For some time now I have been thinking about eating Lebanese food. I really love eating hummus and a lot of other dishes like tabouleh, fatayer, kebbeh and let's not talk about falafel or desserts... I usually buy once a week some Lebanese food from Freshmed but I really wanted to have a proper meal.
I don't mind buying from a traiteur but I was really looking for some traditional, well prepared, delicious food! Something a bit better than my usual traiteur purchase... I first tried a restaurant called Byblos, located in Auderghem back in March (yes this has been going on for a while!). This restaurant used to be called L'Oriento and when it closed, a new owner took it over and named it Byblos. He kept the same concept and design: a buffet during lunch hours at a reasonable price and it is popular among workers in the area.
I went with the marketing team once to L'Oriento and once to Byblos and the quality remained more or less stable, even the plates presentation was quite similar. I liked the fact that the lunch varies almost every day because if you come back, you get to try something different! I also appreciated the possibility to try a bunch of different flavors all at once: hot or warm starters, meat, veggies, etc.
Both times, I mostly liked the veggies (especially the cauliflower!), the hummus, the salads, lentils and savory fatayer. Sometimes I felt that the meat was a bit overcooked or stayed too long under the heater but besides that the food was good, maybe a bit salty. The concept itself is interesting too, you can eat in (all you can eat!) or create your plate and take it away for 15,5€, a good bargain! The only downside is that drinks are expensive so if you don't work too far, a plate as a take-away is better! Additionally, I have to say that Byblos has a modern look, a nice staff and seems to be quite clean.
Overall I'd say Byblos is good for a lunch and will satisfy both vegetarian and meat eaters for a decent price. This time however, I was looking for more than just a lunch and to experience mind-blowing Lebanese food...
...I heard about Chez Phénicien/Phenicien House from an ex-colleague. Patricia and I actually tried this restaurant on Monday last week. We had booked a table for 2 around 7PM and we arrived right on time. The restaurant was almost empty so we could choose any table available, it looked like they were not expecting a lot of customers that night.
I sat by the window on one of the benches...And then I realized it wasn't too clean, I could feel some dirt on the fabric covering the bench. Then I looked around and wasn't too surprised. The decoration gives an "old" vibe to the restaurant, the windows weren't too clean either, the room was quite dark. Overall my first impression was that Chez Phénicien is an old restaurant that could use some cleaning and a breath of fresh air.
Then we received the menu from a super smily waiter and started to check what we were going to eat. A lot of things seemed very tasty and sounded familiar due to my previous experiences with Lebanese food. In the end, we decided to go for the menu called "Dégustation Phénicien" for 2, which includes:
Moutabal (mashed grilled eggplant);
Warak Enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and veggies);
Labneh (cream cheese with olive oil, mint, etc.);
Jwaneh (roasted chicken wings marinated in tomatoes, garlic and coriander);
It seemed like a decent choice for a first experience at Chez Phénicien! Surprisingly, the plates arrived extremely fast, almost within 5 minutes...At first, the plates looked small and I was pretty sure we would finish everything with no difficulty, but I was so wrong! I underestimated how rich Lebanese food was, especially the Hummus, Moutabal and Labneh!
We started with the Tabouleh and the dips before attacking the Warak Enab and the Falafel plate. I must say that all the dishes were really tasty, well presented and seemed fresh. The wings arrived a bit later, warm and ready to be devoured! And again, the plates seemed small for 2 people with only one falafel and 2 small wings per person. It feels a bit like the restaurant counts on the dips, which are quite heavy, to satiate your hunger rather than giving bigger portions of the falafel and Jwaneh.
We slowly ate our plates while chatting happily about what happened in our lives in the past month...And there was a lot to talk about! While we were eating, 2 girls came in, but we mostly had the restaurant to ourselves. I don't know if it was because we visited on a Monday but I didn't mind. The restaurant was a lot quieter and we had the waiter to ourselves, he was lively and smiling, very different from the waiters you usually see in restaurants.
We didn't manage to finish our food, despite our best efforts! The dips were way to heavy, even for the both of us. Overall, we had a good dinner that we both enjoyed and decided to leave around 10:00 PM. That's when we asked for the bill and got a good surprise since our menu "Degustation Phénicien" cost just 17.80€ per person which brought our total to 44.60€ for the both of us, including the food as well as the drinks (1/2L of still water and 1/2L of sparkling water).
The "Degustation Menu" allows you to try the classics of the Lebanese cuisine, you can't really go wrong with dishes like hummus, labneh or falafel although I am sure some restaurants could mess even that up. As explained above, every plate was tasty and seemed fresh plus we had a super nice waiter so the overall experience was good. The only downside is the look of the restaurant and the cleanliness of the benches, that could really be improved!
After this evening, I am interested to try more restaurants to build a solid opinion on Lebanese food and to figure out which address in Brussels is the best, and maybe to find the pearl!
Have you been to L'Oriento, Byblos or Chez Phénicien? What's your favorite one? Do you have better suggestions? Feel free to share ;)