For the past few months and I don’t know why, but Al Sultan restaurant has been crossing my mind over a lot. Whenever I think of grilled birds, although Halim, the renowned specialist in Bhamdoun, usually first comes to mind… another place seems to be gaining success for its yummy grilled birds. Since I’m always thinking of the place, it was time to visit.
Located on the way to Sawfar, on the road leading to Zahle, is a restaurant that looks like a street food place, right next to the main road. Al Sultan is the place to go for grilled bird aficionados and Lebanese specialties as well.
At first, I felt like I was entering a hairdressing salon, the sound of a hairdryer filled the place, but it turned out to be an air machine used to ignite the grill to make it hotter. I’m not sure if this is the secret behind the quality of their grilled food, but each item is special, and cooked to perfection.
Enter the rectangular space, which is lit with white lights and has no decoration but for a big brick grill, which forms the main decorative structure of the restaurant. Al Sultan is not Mhanna or Al Halabi or any other Lebanese fine dining restaurant, but a casual address where the food draws you up the mountain to Bhamdoun. We were led to one of their rectangular tables, covered with a white tablecloth, as starters landed in front of us. Mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, carrots and tormos.
The place was way too noisy, but you’ll forget that as soon as you take the first bite.
The menu (only printed in Arabic):
- Alcoholic drinks
- Fresh meat
- Grilled platters
- Hot appetizers
- Soft drinks
- The plates are very generous, filled to the top
- All the appetizers are excellent, from the hummus to the Labneh and much more
- Birds are their specialty, so prepare to eat more than a dozen
When you say birds, you’re normally used to eating one or two at the restaurants in Beirut. It’s a luxury item, after all. Here, at Al Sultan, with one platter after the other, my friend and I ended up eating three-dozen of those wonderful little delicacies.
The hummus was unique, and offered a strong, lemony aftertaste. The cheese rolls, served grilled not fried, were so tasty, crumbling under your teeth like butter. The French fries, unique of their kind, were homemade, the exact flavor you enjoy at home, and the tabbouleh was just perfect.
You have to try the cooked potstoes.Their simplicity makes them so tasty, something out of this world.
As the more complicated dishes started to arrive, we couldn’t but look at each other in amazement when we tasted the lamb amourettes or "bayd ghanam” with their extreme juiciness, their tender feel and softness like no other and the lingering, lemony aftertaste. The eggs and awarma… wow! They were exactly like the ones at Le Professeur in Mar Elias. They use this special meat that’s different from the ones we’re used to; not minced meat, but shredded meat. The awarma, which is meat covered in fat, is mixed with eggs and enjoyed with a smile. The awarma I know looks like minced meat, but the one Al Sultan uses looks more like shredded meat, tastes better and melts away under the teeth. Cooked in its own fat with three eggs on top, one bite leads to another and another until common sense tells you to stop. I loved the juiciness, the seasoning and, most importantly, the distinct taste of lemon that comes at the very end and will put a smile on your face. Maybe the best awarma I’ve had to date.
Now for the birds, the famous birds. Small, tiny little birds which you eat without bread. No sauce is needed, no pomegranate molasses, just birds. A dozen birds, grilled to perfection and served in a wrap of markouk bread. Close your eyes and enjoy. A slight crunch, a subtle feel of fat, an enjoyable background of different textures while the juices erupt to flow onto your taste buds. Lemony and rich in flavor, those tiny things are just addictive. Forget about the fat, forget anything you might know about birds, they’re so majestic that three dozens might not be enough to satisfy your craving.
I’ve eaten birds in every Lebanese restaurant I’ve visited, but believe me, Al Sultan is different. I’ve asked around and, to date, none of my friends who had tried Al Sultan had one single negative thing to say about it.
Not only that... Yes, there is even more... Al Sultan serves Chidiac's Famous Karabij for dessert!!!! That was the cherry on top!WAW. After such a delicious lunch, ending the experience with those awesome pieces of innovation... You can't imagine the feeling.
When you crave for birds, then Al Sultan, is an address not to be missed.