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Soufrat Al Oumara: Scrumptious Food... Horrendous Service
It was three in the afternoon visiting Deir El Qamar with my family when we stopped for lunch at Deir Al Oumara, a beautiful hotel up the mountains of the Chouf. Enjoying the beautiful October weather, the light wind coming from the valley, the sounds of kids playing in the alley and the clear blue sky on this peaceful Saturday we sat to enjoy the moment. The place oozes positive vibes taking you back through time to when the building used to be a school.
The menu has changed, and the service has improved since my last visit in 2014. Now the restaurant offers a selection of local Lebanese specialities including cold Mezze, main courses and hot Mezze. The specialities are Fattoush, Dolma, Labneh, Lamb Chunk Em Beshir, Hummus Bil Samak and Chicken Msakhan.
I was hungry... and excited!
The extraordinary Labneh is called Anbriis: goat labneh prepared in balls served with toasted Kaak on the side. The labneh is not hard and dense like normal labneh balls, but instead has a certain softness to it, an end note of acidity and an aged flavor.
Grilled halloum bel fokhara baked with pomegranate molasses and cherry tomatoes. Super soft halloumi, smooth like melted butter, which has absorbed all the pomegranate juice, adding sweetness. A great combination!
Chicken msakhan: markouk bread rolls that resemble Japanese Makis stuffed with tender and juicy chicken seasoned with sumac. The rolls are rolled around a generous portion of chicken and baked to crunch. Two thumbs up for this creation.
Tabbouleh like it should be, crushed into small pieces with diced tomatoes - I ordered without onions and it was excellently done.
Best of the table, is the Hummus bel Samak! This creation is out of this world: deep fried sea bass with a light batter and covered with pistachio, fried almonds and cashews. Great hummus quality. Juicy fish that doesn’t smell or taste 'fishy' but fresh and light. I loved the combination of textures this plate offers. An amazing innovation I consider to be one of the best hummus I’ve had in Lebanon. Bravo chef!
I was craving a Moghrabieh... available on the menu everyday, you will love it! Bits of dough, lightly al dente, well textured, topped with chicken and sauce. Yummy!
Makanek: wow! Extremely juicy, intensely flavorful makanek I’ll remember for a long time!
What a lunch!... I was not expecting to enjoy it that much.
Three desserts, not as good as lunch itself: kashta and esmalliyeh, lazy chocolate cake and white cotton candy with ice cream scoops. The esmalliyeh is stale and not crunchy enough, clearly prepared in advance. The apples decorating it do not fit at all. The lazy cake is a huge plate 6 people couldn't possibly finish - way too generous making it heavy. A smaller portion, no apples and certainly no pre-cut grapes would be a vast improvement! The cotton candy is outsourced so the only thing that’s left is the ice cream and its presentation - gelato scoops with a small portion of cotton candy presented on a white porcelain plate is far from being appetizing or logical in a Lebanese restaurant. The ice cream is merely commercial quality.
I expected the desserts to be more authentic and simpler, prepared a la minute... remember it’s the last impression diners go away with! Why not use the coffee trays to create “instagramable” desserts? Get karabeej and present them with Natef. A plate of baklava... I'm sure better ideas could be thought of.
Overall I enjoyed lunch so much that I promised myself to visit again soon.