June 27, 2012 Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Yabani: One of the First and Still on Top (Restaurant Relocated)
Non-smokers friendly
Casual Dining

Phone Number: +961 1 992233

Address: Beirut Central District Facing Balthus, Beirut, Lebanon

Website: https://www.facebook.com/Yabanirestaurants

Price Range: 70-150 $


Welcoming: 5/5

Food Temperature: 9/10

Ambiance / Music: 9/10

Menu Choice: 5/5

Food Taste: 27/30

Architecture / Interior: 9/10

Food presentation: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Value for money: Soon

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One of the first Sushi concepts in Beirut, and still considered as a reference for good sushi. Hundreds of sushi places have opened, or have tried, but Yabani is still one of the best. Its reputation in delivering fine Japanese cuisine for over 10 years, paving the way for many pretenders and very few equals.

Ranked in my top 10 list, Yabani is a full package: A nice ambiance, a trendy and special architecture combined with perfect service and great food. A warm, alive, and impressing Asian atmosphere welcomes you when you come to savor their delicious noodles & sushi varieties. Upon your entrance, the hostess bows to you and leads you to where you will enjoy a gourmet table served by a discreet and respectful staff in an elegant atmosphere.

The Yabani project was designed by the famous Bernard Khoury and built to house a Japanese restaurant and bar on a 285 s.q.m site located at the edge of the Damascus road on the former demarcation line that separated East and West Beirut. The traces of shelling of the recent wars are highly visible on many of the adjacent buildings that are still squatted by refugees. The Yabani building incorporates a two-storey concrete structure below ground level and a fourteen-meter high steel tower above ground. The tower contains a mobile reception room that travels vertically within a circular glass perimeter from the street level to the restaurant level below ground. The guests' seating is laid out in a circular configuration around the mobile transparent reception that animates the center of the plan. The vertical circulation of the guests' arrival and departure is intentionally over-exposed as the reception lounge becomes the focal point around which the seating plan is generated. The restaurant interior is exposed to the sky through generous "walk-on" glass windows located at ground level.

I wanted to try Yabani after all those years and see what has become of it. A simple admiration was my feeling: Same quality, same service, same taste, same enjoyment, same experience. We arrived at 9pm, and after giving the car to their professional valet service, the hostess welcomed us at the elevator to accompany us below ground. Everything is accomplished with a smile especially the funny and professional waiter, Georges, who made our evening very pleasant.

The menu divisions: Business lunch, salads and starters, breaded age mono, tempura, dumplings, soup noodles, cooked noodles, from the grill, special from the grill, rice and vegetables, Sashimi on Ice, Izuzukuri, Nigiri Sushi, Gunkan Sushi, Hozo Maki, Crispy and Panko Ura Maki, Ura Maki, Temaki special Yabani, Zumo Maki, Crazy Family, desserts.

Some of the items that we ordered:

Head Over Hills, Ebi Katsu, Chicken, Haro Maki, Peanut Noodles, Panko Salmon, Edamame Beans, Shake, Maguro, Salmon Skin, Ultimate, Crispy California, Naked, Ebi Tempura Ura Maki, Whistle Spicy Salmon, Crispy Spicy Salmon, Salmon Skin Temaki, Crazy Family, Crazy Shrimp.

What I loved:

  • The space designed so perfectly that you don't feel like you're sitting underground, and still feel that the its a venue even after ten years.
  • The best salad I've ever had in a Sushi restaurant: The famous Panko Salmon
  • The air-conditioning system sucking away all smoke and smells perfectly

 What I didn't like:

  • The Head Over Hills conical salad, containing too much mayonnaise.
  • A background fish smell inside the restaurant when you enter.
  • The presentation of the Maki pieces one over the other in one single plate (Check the picture). They looked like a Lebanese mixed grill platter.
  • The desserts. An urgent upgrade and fine tuning  is needed. Their taste and presentation are not as good as the main dishes. They lack taste, too heavy and creamy.

As a last impression, the main thing you take back with you for a thought in the car back is their signature imported Japanese Ice-Cream. The Mochi Ice-Cream. Honestly, I didn't like it when I first tried it, but I decided to give it another try. It clicked. I liked it. It's an acquired taste. Its a tasty flavored ice cream in the middle, wrapped with a sweet rice paste. It's a bit like our Lebanese version of the (Halawet el Jeben) or (Halawet EL Riz). It has a special taste indeed few will like, and remember that every piece is 10,000L.L (Very expensive).

If you want something more casual, yet serving the same taste, try the "Y by Yabani" in Beirut Souks.

Tags: News Sushi
Suitable For: Casual Dining





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