Shocking at first, it feels like dining in a parking lot until the waiter welcomes you, and you open the trendy menu filled with beautifully shot photos. Country Gate is Deir el Qamar’s village country club and restaurant that opens all year long. With oriental tunes playing in the background, we sat to have dinner.
Street food market lights, white fabrics flying in the wind, calm vibes, and an enjoyable view on the valley below. Unfortunately, the tables look and feel cheap, the plastic tables don’t fit a Lebanese restaurant, and a bit of decor is needed. Carrots, peanuts, and arak: we were ready to order.
The first impression notes: a Lebanese restaurant that doesn’t have a menu in Arabic. Placemats with a tagline: “we serve you all year long.” Why aren’t we talking about the food? The experience? Is a restaurant based on serving all year or promising a memorable experience? Anyway, there’s a branding and marketing issue; let’s try the food...
- Fattet eggplant: mixed with dried mint leaves, Laban is firm and acidic, eggplant chunks are well cooked, and fried bread comes on the side maintaining its crunch. I appreciated that the eggplant is peeled.
- Stuffed grapevine leaves are small. The leaves are too thick. I didn't like them.
- Labneh mixed with vegetables; as good as it should be. Commercial Labneh any household has.
- Black quinoa Halloumi salad is, in fact, a salad of arugula leaves, slices of chewy halloumi with a sprinkle of black quinoa. It’s not good. Where is the Quinoa anyway? Why is the halloumi so chewy?
- Makanek are excellent! Spiced up, juicy and well done.
- Spicy kebbeh, thick and flaky comes with a layer of chili paste; I loved it! It matches perfectly with Hummus.
- Beaded halloumi is juicy with a crunchy envelope. Since this Halloumi is juicy, why is the salad halloumi that bad?
- Ras Asfour: too, chewy! And the pomegranate molasses is too sweet. Not something I’ll order again.
- Meat, kafta, and taouk served with a side of French fries. As good as it should be.
Last impression: changing the plates, cutlery was left at the table spilling oil on the placemats.
What to change and improve: find a clear identity for the restaurant. Plates can’t come without a tray from the kitchen. Improve service and train the staff not to have side discussions. Make sure the music is balanced. Add decorative items to make space look like a restaurant, not a parking lot.
Now that I survived the suicide music, let me tell you about the restaurant’s delicious desserts. Desserts are better than the main deal. You have to try the multilayered Halawa ice cream; a layer of chocolate ice cream, crunchy biscuits and two layers of Halawa ice cream. Mouthwatering white cotton candy mountain embracing a tasty mastika ice cream. Ice cream with crunchy esmalliyeh is as good as the others.
Some plates are good, others not... thank you for the complimentary fruits and Lebanese coffee. Bizarre music, average service... Country Gate is a shisha restaurant like all the ones occupying our country.
I have a suggestion: since Desserts are so good, why not open an ice cream shop on the main road of Deir el Qamar? I was craving good ice cream in the Shouf for the last four days with no success. The chef is stronger at preparing desserts, so take advantage of that.