Located in the heart of the dining and nightlife district, Morenito has newly opened its doors between Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael. Bringing together both the nightlife and dining experience, Morenito is a place I recommend you try.
I'm not really into gastro-pubs, they usually serve average food, but Morenito is different. Beautifully decorated, this restaurant introduces a new type of cuisine, or let's say they have a different approach to Latino food in Lebanon. Argentinian-Mexican-Peruvian, at Morenito, expect to be amazed.
It was not easy for me to visit Morenito since the owner, Karim, is a cousin of mine. Why? The way NGNO works may not please everyone. Friends, acquaintances or family, the truth has to be said, this is how I have approached all restaurants I have visited and everything I have tasted in the past two years - with honesty and sincerity -no matter who the person behind it is. After all, the reputation of NGNO comes first.
Last Saturday, on a calm day before the weekend turned into chaos at night, I went down to Mar Mikhael where the streets were empty. Occupying the avenue corner facing Mayrig
on one side and Tamashii
on the other, a light blue space invites you to come in. Divided into two distinct areas, choose to sit on the high chairs next to the bar, or take the couple of steps up the main dining area facing the open kitchen.
A couple of things before we start:
- Ceviche is the speciality, an idea that has been inspired by the the streets of Latin America with an upscale twist for a dining experience
- Morenito is a street chic restaurant
- $17-35 per person is the maximum
- The average plate price is $8, rarely seen in Lebanon
- Introducing something new in Lebanon, don't expect to eat the kind of Mexican food you have been eating for the last decade
- Everything is fresh, local and homemade
- Simple and relaxing, the place is a mix of wood, metal and light refreshing colors
- A simple bar takes over the corner. There are a few bottles, Heineken draft and crushed ice dispensers. Not seeing hundreds of bottles filling the walls is relaxing
- The floor is covered with square black tiles
- Metallic panels, reminding you of the plates, decorate the walls
- Lots of light blue: this color is prominent
- As you enter, the colorful high chairs welcome you into a world of joy and colors
- The space is divided into two distinct areas: the drinks area, where dinner is also served, and the dining space where low chairs and tables fill in the area
- Wooden chairs and tables fill in the space facing the open kitchen
- Argentina; a dozen posters decorate the walls
- Two LCD TVs broadcast National Geographic programs
- LED lights and colorful chandeliers add a different kind of lighting to the space
- Chips and dips
- Gazpachios (colorful chilled vegetarian soup served with corn tortilla chips)
- Ceviches (A Peruvian specialty, fish or seafood marinated in lime juice, fine salt, fruits and cilantro)
- Salads (If you were to travel in a plate, you're taking off with unique tastes, colors and textures)
- Empanadas (served with chimichurri, sour cream, pico de gallo or Chili sauce)
- Tacos (the ultimate street food classic. Two soft tortillas with grilled caramelized onions, grilled green pepper, romaine lettuce red radish, cilantro leaves and a choice of meat)
- Quesadillas (soft flour tortilla folded and stuffed with green pepper and caramelized onion)
- Wraps (romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, crispy tortilla strips and jalapeño mayo dressing wrapped with soft tortilla)
- Chilaquiles (a classic Mexican snack)
- Enchiladas (soft tortilla dipped in red or green chili tomato sauce, stuffed, rolled, covered in sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds, match stickers radish and served with mixed greens)
- Chili con carne
- Postres desserts
I've enjoyed my lunch:
- Corn tortilla chips LBP7,000: On a rectangular, stainless steel platter, is a bowl of tacos served with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. Homemade tortilla chips, crunchy and lightly salted while the dips are fresh and enjoyable. The guacamole with its subtitle lemon aftertaste is excellent, the sour cream thick and clearly far from being commercial; its a vegan one. I enjoyed all of it and continued feeling the saltiness that stays in your mouth for a long time .
- Sweet potato fries LBP7,000: You have to taste these to understand. Morenito has shown that you don't have to use regular potatoes to enjoy fries. The sweet version of them is less oily, more crunchy and full of taste. A fine preparation for a fried item. The fries are served with the same trio of guacamole, sour and tomato dips.
- Fresh potato fries LBP6,500: Why are they called “fresh”? Because they are pealed and cut in-house. The potatoes of my grandma. Crunchy and salty, dip in the Latino style and enjoy. In Morenito, there is no ketchup, no mayo. Fries and guacamole and fries and sour cream are really tasty and far from being American junk .
- Octopus mango ceviche LBP13,000: With ginger, cherry tomatoes and chili. A cup, a bowl of tacos and a creation of colors. In a cup is a served a mix of octopus cubes, mango and cherry tomatoes. Sweetness, sourness, strength... And great taste
- Selection of three ceviche shots LBP9,500: A wonderful discovery and an effective hangover cure. To be tasted with a shot of tequila or cachaca. Shrimp avocado, salmon guava, octopus mango. Fresh and tasty but too small for a meal. Each cup is a single bite.
- Spinach bacon salad, with extra beef, chicken and pork LBP9,500: A bed of fresh spinach leaves, fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, boiled eggs and crispy pork bacon topped with corn tortilla, with our secret balsamic and vanilla dressing. I love spinach in salads and I think this one is special since you can add a mix meat, pork or chicken. But the seasoning needs some work. The salad was too oily.
- Selection of six mini empanadas LBP12,500: Also served in a metallic tray, each of the six has a different shape. If you like one, you run to pick it up before the others. A soft dough, light crunchy, close to being a sambousik but unique in its texture and flavor. Inside each is a mix of warm ingredients adding a touch of finesse. The dough has this little sablé-like crunch that's really awesome. Mmmm. I loved them. My favorite is the vegetarian, filled with sautéed spinach and mushrooms and second comes the turkey and ham. Really great, bravo. I can eat those all night. Order a drink and dig in like chips... They are addictive.
- Pork taco LBP10,500: More amazement. Two soft-shell tacos filled with a huge portion of pork, layered on top of fresh shredded lettuce. Squeeze a lemon on top and enjoy. That's surely not street food; that's fine dining on the street. Lovely. Shredded pork, tender like wagyu, wrapped in a sandwich and ready to be devoured.
- Quesadilla vegetarian LBP15,500: Ouf! That's something to talk about: impressively delicious. A thick tender quesadilla dough filled with eggplant, spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper and white cheese melting on top of all. A cocktail of different textures, juicy like you cannot imagine, perfectly seasoned and enjoyable to the last bite. Wow! Really amazing
- Chili con Carne del Morenito LBP7,500: Served with tortilla chips topped with dark chocolate and coriander leaves, extra spicy. I'm sorry but I won't be able to describe this madness. Chilli and dark chocolate... Not only that, a Côte d'Or dark chocolate with feta cheese that adds the acidity needed. That's magic on a plate. You have to go down to Morenito now!
Drinks to accompany lunch:
- Daiquiri Peach Passion: Served with crushed ice, this drink is full of flavor, tasty and fresh
- Orange Ice Maté: If you are a Maté tea fan, This is a drink you'll love
The details I liked:
- No Caesar salad on the menu like all restaurants
- Sweet potato fries is a new idea
- The stainless plates and serving plates are interesting
- The tacos are really superb: loved their crunchiness, freshness, non oiliness and saltiness
- Portions are reasonable
- Food is really tasty, specially all the pork items
- The empanadas are a must try
I've really enjoyed lunch. Tasting all of the above, add to that two drinks the bill was a total of $80. I found that to b very reasonable. Fresh vibes and tasty food, Morenito is a place I recommend if you want a change from the casual bistros we've been used to lately.