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Breakfast at Em Sherif Cafe: Exquisite, Refined, Recommended!
I came here for breakfast and liked it... I returned for dinner and didn't enjoy it at all! From the amount of people, to the un-smiling waiters, the noise, the chaos and the smoking allowed inside... what was a calm and serene place for breakfast turned out to be a gathering of overbearing people, "to see and be seen", smoke shisha, cigarettes and cigars. The arrogance pervading the atmosphere, the nouveaux-riche, the waiters serving you hurriedly so others can come and take your place; a shocking experience.
Welcome to Em Sherif Cafe, the "in" place of Beirut serving fine dining Lebanese cuisine in a "cafe" setup. Classy and sophisticated decor, designer plates, and a complicated menu promising finesse and style. There are salads and starters, cold Mezze, fatteh, raw meat, from the oven, eggs, hot Mezze, special sandwiches, grills and shisha (shisha as though it was something you could eat as it's written under the plat du jour section of the menu).
Garlic is everywhere... half the menu has garlic, the goat labneh has garlic... an overdose that even half the population would struggle to digest between them. The hummus has garlic in it when all renowned Lebanese restaurants stopped adding this heavy ingredient a long time ago. The fatteh is done with garlic, like when I had it two days ago at breakfast, the labneh too... and the list goes on.
With all due respect to all nationalities of the world, I felt like I was having dinner in Saudi Arabia.
Trying to enjoy dinner, you have to bear the hot charcoal passing next to your face every minute. I understand the shisha craze, I do understand the cafe part but having to experience smoke as a major element, making it more important than food, is a shame. Em Sherif is supposed to be a proud ambassador of Lebanese cuisine, certainly not what I experienced tonight! I'm lost for words...
Now came the food! Plates beautifully decorated by the chef and massacred by the waiters throwing ugly spoons into them; so why the decoration then? A beautifully presented dish of hummus perfect to go on social media has a spoon thrust in it, an eggplant moutabbal loaded with colorful dots of pomegranate... and a spoon! Spoons are not acceptable in the era of social media - keep them aside.
- Labneh like any other Labneh. I enjoyed it more at breakfast.
- Fresh bread that's not warm. Hard and crunchy when it should be soft.
- An acidic eggplant moutabbal with pomegranate seeds.
- A good flavorful and creamy hummus.
- Grilled halloumi in a pan with sliced tomatoes and coriander. It had an unpleasant after taste.
- Eggs with kawarma and green onions; too oily and fatty for my taste.
- The best thing I had was the tabbouleh! It was a superb tabbouleh made with hosrom or a load of lemon and some pomegranate bits. I loved it!
- Lahme Beajine with a spoon in the middle! A thick layer of juicy meat on a bed of sharp and crisp bread: spot on, a unique Lahme Beajine and one of the best in town.
- Kafta, juicy and thick, rich and flavorful and the bread is unique. Didn't like the cheap presentation but adored the taste.
- Unfortunately couldn't try the falafel due to the load of garlic. My wife told me they tasted of pure garlic!
- The fatteh is loaded with garlic as well but I liked the spices and the laban served warm as well as the crunchy bread and chickpeas cooked al-dente.
- Good makanek, like any other makanek.
- Try the kebbeh on a stick! Served inside brown bread next to grilled vegetables. Very tender and extremely flavorful. It's a good creation.
- Lahme Rass Asfour is also a recommendation. Tender meat bathing in pomegranate molasses and decorated with green onion rings.
- Wow! The shawarma texture is so good! It feels like Angus meat that melts on your tongue like butter. It tastes as good as a shawarma should be without any aftertaste of vinegar.
- I was expecting perfection but the food ended up being no better than any other Lebanese restaurant.
- Waiters! Two dozen of them... there are more waiters than people having dinner. They add chaos to the space.
- Music? The ambiance is so dull!
- Table covers or placemats are a must! Tables become slippery, watery and dirty after minutes. At least put coasters under the glasses.
- That open door to the kitchen in the middle of the restaurant should be closed! It spoils the affect of the decor.
- The space has far more tables than it can handle. I was pushed into a hundred times tonight.
- Number one rule in hospitality; never ever run! The waiters need serious training!
- I'm not sure Em Sherif Cafe can even be considered a restaurant; a shisha cafe where people come to see and be seen would be a more accurate description.
Now came dessert, and gladly, very good desserts are served here! Mouthwatering treats prepared to perfection, each offering a unique sensation. Ghandour's tarboosh comes in the fine dining style with dark chocolate and crispy bits: that same unique soft serve ice cream I had two days ago with its dark chocolate mix and beautiful texture. And a date (tamer) tart I would surely order again.
Probably the country's best Knefeh is not cheap at LBP22,000, but you will love it much more than a simple Knefeh. It is an experience; a journey. Bravo for such a memorable creation the world needs to know about.
Desserts are the cherry on top! Bravo for such fine creations.
You should know: the desserts are better than the actual food itself.
One word: disappointing! Hard to believe that someone who has created one of the best Lebanese restaurants in the heart of Dubai - a proud ambassador to Lebanese culinary know how - can be behind such a mess!