Al Balad, some love it, while others don't... but as for me, I've always been a fan. Al Balad Downtown has survived the test of time against all odds, preserving its namesake, which translates to "the central district" in English. Al Balad restaurant first opened in the heart of Beirut in 1999, introducing the concept of Lebanese dining in a casual atmosphere. Lebanese traditions are preserved in each of their recipes, based on the most innovative combinations of the finest ingredients. This has proved successful, and soon after, the expansions of Al Balad began in Lebanon and the Middle East.
Located down in the central district, a restaurant we used to come to so often is still serving tasty Lebanese bites with a twist despite the problems with the area. Almost all the restaurants have left except this one, which maintains its struggle to be part of Beirut's revival.
Choose to sit outside or take the door to the dining area. To the left is a raised corner with a couple of tables, while the rectangular space hosts square tables facing the bar.
- Brown tiles cover the floor.
- Artistic squares with authentic Lebanese items decorate the walls.
- Benches covered in green fabrics take over the left area.
- At the end of the restaurant is the bar, which hides the metallic bread oven.
- In the heart of the restaurant a chandelier hangs from above.
- A closed seating area outside serves Shisha all year round.
Some details I admire include: Their branded plates, their paper placemats, their beautifully decorated plates, their breadbasket, their freshly baked Lebanese bread and their new menu.
Now for the food:
- Lentil soup: Full bodied, lemony and lots of spices served with toasted bread.
- Stuffed Grapevine leaves: Slightly lemony, well cooked, stuffed with a tender rice.
- Samkeh Harra: Fried pine nuts, fish, Tahina with diced tomatoes and decorated with coriander. I loved the spicy aftertaste.
- Meat, almonds and dates: A super tender mix with a crunch provided by fried almonds. A strong acidity, lemon and a sour sweetness added by the dates. That's a tasty innovation where the meat melts under the teeth.
- Special baked potatoes: Special spices and salt. Perfectly baked and enjoyable as is, even without sauce.
- Shanklish: The shanklish, served in a round cylinder, is served mixed and ready to be enjoyed. Well equilibrated, this plate is really enjoyable.
- Chicken liver with pomegranate molasses: Tender, juicy and enjoyably sweet.
- Halloum bi 3ajin: Halloumi, pesto sauce, tomatoes, garnished with thyme. Tender dough, a juicy filling and very aromatic.
- Kafta yogurt: Grilled spicy aroma, thin, toasted bread, Laban, pine nuts. Cold Laban, crispy fried bread and tender meat.
- Simply Hummos and it's good.
Al Balad also has special desserts, innovations like halawa ice cream with Jallab, chocolate custard and halawa tart as well as Aich el Saraya and many others.
Al Balad is a casual dining restaurant I like.