CHECK OTHER REVIEWS FOR THIS PLACE:
The Hangout Grill, Bistro and Café - A Review Soon (Restaurant Closed)
The Hangout: Food and Wine to the Tunes of Chirping Birds (Restaurant Closed)
Every time a new place opens, the hype around it is tremendous. Everyone around me kept me pushing to try The Hangout. I felt I was missing out on the experience of a lifetime, especially when friends kept blaming me for not including The Hangout in my TOP10 burger list and the TOP10 French bistros in Lebanon.
The Hangout, one of the newest Bistros to open on Gemmayze has indeed been the talk of town. Located in Saifi area, just a few steps away from Le PetitGris, in an old Lebanese home, which formerly housed The Porter House, The Hangout does have a lot to offer, but I think there's room for some improvement in the kitchen.
You reach an old Lebanese house divided into four different rooms distributed around a main area hosting the salad and drinking bar. A casual and warm ambiance that suits many tastes. Blue, orange, grey, red, beige... Colors for each one of you. I sat down in a well lit green room, near the window.
The architectural details:
- A well preserved Lebanese house still has its charm and old details
- Marble clear flooring reflects the shining colors from above
- Red sofas in the middle room and other grey ones in the side corners are distributed around tables from different sizes
- The room on the right is build on blue notes differentiating from the places style
- On the left, orange walls make of the space more suitable for elderly people
- Two imposing metallic chandeliers light the high ceilings
- Another two red decorative structures, pending from the ceiling add a touch of modernism
- The main signature item, is the round window giving a look at what the wine cellar is hiding
- A cozy, homey and nicely decorated terrace for the smokers fits perfectly at the back
Being seated at our table, we were offered the menu printed on thick paper and translated into English and French. I liked its typography and style.
The menu sections:
- Hangout Salads
- Our Specialities
- Hot Starters
- Main Course
- Pasta Corner
- Gourmet Burgers and Sandwiches
- From our Charcoal Grill
- Sides and Sauces
- Low Cal Menu
- Goat Cheese Salad 17,000L.L
- Foie Gras, Dry fruits and Balsamic sauce 27,000L.L
- Trio Cheese Rolls with Thyme 13,000L.L
- Pan Fried Mushrooms with Halloum 13,000L.L
- Risotto with Mushrooms 21,000 L.L
- The Hangout 180g gourmet burger, grilled your style 24,000 L.L
- Black chocolate fondant 70% 12,000L.L
- Pain Perdu 16,000L.L
Food started with Teta's selection (grand-ma's appetizer platter) from the village of Jebchit (Check out the village website): goat cheese Labneh and a wide choice of pickled vegetables: olives, cornichon, small eggplants, janerek (Green Plums) and fresh almonds. It is served with a home made full fat addictive butter. Accompanied by a crunchy fresh premium French baguette from the famous Prunelle, its warmth just makes the butter melt before touching your lips. The food experience also ended with a complimentary plate from Teta's selection as well, which included of apricot, figs and strawberry jams served with butter. Super tasty and the best part is that they are not too sweet;
The culinary experience:
- Three Cheese Rolls is nothing special: It's like the ones we eat at Lebanese restaurants. There isn't enough cheese in each, and to be honest I didn't feel the difference between one and the other. I didn't understand what is it doing in the menu. For 13,000L.L, it's not worth it. The sauce that comes with it is interesting - with a mix of Roquefort cheese. It should be served a bit warmer though.
- Halloum Cubes mixed with Fresh Mushrooms, coriander and onions: I had it without onions and simply loved it. The mix of ingredients are cooked together to reach the same consistency, crunched gently and effortlessly as the juices dissipate around your palatal buds. Served in a small traditional bowl, this order is a success.
- Foie Gras: from Batroun with fig jam specially mixed with soya sauce. Two round slices, served with Pain de Campagne - Tasty.
- Goat cheese is mixed with mango and olives before baked, layered on little toasts delicately placed over a special mix of beetroot paste, served with green salad topped with sun-dried tomatoes and olive pieces. Imagine the flavors mixed all together melting between your tongue and palate. Bravo! On another hand, I wouldn't personally use this kind of lettuce. The iceberg is too thick, cut in squares is unpleasant to eat.
- The risotto portion is very generous and looks tasty but unfortunately it's the dish I enjoyed the least. It was over cooked and too creamy. A la Lebanese style...? No! People who order risotto know what they are ordering and are expecting an el dente cooked rice with light sauce mix. We are not eating rice at grandma's house in the village.
- The Hangout Burger that we ordered medium was served well done. A layer of sour cream, a thick piece of meat, cheddar cheese, fresh rockets and guacamole sauce. I loved the bread, that is soft and proportional with the other ingredients but the meat is not the best you can have. It's too condensed like the ones you buy at supermarkets. It crunches under your teeth without going into little pieces; a very unpleasant feeling. Guacamole and sour cream make of it a heavy preparation. It contained something, -I presume garlic- that made my stomach ache all night. This burger is a Big NO.
I'm sorry to say dear friends, those who asked me to try the Hangout and add their burger to my TOP10 List: unfortunately the way it is now, is far from coming close to the list.
Walid, the manager, took all his time to explain every single detail of the menu. He even went three times to the kitchen to make sure none of the plates contain garlic or onions, after asking the chef. Bravo for your welcoming, your attention and professionalism. You are the biggest part in The Hangout success.
The dessert trip:
- The dark chocolate came warm. It should have been hot and not as melting as I expected it to be. I didn't feel the dark chocolate strength honestly. A 70% felt like 30%.
- The pain perdu feels like simple french bread on its inside. It's not soaked enough and the sides are too hard to chew. It's fine but not great. The desserts look much better than they taste.
- The ice cream is provided by Vanille pastry shop in Achrafieh. The same provider of The Sushi Bar. That part is good.
The positive details you need to look for:
- 35 local wine references and a wine cellar of 2000 bottles
- They have three menus: one for breakfast, lunch and a third for the bar
- I loved the menus, their font and sectioning
- A nice decoration that is relaxing for the eyes and enjoyable by all ages
- Come for breakfast, they open at 9am
- The salad bar has a wide and interesting choice
- Teta's appetizers and desserts offered by the management are awesome. I loved the idea and the products as well
The minuses and the must change:
- The music is nice but too loud
- I didn't like the idea of how the wine list is presented. Cheap A4 papers on a plastic clipboard. Wine is high-end. Wine is gracious and the list should reflect so.
- Reconsider the risotto
- The burger is a mess
- The desserts are not great
- In a few words: The food didn't impress me at all!
A French bistro, serving French specialties, needs to have a French name. "The Hangout" a French bistro? Naaa... Something's just not right about it!
As they describe it:
“The Hangout is a reflection of the interior, the cuisine is creative and welcoming, genuine international cuisine based on simple and seasonal food. A rich menu of barbecue, a wine list, great prices – here you can enjoy a starter, main course and dessert with a glass of wine and coffee for 50,000 LL … in short, The Hangout is just the kind of restaurant we’ve been waiting for. Try it once and you’ll surely keep coming back for the Gourmet Burger, the Tartars, the Côte de Boeuf for two, the Beef Stroganoff blazed with Russian Vodka, the fried mushrooms with Halloum, the Grouper and its citrus rice, the oriental Lamb and the best pain perdu in town.
The Hangout needs much more improvements and few fine tunings here and there to compete with the others around. I think they are not far from reaching there. "Focus more on your food taste and try to keep it simple. Too much sophistication turns to a disaster fast." They have everything it takes to stand out - just work on the details to improve. Good luck...