is interesting if the meat was better and juicier and the bread was fluffier.

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  • Tawouk: They are kings of tawouk, they really are, but I'll recommend you order it with one layer of bread. Inside, the ingredients are generously filled. Lots of chicken, coleslaw with a little mayonnaise, well cooked French fries and carrots with ketchup for taste and sweetness. It is good, really good. Whatever one might say, Malak el Tawouk is the king of Tawouk.
  • Chicken liver: Good quality liver, a huge sandwich, juicy tomatoes but a lack of taste and way too much bread. Two layers of bread wrapped around portions of fries, pickles and tomatoes. It needs more lemon and more spices, ask for it with one layer of bread and you'll be enjoying a good sandwich.

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  • Food Style: A busy employee, overwhelmed, and unable to manage the shop on his own. The Swiss and mushroom burger was way below average. Ground beef stuffed inside the bun, chewy like chewing gum and tasting bad - look at the picture. Some slices of mushroom and Swiss sauce. The bread was dry, maybe produced yesterday. The taste is bad, really bad and left a bad aftertaste in the mouth. Remove it from the menu!

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  • The Oreo cake: I remember it being better, served colder and being less creamy, but nevertheless it's acceptable despite its lemony flavor. My experience at Food Style Hamra was better.

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  • Cinnabon: Welcome to the most unprofessional and arrogant, impolite and rude supervisor I've met in a restaurant, noding down her nose as she replies to customers, not welcoming and throwing food on the plates without even using gloves or feeling the importance to do so. Asking for a roll, I got the answer "wait 15 minutes", and the display was full. Asking about it, I was given one of those small ones that she didn't feel like selling earlier. No up-sale, no water, no coffee and no drink offered. I've been here four times already and not a single time was she smiling. I would recommend she finds another job where she fits; communicating with people is not her thing. The cinnamon rolls, on the other hand, are delicious. Extremely tender and moist bread filled with butter, sugar and cinnamon which is better devoured from the inside out. The cupcake display is also mouthwatering, something you can't but stop in front of for a minute.

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The good:

  • A group of friends can enjoy a get together, each savoring a different choice of food.
  • The cleaning staff are helpful.
  • The ambiance and vibes are interesting.

Things to change:

  • The smells are strong and stick to your clothes.
  • In general, the staff is not welcoming, doesn't smile and doesn't feel like working.
  • Change the Cinnabon staff.

The pizza is fine, the Tawouk sandwich is tasty, Steak and Cheese's offerings taste better now, forget about Fat Burger, think of Food Style in Hamra and don't forget to finish with a cinnamon roll.

I love Food Court Experiences and this is the only one available in Lebanon!

That's half the expedience at City Centre Beirut... The other half will be done soon.

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