September 07, 2012 Gemmayze & Mar Mikhael Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Beirut's Hidden Spot: Em Nazih at the Saifi Urban Gardens
Out with the Guys Authentic & Traditional Coffee Talk


Welcoming: 1/5

Food Temperature: 8/10

Ambiance / Music: 8/10

Menu Choice: 3/5

Food Taste: 12/30

Architecture / Interior: 8/10

Food presentation: 7/10

Service: 2/10

Value for money: Soon

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Come meet your new friends: Em Nazih, Abu Nazih, Zahwa, Mustapha, Ali, Bilal and Hassan. Em Nazih offers decent Lebanese food and music at very reasonable prices. Cafe Em Nazih is a small hidden restaurant set in Saifi Urban Gardens. Cafe Em Nazih is where breakfast is served, lunch is enjoyed with daily specials,  people meet, mingle and study during the day, and a where a dinner feast starts every evening around 8pm.  It's a bizarre kind of place indeed! I say bizarre positively. It's a place where a few locals and a lot of tourists come to taste Em Nazih's Lebanese specialities while enjoying a rural style ambiance on an Arabic musique de fond. It's a friendly place where people come relaxed and where the staff members know your name.

You go down an old Lebanese stair way and pass by the Saifi Gardens rooms for rent, then the Arabic classes foreigners come to learn how to speak Arabic another stairway to another restaurant called Coup D'Etat. The walls are filled with art work and grafitti - you know you have entered a whole new world in Beirut. A world I honestly didn't know existed in Lebanon. I wonder how tourists know about it. All this is enjoyed before you reach an old house with old Lebanese tiles, white wooden doors, a few tables, stools, chairs and  some bricks are all what you need to create a magical place like Em Nazih! We sat down as we arrived and waited, and waited, and waited even more. Then it struck me, maybe we should go order the food ourselves. I was told that we order at the bar, pay, then wait to hear the bell that tells us to pick our plate, eat and then take the empty plates back to the kitchen... Yes no waiters and no orders are taken to or from the table.

Just arrive, head to the bar, grab a menu, order from the plastic paper of choices and enjoy your stay, your way! Daily special plates are on a separate menu... hung on the wall near the bar. You won't miss it. When your order is ready, look behind the bar - you will find plastic plates, forks and knives, salt and pepper, ready packed small bags of bread...

The menu: - Mana2eesh 3a Saj - Mezzeh - Breakfast - Plat du Jour - Drinks

On the menu you can read:

(Please order at the counter and return dishes to the kitchen when you are done). I don't mean to sound spoilt, but I don't even do that at home! But in such a setup it's all part of the experience that's nice and simple. Everything is easy going; you see people reading, others sunbathing calmly, few drinking a beer or smoking the chicha while others wait for the "tinning" to pick up their lunch. Electrical fans around the terrace add a freshness to the place making you feel on the beach.

I loved small details:

- The entrance, stairs and graffiti - The arguile corner - Unique designed tables where each one is different with different items under the glass. On some you can see flowers on others stones and so on. - A BBQ corner, wooden chairs and an old restored building is the successful recipe for originality. To tell you the truth, I've been searching for Em Nazih for the last semester without success. I always thought it was a place like Em Sherif or maybe Fouad...

Em Nazih is like nothing else in Lebanon.

We ordered to try:

- Hommos with vegetable plate 4,000 - Plat du Jour LL10,000 Today the chef was offering Bizri fish: Very tasty! - Cheese rolls LL5,000 Crunchy tasty and generous. - Grilled Halloum LL5,000 Four thick and juicy halloumi pieces served with tomato, olives and cucumber. It was bit too salty. - Omelet with meat LL5,000 The old fashioned way, prepared with  Kawarma. The mix is over oily and couldn't eat more than a bite. - Tabbouleh LL5,000 Fresh and tasty as it was harvested today but very very salty and contains lots of onions. - Soft drink, LL1,500 is considered cheap for a restaurant. - Perrier LL3,000 where you pay it LL5,000 elsewhere.

The food experience:

It's not the best Lebanese food you can have if you compare it to other Lebanese restaurants around, but for tourists and visitors looking to experience something new and have nothing to compare it with (food wise) the food is very good. The experience alone is worth it, after all you won't visit Em Nazih for a culinary perfection meal but for an inspiration of your senses.

The experiences starts after you've finished your meal:

Take the empty plates to the kitchen and put them in the cleaning sink after emptying them in the garbage. You really feel at home managing your 25 sqm studio in Europe.





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