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Fouad is a small restaurant in Nabe3 el Mghara, Hrajel located far away from the tourists and the main road. I love it here and have been visiting since I was a kid. It's just 'It'! The best authentically Lebanese restaurant serving food the way our ancestors used to. No advertising is needed as the restaurant is always fully booked. At Fouad the experience is unique on many levels: an extraordinary welcoming; superb food and awesome choices along with well trained staff who will absolutely make you leave in total awe. Everyone I know who has visited Fouad always wants to return.
With thousands of restaurants out there and my extensive explorations of the newest food destinations and trendy concepts, I always feel like coming back to the roots, to the basics, to a restaurant combining a handful of selections to make you happy... Fouad is one of them.
At Fouad's, every plate has a story and every recipe has passion behind it. Fouad himself welcomes you onto his house's balcony all decorated with old Lebanese harvesting items. The minute you pass over the door step, you are welcomed with a smile and a proverb depending on the mood and the season. A feeling of relaxation goes through your body as you are immediately assured that a journey of sheer enjoyment has begun!
On the menu, the way Fouad describes them, with a melodious and singing accent: "Tabboule am fattouch? Hommos ma3 lahme. Mtabbal batenjen ma3 debes remmen wou basal bi nosso Bemye bil zeit, msa23at batenjen, hendbe? Batata mad2ou2a da2! Batata ma3 el kezbra, mouka3abet Arnabit toum kezebra basal akhdar tarator janba Basterma bidoun shaman." Some phrases are added here and there like "Mech ghalat abadan!" "Tajen ma3 el jawz woul lawz Ba2le batenjen ma3 debs el remmen wou basal akhdar Fishe bi t7ine Balila labnet me3ze mka3zale ma3 el jawz." And here Fouad asks "Wade3 el naiy salim 2aw ghayr salim?" And if you answer 'NO' to raw meat, Fouad says: "Cancel el naiy niha2iyan!" and the choices go on and on: Makanek ma3 el batata; Soujouk ma3 che2af el 7amod; Sawda djej ma3 debs el remmen; Sawda ghanam me2liye bel 7amod metfiye; Omelette bel jebneh; me2liyye ma3 2awarma laban 7adda; Bayd 3youn me2le 3al khebez festo2 rachet mele7 wou semsom; Shmamit mghatsa bellaban; Batenjene bel foron jebneh 3ala wejja; Sader m7alwan; Haniba3el (La7met el ketef bi wara2 el ghar) and Kebbe ma3 laban.
As I already mentioned, every plate served on the table has a story and a proverb which the waiter says out loud as he places the dishes on the table. Here are some of the ones I could remember: "Fattouch bi 3alli el rmouch" "Mtabbal ma3 debs el remmen bi khali 7abibak 3ech2en" "Arak m3attar bel anfas, byenzel la a7la el nass" "Batata mad2ou2a btetrok lal ness 72ou2a" "Khebez m7ammas lal chab el m2almaz" "Kebbe bel laban bteb3od 3anna el fetan" "S7oun mdawra la a7la wjouh mnawra" "Jat fwekeh la Hal maleyke" "Makanek ma3 el batata bet3ich bikel bassata" "Na3na3 bikhale hawakon yetla3la3".
"Mech ghalat abadan" is what made Fouad famous. Everything is more than delicious. The dishes are light and simple, with clear and pronounced flavor. The staff are so welcoming and so happy to be part of the Fouad family. Sakr, the head waiter, is phenomenal and funny: I appreciate his professionalism. This place is truly your home away from home. Fouad Khalil has made a heaven; your smile comes naturally here. Helped by staff that believe in their patron's vision, making them act, smile and welcome you all with the same genuine pleasure. No schooling and no training needed, they are more professional than most the pretentious waiters in Beirut.
Super Duper Tasty Food: Fattouch: a huge plate filled to the top with small pieces of purslane, tomato, radish, lettuce, parsley, bell pepper, green onions and toasted bread adding to that a tiny bit of garlic, pomegranate molasses and lemon. Tabbouleh: a rich and generous plate with more tomatoes than parsley and borghol. Super delicious and adequately seasoned while the lemon adds a strong and interesting aftertaste. Mtabbal: very nice Hummus Special with pickles, parsley and bell pepper. It's awesome. Mashed potatoes with tomato sauce in the middle. Superb! Labneh prepared in small balls and mixed with nuts. Simply breathtaking! Halloumi bel halioun: soft, juicy and seasoned with oregano and with mini wild asparagus. A great idea indeed is Eggs with peanuts: toasted bread with sumac, nuts and eggs Haniba3el with potato wou wara2 el ghar. The softest meat ever imaginable. You can't help closing your eyes after every bite. Kebbe and laban: nothing you eat in town comes close. Kebbe without minced meat floating on a special laban mix. Makanek with pomegranate molasses on the side. Hommos with soft tender meat and grilled cut almonds and pine nuts. Crunch and softness blended together. Yum!!!! Borghol and tomatoes: soft and served hot with a strong spicy aftertaste. One of the best I've ever tasted. Balila Raw meat with pine nuts and garlic slices. Raw Kebbe Meat and Taouk: fresh, soft, juicy and tender. Really great. The meat is unique and one of the best, just as Fouad describes it. Goats, called "3weiss" are the local speciality of Hrajel's mountains. Only 15 shepherds still have this unique breed and Fouad serves it to his clientele. A meat soft and tender like nothing you've tasted before.
The desserts are mouth watering: dessert at Fouad is something else. Every time I try them I am amazed at how good they are. Every bite unleashes a fine perfume in the mouth. Nammoura and Mabroum bel loz. Helween bel joz. Ma2routa. 7alsa. Homemade Apple jam. Mouhallabiya bakhara with meske from Greece. Yes, the world's best Mouhallabiya with no close competition.
What can I say that has not been said before? You are welcomed by Fouad, the order is taken by Fouad and you eat the food prepared by Fouad himself... All I know is that if you enjoy Lebanese food and crave that genuine Lebanese hospitality and generosity Fouad is the place to go… I don’t think that any other restaurant in Lebanon can offer you this experience.