Back home and after drinking three bottles of Perrier to cleanse my pallet as well as help me digest, I thought to myself, "Who on earth puts garlic in a club sandwich?" I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but now that I'm back on my feet let me tell you about my experience at Shtrumpf Sahel Alma.
Shtrumpf, which has long been known for its grandiose cottage style house in the Sahel Alma area, was a regular hangout for my friends and I for so long. During my school days, we would head down every other weekend for their parties, karaoke, and various other events and their beer festivals every autumn were obligatory… So, with this nostalgia in mind, I decided to go back, accompanied by my wife, to check out the updates and improvements.
These days, Shtrumpf positions itself as a healthy diner serving a wide range of pizzas, burgers, soups, platters, salads and the famous Shtrumpf salad bar with its 30 or more items for you to enjoy without moderation. The new menu serves the classic items I used to love, as well as some new ones, like the Mexican burger. Reach Shtrumpf and you have a choice to use the valet parking service on the right side, or park it yourself if you follow the road to the left. Down the stairs a large door welcomes you into this big wooden mansion. Memories started coming back while we took the stairs leading up to the dining area, we pushed apart the curtain and there we were... Welcome to Shtrumpf. The space is taken over by wood and the green colors that constitute the logo. Shtrumpf, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, reminds you of its heritage: flyers and placemats decorate every table in sight. We chose to sit on the sofas while I took the time to look around and soak up the details.
I couldn't but notice how worn out the interior is. The tables scratched, the seating’s colors are dull and almost erased and the sofas torn in a hundred places... I think it's time to give this place a bit of TLC. Nevertheless the place boasts some interesting architectural details:
- Up the tight wooden stairs lies the dining area. Open the curtain to discover the salad bar to the right and the chimney to the left.
- This large relaxing space reminded me of a German mountain log house, which is apt, because Shtrumpf is inspired by Germany -the beer choices and festival.
- Wood covers everything: the floor, the walls and ceiling are all covered in the material
- The space is filled with square and round tables surrounded by leather chairs of different colors
- On the left side, two sofas surround low tables for more relaxed dining next to the chimney
- To light the space, a couple of large chandeliers hang from the ceiling
- Splitting the space in two is the bar, a large bar serving soft drinks and the large selection of beer imported from Germany. On average more than 40 different beers are available from the four corners of Germany.
- Respecting the law, smoking is forbidden inside and allowed on the terrace facing the sea view
Rani, the headwaiter, approached our table and took all the time needed to introduce us to Shtrumpf’s concept and menu. Here, I want to thank and congratulate Rani for his professionalism and unique approach that only a few master: You made our lunch memorable. The menu:
- First Thing’s First (Starters, On the Side)
- A Taste of Italy (Pasta, Pizza)
- Blond ‘n’ Crispy
- Fields of Greens
- Light Selection
- Grill Sensation
- Between 2 Slices (Sandwich Platters, Burger Platters)
- Light Selection
- Cold Beverages (Water and Soft Drinks, Beer Lovers, Hot Beverages, Reviving Wine)
- Hot Beverage
- The Perfect Finish (Desserts)
To accompany lunch, I chose to have a very nice beer. Spaten, Munchner Hell, a blonde beer that's fruity with rich aromas, and manages to be light and fresh at the same time. Golden in color with a well-balanced hop-flavor. The full rounded body is a superb balance between hops and a malty sweetness. The signature salad bar - the best out there:
- Hawaiian Chicken
- Ham and Cheese
- Endives, Asparagus
- Cabbage with berghol
- Vine leaves
- Mediterranean salad
- Crab salad
- Pasta salad
- Boiled vegetables
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fresh vegetables
- Boiled potatoes
- Soup of the day
- More than three different choices of bread
The Salad Bar Sauces:
- Exotic (curry and orange), Cocktail, Mayo, Lemon mustard, Balsamic vinegar, Light (vegetables, white vinegar and lemon)
Let's enjoy some lunch:
- Shtrumpf's salad bar is exceptional and unique of its kind. I will recommend you visit their branch at Le Mall for a memorable experience. More then 35 choices of mixed salads displayed to satisfy your craving.
- Warm-up combo: Share a plate of mozzarella sticks, calamari rings, Romano chicken tenders, pizzas and nachos. The pizzas are four pieces of fluffy bread covered with pesto, pepperoni, tomatoes, olives and cheese pesto. Next to that, a bag of chips has been emptied in the middle and covered with cheese. The four commercial mozzarella sticks were average and the chicken strips had an odd color, look oily and an ordinary taste. The calamari were fine, but there was nothing exceptional about them. This plate is not perfect and looks a little oily but, despite the imperfections it's a generous selection and I recommend it as a starter.
- Roast-beef sandwich: Marinated slices of roast beef served with a special sauce. The roast beef sandwich uses a French baguette covered with poppy seeds. A hard, very hard, bread filled with couple slices of roast beef and a sauce that adds taste and juiciness. A tasty sandwich if only the bread was softer. It seems they receive the bread early in the day and keep it in a nylon bag.
- Cheese Burger: The Shtrumpf cheese burger has been the same since 1984. A tasty Kafta burger. Yes, Kafta, where the meat slides under your teeth like if it was escaping your mouth. If you like that kind of meat, condensed and hard, the burger is the original Lebanese version different from the others around town which were Americanized in the last decade or so.
- Club sandwich: A triple decker of French pain de mie filled with grilled chicken breast, ham, Swiss cheese, eggs, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. A generous plate filled with three thick slices of an over-toasted, hard bread filled with an overdose of mayonnaise alongside some eggs, chicken, unmelted cheese, ham and tomatoes. After scratching your palate with the bread you realize that the ingredients are fresh and juicy and that the sandwich could be perfect if only the bread was toasted a little less, if the cheese was melted and the mix contained less mayonnaise. Regardless of like or dislike of garlic, I don't see why the chicken has been marinaded in garlic. It covers on all the other flavors, making you feel like you’re eating a tawouk sandwich.
The food was not exceptional and I felt the same as I did when visiting their branch at Le Mall Dbayeh. I remember eating below average food that lacked finesse, knowhow and flavor. Today's experience was a bit better, but again it missed what it needs to compete with the other diners around. The desserts are better and worth trying:
- Caesar pie: Almond cream with caramelized pear top with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch syrup. On a metallic casserole comes a square cookie topped with an ice cream scoop and lots of caramel. As the plate approaches, you enjoy smelling the aromas of cooked caramel, similar to that of caramel popcorn in the cinema. A crumbling cake served warm, where a thick layer of almonds in the middle combined with the juicy spongy cake creates a mouthwatering combination. An innovative and tasty dessert.
- Oreo ice cream pie: Biscuit crumbs with chunks of Oreo in an ice cream cake topped with caramel sauce. On a round plate came a triangular piece of ice cream cake mixed with spongy chunks of cooked Oreo biscuit and topped with others that were crunchy and fresh. Interesting textures and a tasty dessert that's addictive.
Things I like:
- Libby's ketchup is used, which I find tastier then Heinz and less sweet
- Pepsi is free and refilled generously
- Rani, the waiter was amazing! Carlos the assistant manager is clearly a professional
- The plates come with an iceberg leaf generously filled with salad; a nice way of presenting it
- Two thumbs up for the desserts
Things I'd change:
- Since smoking is not allowed inside, ashtrays should be changed to ones without cigarette support
- Sofas are worn out and the chair colors are almost gone: changing the decor is a must
- All the plates lacked something: some work is needed in the kitchen
Diners in 2014 have reached high standards, competing with international names. Meat has been upgraded to Angus and frying has been mastered so the food doesn’t absorb oil. Bread is usually provided by Prunelle or DeliFrance, the finest in the field. French fries are better cut in-house... Many details are still missing at Shtrumpf and it’s as if this diner is still stuck in time, back in the Eighties. I believe this concept can be much better, if they want to be.