Who doesn't know SO, Downtown or DT... three restaurants which have been around for years, maintaining the same quality - and I was going to say "and service" but I changed my mind... at least at SO. Visiting SO for lunch with a friend I was a bit disappointed to encounter slow and unprofessional service that I am not at all used to at SO and it's sister restaurants. Thankfully, Jimmy, the master of the conveyor belt, was there to help lift the whole mood of the place that day...
Last week, my wife came back home, furious and unhappy, after a dinner with her friends at SO.
"Anthony, you have to go to SO and write about it. This place is becoming unacceptable. The prices are way too high and the service and cleanliness are a disgrace." Having some work to do in the capital, I decided to pay SO a visit.
The restaurant comfortably seats about 110 people inside and another 25 on the veranda. What especially stands out is the clever conveyor belt, a first in Lebanon, that rotates around the bar making it easy for customers to simply grab a plate of their favorite sushi and sashimi delicacies.
At SO, I met Jimmy.
Jimmy, the man behind the conveyor belt who made my lunch memorable offering exquisite pieces of sushi along with a gentle pleasant smile that will make you want to come again. Calm and serene, with the utmost professionalism, Jimmy wraps a roll after the other for the pleasure of his customers. Everyone knows him by name, and he knows his accustomed visitors and welcomes them warmly. If you know your way around, you'll ask Jimmy to prepare a salad or a Temaki or whatever you crave for, because, let me tell you a secret, not all the Japanese rolls are the same at SO. What comes from the kitchen is different than what comes from the conveyor belt.
We sat down to Jimmy's right side having with an interesting view at his working platform. Calmly and happily, this passionate chef was clearly enjoying his time, rolling one piece after the other and places them on the conveyor. Some of the things were already prepared a few hours earlier and others prepared on spot. He cuts, cleans, seasons and presents these Japanese rolls you all crave for.
Every now and then, Jimmy looks at me and made a discreet head shake, making sure I'm happy and satisfied.
The formula is clear and simple: No colored plates, no different pricing and no complication. All plates are the same costing 7,600L.L each. Grab and eat.
The place described: Like its jet-set clientele, the food is a mix of everything from pastas to sushi, appealing to the most diverse of palates. Decorated in a simple yet elegant manner, just the right amount of light slips through to make for a vivacious and entertaining, yet utterly cozy feel. The atmosphere is casual and informal, the perfect venue for intimate business lunches and dinners among friends.
- Facing the entrance door, you will be welcomed by a bar to the right and a lower seating area facing it. The pizza oven appears hidden in the corner
- Take the stairs up to the main dining area with its high ceiling and warm yellow lighting
- Beige tiles cover the floor filled with brown wooden tables and leather chairs
- The salad bar, in the middle of the restaurant cannot be missed. SO has been known for it after all
- Following the glass facades, benches in red and blue. Other benches in the middle of the space are grey
- To the right, in the semi circular area, the conveyor belt is surrounded by flowery curtains
- Different brown colors take over the space adding warmth and fine decoration at the same time
- Hidden on the wall is a grey TV broadcasting the fashion TV channel
- SO has an outside seating with a view on the busy street below
Without going into extensive details, the sushi rolls were all superb. I enjoyed my lunch to the max, appreciating adequate textures and flavors.
My favorite items today:
- The Salmon and Salmon Skin Temaki: This is one of the best Temakis I've had in years. A crunchy Nori leaf embracing a rich content of rice and fish. Crunchiness and spiciness combined to deliver an exquisite piece of creation
- The salmon skin maki roll is as good as the temaki with its light sweetness, crunchiness and rich flavors
The things I liked:
- The ambiance is fantastic. The vibes and action of people is so nice
- I liked the table napkins
Check out SO's menu After all, my wife was right, she didn't complain about the food at all which I also found very good, but about the service and prices being ridiculous. All platters have an average $30+ and the service has really become shameful. I'm happy that I met Jimmy to have a reason to visit SO again.
- We reached at 1pm where few a waiters were siting on the table chitchatting
- During lunch service, all waiters were standing next to the bar talking with each other in high voices
- Not a single one of the waiters was even smiling today. They all seem unhappy at work
- I loved how their phones didn't leave their hands, playing and chatting on whatsapp all the time
- And the head waiter... Hands in his pocket walking between tables. Professionalism at its best!