I'm back at Fouad, one of my all time favorites, a restaurant nestled on the mountains of Keserwan in a village called Hrajel. Fouad is a whole story where the people smile, the waiters jump from happiness and Fouad makes sure to be here all the time to take your order and greet you in his house.
A ceiling made of wood covering the terrace around the old house, a space filled with rectangular wooden tables, a wall of stone to welcome you while you choose your table and many lights hanging from above.
Well lit, the place is soothing and relaxing. The house has wooden shutters and is closed in with walls decorated by garlic and onions hanging on them. Fouad, occupying the main table near the entrance, stands up as soon as you enter.
You can't but fall in love, the food is exceptional, the welcoming is unique and the vibes will leave you speechless.
It starts with Fouad singing the menu, memorized as it is for the last decade or so. I've recorded it before and each time it is the same. Afterwards, the waiters recite and sing while every plate is delivered to the table. Amazing!
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 continue... 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). Kebbe ma3 laban.
Plates started landing on the table:
"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"
Food, real Lebanese flavors, delicious food from the terroir:
- Real flavors and real taste filled in every single one of those marvelous plates, beautifully presented and decorated with colors and fresh, erupting aromas. The tabbouleh is unique, the fattouch is unmatched and the rest of the starters will make you fall in love with Fouad and Hrajel. Crunchy almonds here, juicy potato there and cold vegetables prepared a la Libanaise with style and dedication. The hummus is superb, the tajen is exquisite, moutabbal with style and don't forget to order a special mix of tomatoes cut in cubes with olive oil and lemon. All is simply yummy. Shanklish, the Fouad way, served like a mountain lightly peppered and mixed with diced vegetables offering a light, long lasting spiciness. I couldn't try it, but the Labneh with garlic is special and served with "shatta red spices" in the middle and olive oil.
- Best of the night, the best dish in all of the Lebanese restaurants I've ever been to, an innovation only found at Fouad. An oval plate with a dozen triangles of toasted bread sprinkled with sesame and cooked in oil with some eggs on top. Eggs, sunny side up mixed with kawarma, real kawarma from Hrajel and some peanuts. Can you imagine the mix of fried and grilled bread, sesame, eggs, oil, peanuts and kawarma? A crunch, juiciness, freshness, explosions of flavors and love. That's a killer!
- Now for the eggs and Laban, not to be missed and something you should try at home. Makanek, simple, juicy, flavorful with a charcoal taste. Meat rass asfour with mixed fried nuts and pomegranate molasses.
- Oh my god! I'm a lamb lover and those mini pieces of fat left me speechless. Extremely tender and juicy they are like nothing I've had before.
- Did you hear about Hannibal, the famous plate Fouad created? Hannibal is simply lamb meat cooked in its fatty water with laurel leaves. The most tender meat ever, enjoyably fatty and filled with perfumes from the laurel. A feeling every human being should experience at least once in their lifetime. Bravo Fouad, I'm even more in love with your restaurant.
- Tawouk Mokhammar: Wrapped in an aluminum foil are huge chunks of chicken with mushrooms and bell peppers. Chicken steamed in its juice with some lightly crunchy vegetables; oh my God!
- The Kabab with pistachio is the best Kabab ever. Yes, believe me, everything he has is the best ever. Kabab with crunchy pistachio. Juicy and flavorful, tender and moist. What an amazing creation.
And then came dessert:
- Beautiful quarters of watermelon, half melon slices with their envelope and the famous mouhallabiyeh, the country's best. Apple jam and fig jam with Turkish delights and biscuits... Al "maklouta" and "mab3oussa" desserts and a plate of baklava.
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 for 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.
A Coup de Coeur, a place I am still, and will always be, in love with.