Opened since 1918, Casino Nmeir is one of the valley's most famous Lebanese restaurants. Come here for the sound of chirping birds, the musical tunes of running river water, Fayrouz singing in the background and authentic Lebanese specialities. Arak, mixed nuts and a plate of fresh vegetables on ice... chill out, relax and let the experience begin.
I met the owner, Marc Nmeir who showed me the bicycle his grandfather used to ride and told me the story of the restaurant which opened in 1918. Feeling good, I sipped on some Arak Al Karram, known to be one of the best arak in Lebanon... while enjoying the vibes as the waiters waited to refill our glasses.
Let the fiesta begin. Goat Labneh in the shape of a tear drop is served on a plate and decorated with two eyes; Shanklish, a generous portion of it, is covered with diced tomatoes and diced bell pepper, decorated with eggs and carrots; Stuffed vine leaves served in a bowl surrounded by slices of lemon and centered with sliced tomatoes... Tajen is served with chunks of fish filet on top, the hummus comes with meat and pine nuts, a plate of assorted Lebanese bites and the main deal, the raw meat platter. Served on a round plate, an assortment of different kinds of raw meat of which kebbeh and kafta with raw liver presented around a mountain of onions.
Hot platters followed. Makanek, juicy soujok and chicken liver in pomegranate sauce.
I enjoyed some of their items, but not all.
For example the kebbeh is indeed a signature of the region, the makanek are juicy and tasty, and the hummus is good enough, while vegetables are fresh. The rest can surely be improved.
After lunch, the ritual in all Lebanese restaurants is to move to the fruits table. Watermelon, pineapple, peach, red apples, melon, kiwi and apricot. Decorated differently and presented in generous mountains, the table is fully loaded alongside a tray of fruit confit. A beautiful plate made of apricot, apples with almonds, bitter orange, eggplant and red peach. Some are a bit too sweet for my taste while other are a bit dry.
Honesty, the mood and vibes are enough to make me want to come back. The place doesn't serve the most delicious Lebanese food... But head there and enjoy the tunes of water and nature. People here could easily live up to a hundred years.