My long tour around Barouk in Shouf ended at Al Mamlaka. This restaurant is hidden behind a large stone arcade. It’s a spacious place where dozens of tables are set one next to the other... The place called out to me to sit and start writing…
Pass the arcade where an old house welcomes you, another small replica of a Lebanese home occupies the left side before taking the stairs down to the restaurant. Stones are everywhere, simplicity and the beautiful notes coming from the waterfalls...
We were welcomed by Bahjat Mahmoud, the owner, who insisted to serve us himself. Arak for everyone he orders. Passing by the river, we were invited to sit under the tree facing the waterfall. Rectangular tables are covered with white tablecloths and topped with plates and cutlery. We were served with fresh and crunchy nuts, hard smoked almonds, and aromatic arak as I waited for the real deal.
I couldn't but admire the owner. A smile on his face, he toured around the tables, himself cleaning one, welcoming new guests and even pouring arak – a professional character that’s hard to find these days.
- Fries, hand cut yellow fries with a tender heart, a raw kebbe and meat plate, tabbouleh, fattouch, spicy potatoes, tajen, tomatoes with sumac, sambousik, kebbe, fried cheese rolls and much more.
- Raw liver, raw kebbeh, raw kafta and raw meat, the selection is exceptional, fresh and full of taste. Tabbouleh is how it should be done. Fattouch is covered with pomegranate molasses giving it a boost of flavor. Moutabbal is tasty, the hummus is good and the fried selection is not oily and is as good as you would expect them to be.
- Marinated to perfection in spicy sauce the meat is beautifully served on a rectangular plate. It is tender, full-bodied not chewy. The Kafta is also great. Kudos to that.
I loved the place, the presentation and generosity of the plates. I enjoyed the vibes and ambiance as well as the minimalist decor. I enjoyed the hospitality and ambiance as but believe that the food can be improved with more flavors, but good enough to make me want to come back again.
Lunch ended with a big choice of fruits as well as a selection of Lebanese sweets like Zlebyieh, Ouwaymat and Maakroun. I enjoyed the freshness of the fruits, but I can’t say the same for the sweets. They are too sweet, too hard and too crispy. Honestly after trying the Zlebyieh in Mokhtara my standards have been set high and I can’t seem to find any that taste that good so far.
If you're looking for a nice place, a generous restaurant... Al Mamlaka in Barouk is a good choice...