July 28, 2014 Jbeil Mount Lebanon Lebanon Middle East

Mon Maki a Moi: Special Doesn't Always Imply Better...

Phone Number: +961 9 737 700

Address: Byblos main road, Jbeil, Lebanon ( 12PM - 12AM)

Website: https://www.facebook.com/MonMakiAMoi

Price Range: 45-75 $


Welcoming: 1/5

Food Temperature: 8/10

Ambiance / Music: 5/10

Menu Choice: 4/5

Food Taste: 20/30

Architecture / Interior: 8/10

Food presentation: 8/10

Service: 3/10

Value for money: 3/10

Special! Yes Mon Maki A Moi is special like most people say it is… but what I experienced made me realize that it’s definitely special in more than one way… "Mon Maki A Moi" has a special name indeed and it is in fact one of the few zero-waste restaurants in Lebanon... the decor is exceptionally special as well... the food was beautifully rolled but special cause they're sweet... special indeed and that’s not all… I must say that Mon Maki A Moi also boasts a bunch of unwelcoming waiters that execute unique negative vibes everywhere... Special, isn't it?

Mon Maki a Moi has recently become the talk of town for being a good sushi destination in Byblos. Located few meters away from the old souk, the restaurant can easily be reached on the road leading up to Amchit. Reach a two-door restaurant with glass and wood facade and enjoy parking the car by yourself. There’s no valet service and I loved that! A young boy opened the door, without a single smile on his face and asked if we had a reservation... We said no and got that “what are you doing here” look. I was this close to turning my back and leave… when he said "You have to sit at the end of the bar, on the other side, and to reach there, you'll have to pass behind everyone's back... It's not going to be an easy task," he repeated and left. He didn't bother showing us to our seats or offered to help ask the customers to move their chairs for us to pass through... An amazing first impression! Indiana John's Style, we managed to reach our seats.

The place is interesting:
  • A large glass facade welcomes the outside to the inside
  • Light wood and white are the two colors that take over the space
  • The door is located on the extreme right side giving access to a corridor that continues around the bar in a loop
  • To the right is a wall, fully painted in white with writing: "C'est la nature qui m'a apris l'esprit de vivre en liberté (tadao ando)". On the other side of the wall, you'll find a cartoonish tree
  • In the middle of this square space is the rolling bar, which takes more than 70% of the space
  • Around the white bar are two dozen high stools covered with grey leather seating, complementing the grey concrete floor
  • The main decorative item is the green wall which adds freshness and life to the restaurant
  • At the bar's extremity, you'll find a collection of alcohol bottles displayed around the wine rack
  • Over the bar, 55 lanterns pend from the ceiling adding enough light to the restaurant
Before receiving the menus, you can't but notice some important details that make a big difference in your dining experience:
  • The ambiance was too heavy and too negative... I was hoping to see one single employee or customer smile
  • The music was way too high. Latest hits were played in the background, but they don't suit this restaurant or the food it offers at all
  • In here, there is no television or other entertaining possibilities so you'll have to spend your time looking at the chefs. Can those chefs please smile and stop irradiating negative vibes? Not one seems to be happy working
  • The space is too small to fit five chefs, two waiters, two managers and the owner, as well as the customers
It was time for the order, so we were given the menus and a sheet of paper and pen to tick our choices. I wished someone had approached us for some help or suggestions. The waitresses were rude and unwelcoming and all looked sad. I asked for San Pellegrino to start. The waitress said, "We don't have, Perrier only." So we simply asked for a bottle of water. That was the only contact we had with a waiter all night. Plates landed in front of us with no explanation, we personally added water to the empty cups, and I grabbed a ginger plate from the bar until it was time to ask for the bill. We even sent back one Temaki order that was not ours.
Now let's eat: We ordered two salads, two temakis, the Rock shrimp and a selection of 8 maki orders.
  • The Crab Salad was fresh but I didn't understand why lemon was added to the sauce. A premiere for me. The lemon mixed with mayonnaise and crab created a bizarre flavor. The Crispy Salmon was fresh. I liked how the pieces were cut in big cubes; the cold temperature of the salmon but again the sauce was way too lemony and acidic for an order of this kind. Crisps on top are not too enjoyable to eat alone, without the salmon. Trying to mix the salad, you'll have red cabbage all over the place. Presenting the order this way with crisps on top can be done if only the same is served without the red cabbage bed.
  • The Rock Shrimp: Allow me to say it as it is... This is a lost attempt to copy Kampai's Rock Shrimp. Fried breaded shrimps served in a Martini glass and that's it. No sauce, no taste, no flavor. Lightly crispy yet chewy shrimps with no taste. Deceiving!
  • The temakis were exceptional. I've rarely enjoyed temakis in Lebanon. These reminded me of the ones Jimmy makes at SO. A crispy nori leaf filled with a generous portion of fish and a bit of rice. I recommend you try it
  • Now for the rolls. On a wood platter, you'll find beautifully rolled bites with just the right amount of rice and fish alike. Every order is separated from the other, without using the plastic leaves some restaurants still use to date. I loved the freshness of the ingredients which are felt independently. The quality of the crab, the softness of the salmon, the juiciness of the fruits... But unfortunately all is forgotten when you feel this strong taste of sweetness. The rice is sweet, too sweet and this makes all the pieces feel like dessert bites.  An overdose of rice vinegar is used and maybe added sugar? I'm not sure.
The pluses:
  • Chopsticks are packed individually in carton wrappings on which is written: "Mes sticks de Yamamotu". Not sure what it means though
  • Mon Maki a Moi is part of the Zero Waste Act Initiative 
  • Sushi masters are clean and well dressed
  • Everything in here is recycled or going to be
  • Food is good with a big potential if slightly fine-tuned
  • The restaurant smells freshness and despite its small size doesn't smell fish
  • I loved this sign: "Even Salmon is Smoked Outside" Interdit de Fumed Chez Moi
The minuses:
  • San Pellegrino is suitable for Japanese food, Perrier isn't. It should be available on the menu
  • The salads contain too much lemon. They shouldn't
  • Recyclable and green you say? Why the plastic bottles. Other than the fact that they are unsuitable for a restaurant, plastic is a guaranteed waste. Think of moving to glass bottles (Sohat, Tannourine, Talaya)
  • The music is hell on earth
  • Being served by kids is unacceptable. It's a turn off. They must be trained
  • The rice is too sweet as I pointed out earlier, but not only that, the ginger is too sweet as well
  • The space is too tight. Don't try to fit-in more chairs. It's hard to walk around
I'll change:
  • Use glass water bottles
  • Change the staff completely... or train them
  • Get a new music library, something soothing and relaxing to better fit the decor and style of the place
  • Eliminate the sweetness in the rolls
  • Get someone a bit more welcoming to welcome guests: First impression is key
  • While taking the order, especially for first time customers, it's important that it's taken by someone who can help understand the menu better as well as suggest some specialties of the house
We ate in 30 minutes and paid $55 per person… Mon Maki a Moi is one of those places that have great potential. The ingredients are there but they lack know-how. It is a promising establishment, in my opinion, and it might conquer the capital one-day – but before anything, the staff must be trained… at least the basics of hospitality.





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