Ummi: Where Traditional and Authentic Lebanese Food Will Surely Make you Happier...
The work of a master who has managed to blend together the charm of an old Lebanese house and the authenticity of a stylish kitchen... breathtaking modern decor hosts one of the country's tastiest and most unique Lebanese cuisines. The restaurant has been created to satisfy the need for having a homey kitchen in the heart of downtown Beirut that caters to the work force. Inspired by the know how of real housewives, Ummi was born. "Ummi" meaning 'my mum' in Arabic.
When you hear that Chef Hussein Hadid and the team are opening a new concept, you can't help but want to be the first to try it. Hussein, his executive chef Dory and the team never miss! I've been to their restaurants dozens and dozens of times enjoying the experience, the flavors and creations every single time more than the last. When they cook, they just cook right! Yet I didn't imagine that this team could cook Lebanese this good! The food is outstanding!
Enter and feel transported... some oriental tunes I've rarely heard, a floor made of old authentic tiles, reflective golden metal covering the walls on one side while bricks take the other side. Wood, grey concrete and a touch of industrial design blending a mix and match of both worlds, style and simplicity.
Details I liked: the walls are decorated with metal casseroles echoing the feel of air conditioning ducts. Warm lights hang from the ceiling playing a big role in decorating the restaurant. Books and Mouneh jars as well as alcohol bottles adorn the several shelves around the place. Two large paintings created by Yazan Halawani are here to impress. It's an open kitchen, so enjoy seeing your food being prepared a la minute. They have a rotisserie in store, the chicken is gently slow cooked.
Using the best ingredients, the restaurant is a Lebanese boutique kitchen... Angus beef, imported sauces, fresh vegetables, anything that will make the experience unique and different from any Lebanese restaurant you've previously visited.
Lunch starts when a plate of black olives, a bowl of vegetables and a basket of fresh bread land on the table. Soft bread, ripe olives and fresh vegetables!
- Hummus, hummus is everything... I judge a Lebanese restaurant on its hummus - it shows if the chef knows what Lebanese cuisine is all about. A creamy and smooth hummus, a light and enjoyable zest of lemon, no or very little saltiness, a drizzle of premium olive oil and mini chickpeas added warm to decorate its heart.
- Surprised by the stuffed grapevine leaves, the tenderness, the smoothness of the rice, the richness of flavors... didn't expect to eat something as good in a casual Lebanese restaurant.
- Moutabbal Ummi, the real flavor of grilled eggplant, the taste that caresses your taste buds creating a carnival in the mouth. This moutabbal is covered with black olives, walnuts, hazelnuts, tomatoes and pomegranate molasses.
- Wait.. Is this real I asked myself? Fattouch! Vegetables cooked in very small pieces absorb the sauce better, mixed with thick bread toasted and fried to a crunch like biscuit and the intense taste of pomegranate to amaze. Waw!
- Tabbouleh; more magic! Magic, simply magic, shredded so small the ingredients tickle your tongue with joy - parsley, green spring onions that don't overpower and tiny little diced tomatoes. So intensely and enjoyably lemony!
- Hummus with Arnabeet (cauliflower), who would have imagined! What a unique combination... fried cauliflower, chilli oil replacing the normal olive oil... it's gives a kick! Two thumbs up chef, I have a new coup de coeur.
- Kebbeh Sajiyyeh with Mouhammara: a super mouhammara, unique kebbeh, what a combination!!!! Thin kebbeh stuffed with minced meat served on a bed of crushed walnuts and roasted red pepper.
- They look like any potato cubes mixed with coriander until you've bit into one. A kick of spices and salt, a crunch, and the fresh flavor of coriander. Yummy!
- Fatteh, yes it does contain garlic but so little that you won't even feel it. A creamy Laban, tender eggplants, crunchy toasted bread.
- The daily home cooked meals came last. The Daoud Bacha which is made from cooked onions and meat balls bathing in their tomato sauce drew a smile on my face. Very tender meat, light bodied tomato sauce, well cooked onions and a rice cooked al dente with a slippery envelop. With that I also tried the kebbeh Laban, authentic and traditional yet gourmet and upscale.
The meat and chicken deserve a paragraph of their own. Have you ever enjoyed meat at a Lebanese restaurant that's softer than butter? Have you ever indulged in a super juicy and tender chicken without it smelling of garlic? Have you ever felt the flavors of home in every millimeter of a long kafta skewer... I have personally never tasted an oriental meat as good as the one at Ummi, three skewers presented with grilled peppers and grilled tomatoes. The half chicken is not real, really not real, so tender, so spicy, so tasty and the potato cubes served on the side are utterly addictive!
I'm not exaggerating, I'm just out of words... Lebanese food like I've never had before, simple yet innovative and tasty. Ummi is the next big thing, Ummi can proudly, and should, represent Lebanon's cuisine all around the world.