CHECK OTHER REVIEWS FOR THIS PLACE:
Tawlet Souk El Tayyeb Doesn't Stop to Impress the World
Tawlet: A New Surprise Every Time I Go
Tawlet: Mastering Our Culinary Traditions
Tawlet's BBQ Saturdays - A Must Try
Happy Birthday Tawlet: Where Cooking is the Only Language and Lebanon is the Only Cause
NoGarlicNoOnions at Tawlet: A Venture Where Love for Food and Lebanon Unite
Tawlet bel Leil is a new concept launched at my favorite Tawlet in Mar Mikhael. It felt weird walking into Tawlet (table in Arabic) to see the main ‘star table’ empty. It was weird to walk into Tawlet and not hear people speaking loud in different languages, plates and cutlery chuckling, as people walked around the buffet celebrating a feast for their eyes before filling their plates up with endless choices of the finest local preparations, only our grandmothers still master to date... This famous table filled with freshly cooked Lebanese preparations from the villages of Lebanon was empty tonight. Tawlet, which started opening on weekend nights, proposes an "A La Carte" menu with a whole new experience. I was not impressed. I was expecting more, especially that Tawlet and the people behind this original concept, have raised the bar in the food business... It is one of either two things: Either I didn't understand the concept well or the management is still not ready to launch this new idea.
Tawlet bel Leil is a light and fragrant take on Souk el Tayeb and Tawlet … with the same vision of celebrating the food and traditions that unite communities and supporting small-scale farmers and producers and the culture of sustainable agriculture. Tawlet el Leil is open from 6pm with a last order at 10pm … Come for an early drink and nibbles, have a light supper from our flavorful new "a la carte" menu, a plat du jour, or a feasty dinner with friends and family! Great nibles, salads, hot and cold dishes, meats and … of course, Tawlet’s delicious rotisserie chicken … all the ingredients for you to compose selon le jour … selon l’humeur! Beirut Jasmine Nights Menu was developed in collaboration with Gioconda Scott from Trasierra in southern Spain. Herself a passionate cook and with great thirst for learning more about Lebanese food … she is bringing her light touch and taste to some of our traditional recipes. Her 14 part TV series "Paradise Kitchen" is still viewed worldwide and with her experiences working in Italy, top London restaurants, clubs and for private clients, have contributed to the creation of the legendary menus at Trasierra; although she is involved in the running of Trasierra a dream family home and hotel (www.trasierra.eu), she is taking time out to gain new ideas and influences with us, to take back to the Trasierra kitchen.
Let me start….
I am going to say things as they are. I will be very honest, because tonight I was disappointed. Where is my Tawlet, where is my buffet, with endless choices of tasty food… Does a menu this small, with no diversity, require a joint venture with a Spanish artist to make? It simply needs a Lebanese chef to add more items so we don't leave hungry. You walk into a quite place - a very different experience. Dimmed lights, lit candles and flower vases from recycled jars, decorate the tables. Background music accompanies you to your table.
The confusion starts:
Some tables were dressed with plates and cutlery, while others were not. We thought that these tables were reserved. But they weren’t. I didn’t understand why some where empty while others were prepared… Anyhow, as we sat down, we were immediately given a recyclable paper menu. When I received it I was honestly switched off.
I will state the facts as is:
- New staff that knows nothing about the place or the concept. New concept should be attended to by a more experienced staff, no one who has started work only two days ago while another a week only can be ready to welcome guests
- When seated, we were given the drinks menu and waited for a magician to appear. Is there a food menu? A preset menu? Anyone around to tell us about the concept? Receiving the menu, again, nobody explained anything.
- The menu composed of seven distinct sections (Nibbles, salads, vegetables, from home, meats, la rotisserie, desserts) is simple... Too simple to say the least.
And here, we had to ask some questions: We got the same answer with every question asked like it was a recording machine:
- Does hummus contain garlic? I don't know
- Do you have a plat du jour? I don't know
- What is the kebbe today? I don't know
- From home, what is this section? I don't know
- Do you have labneh? I don't know
- Who produces your ice cream? I don't know
- And the list doesn't seem to have an end: is it acceptable to have two untrained waiters handle the service when the only one trained is behind the bar opening wine bottles and answering their questions like a school teacher?
- Hommous: with cooked almonds, parsley and olive oil, the hummus is indeed special and very tasty 7,700L.L
- Potato cubes: served in a casserole, boiled potato cubes are covered with lots of green onions and filled with garlic. A lemony and olive oil flavor gives it a fine touch I liked. A very simple plate which I would have preferred better with less with less onions.
- Fattouch: I already expressed my appreciation for this unique salad served with pomegranate and cherry tomatoes 13,200L.L
- Roasted Chicken: yummy! That is something exceptional. Fresh and tender and perfectly seasoned with lots of coriander, this organic chicken is like nothing else tasted before. The meat is so tender that it melts under your teeth. I enjoyed it a lot. 51,700L.L
- Kamel farms is a small Lebanese family business specializing in agriculture and organic farming located in Duma, one of the best-preserved and most traditional villages in Lebanon. ALl their products are certified by LibanCert and are guarenteed without pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and other chemicals.
- Kebbe: the Zghortiot one is good and nonfat. Even though it is filled with ground meat, the quantity of white fat is reduced drastically. I recommend that they serve this with labneh on the side. They sadly don’t have labneh on the menu at night 16,500L.L
- Chocolate cake: This cake is uncooked. It has a faded taste. It needs something more… more sugar and more chocolate. I didn't like it 13,200L.L
- Ice cream Macarons: These are by Oslo, the best ice cream provider in town. I expected them to be mouthwatering and delicious. We received two blocks of ice, frozen to the extent that their color changed. Like pieces of rocks, I couldn’t cut through them. The pate d'amance that should be lightly chewy is hard and inedible - their composition denatured from the cold. I asked for a meat knife and couldn't cut it to share 13,200L.L
Now comes the guessing game. Since the plates are not simple, you would need someone to tell you which is what. We received the first plate, which seemed to be hummus, something else followed that we assumed was the potato order... It takes a single word to say: "Your specific dish is served", especially since the whole concept is new. We started eating hummus which came first, chicken and fattouch followed, potato cubes came afterwards, kebbe then we had to inquire about the mtabbal which came last, like a dessert. Ordering another plate of fattouch and hummus, we had to wait an additional 15 minutes. Slow and in-synchronized, the staff needs a serious training.
The questions we asked the next waiter also had same repetitive answer:
- Do you have labneh? No
- Do you have toasted bread? No
- Do you have soft drinks? No
- Do you have wet napkins? No
- Do you have a home special tonight? No
- The food is tasty
- The portions are generous
- The ambiance is nice
The minuses and unacceptable things, that shocked me:
- Music doesn't follow any rule: English, French and Arabic like someone was just changing channels on a radio station. Tawlet is Lebanese and we should listen to light Lebanese tunes only
- A sticker on all pages states: TVA not included! How unprofessional. A way to say: We need an additional 10% profit
- It is very hot in here. We were sweating the whole time. Air Conditioning should be stronger
- Service is unacceptably slow and unorganized
- Desserts are not up to the standard of this restaurant
- 16,500L.L for a single piece kebbe? Isn't that too much?
- Macaron was pronounced ma3caroun by the waiter! He thought the dessert was the Lebanese ma3kroun! Come on! Even the British call it "Macaron"
- "We don't have labneh". Come on! You serve Labneh everyday at lunch, the fridge should be filled with it. A small plate for a craving customer is not a problem. If only the restaurant had a manager taking decisions, all those problems wouldn't have occurred...
Food is tasty but it's not enough! I still cannot understand why Tawlet decided to open at night. Why? Nothing is right on so many levels. My favorite Tawlet, the place I reviewed many times already with high grades and an esteemed love to this unique concept made me reconsider my thoughts. For the love of God, please don’t spoil your concept… Your one of a kind buffet at lunchtime is what we all love… we love it that way and that way only.