While going down to Beirut, I received a bizarre yet intriguing phone call which concerns one of the Friends&Co reviews - OBI. The person on the phone disagreed with what was written and was asking me for my opinion. "Anthony, don't you think it's better and different than what the article on Friends and Co states?"
Emm, I guess it was time for me to go to OBI and give it a try.
I personally was not impressed by the quality of food when they first opened, this is why it took me sometime to go back and review it. We arrived to OBI Achrafieh and were welcomed by the waiter and two managers into a well lit space covered with yellow, blue and wood.
When one enters OBI, he is embraced by the unique Asian design elements that incorporate nuances of Japanese heritage, bringing into play shades of turquoise and white in a simple manner. The four seasons, which are highlighted in Japanese culture, are mirrored on the tables. The attention that has gone into procuring the perfect tableware and accessories is visible throughout the space. The right dose of lighting and well-chosen instrumental music adds a captivating tone to the evening and transforms it into a surreal experience. All this has been incorporated by on the best Far Eastern consultants.
The place described:
- The floor is covered with white and brown panels of real wood
- Long lights pend from the ceiling
- The place is filled with rectangular wood tables decorated with blue and white placemats
- Beige chairs with high back support
- Around the place is a long bench that follows the wall under a series of mirror panels
- A bar at the end is where all the sushi is prepared
- In the background a lounge music plays continuously
- The overall design of the place is nice and pleasant
It was time to eat, so I decided to order a varied choice to have a complete idea.
- Edamame: Very average. They lacked some salt and surely needed more cooking
- Crispy Salmon Salad: The salad is served in a bowl. Salmon cubes on a bed of cabbage... a mountain of salmon cubes mixed with crisps and marinated in spicy mayo. The salmon were a bit too sticky one on the other and the crisps not cripsy but the taste was acceptable. What I didn't like is the strange aftertaste of popcorn which stays in your mouth for sometime
- Tuna Taco: Four crunchy taco bread filled with tuna cubes marinated in a sweet and sour chili sauce. I liked its creativity and fusion approach- a mix of Japanese and Mexican.
- Prime Australian Beef Burger: Integrated into a Japanese menu for the first time in town, the burger is a special creation, signature of OBI. Inside this gewy and sticky Asian bread is a thick piece of meat, a slice of tomato and some red cabbage slices on a thick layer of spicy Teriyaki sauce. I didn't appreciate the sticky feeling of the bread which gets stuck in your teeth and the meet tastes nothing like a prime Australian beef; it's too fatty and too hard. I'm sorry to say it this way, but all it needed are some potatoes for this and you will think you're eating (Kafta w Batata). A thick condensed piece of meat, where white chunks of fat slide under your teeth. I'm not a fan of this burger and its bizarre textures...
- The 30 different maki rolls we ordered: I'm not going to go deep into describing every order on its own, but I will tell you the pros and cons. For an overall opinion, the pieces are too small, the rice in them is too much and too chewy and this covers the taste of other ingredients. The crispy is not crispy at all, the mango slices are too thin, the salmon skin just crunches without taste and the ones that are supposed to be spicy are not. There is a proportion issue to be solved. Eating these rolls was fine, but not satisfying. They missed the spark that makes you want to finish them all...
I don't know how to express myself without being misunderstood. I would consider OBI for a quick lunch break but surely not for the purpose of enjoying some fine Japanese experience. A bit of fine tuning is required in the kitchen and those improvements can easily be done.
Lunch ended with a piece of chocolate cake that's made of five different layers. I'm not sure which of the cakes I was trying: The chocolate ginger cake, chocolate caramel mousse or chestnut cheese cake; a bizarre taste indeed. Each bite has something crunchy, something hard, something creamy and something jelly: not too pleasant for a chocolate cake. I didn't like it.
The improvements I'll make:
- The Edamame should be cooked more and seasoned with thick sea salt
- The maki pieces should have less rice and the ingredients should be felt more
- The crispy salmon salad should be colder and the crispy bit crispier
- The rolls presented, all in one single plate is not too appetizing. Two plates minimum differentiating warm pieces from cold ones or salmon from tuna and white fish
- Less sauces and less soaking would make the pieces taste real Japanese flavors
The ingredients used at OBI are good but the food lacks some real flavors and real textures. I'm sure OBI has great potential with fine-tuning touches here and there.