Posts tagged lebanese
Arabesque Gets a Pass Mark
 

It has been three years since Nosa and Folly gifted Arabesque with the Larry David smile (read the original piece HERE), so I decided to visit and stuff my face over the weekend. Being the nuisance that I am and excited by their decent pricing, I ordered something off almost every page on the menu. In retrospect, I clearly underestimated Folly’s comment on how the table was always full when they were there.

So, on to it! I didn’t get to experience the complimentary platter and coal contraption Nosa and Folly had so I dove straight in with the Hoummos Shawarma - which I loved!

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Fun fact: The “Shawarma” in the dish’s name referred to the chicken strips that sat pretty in the hummus, and shawarma generally refers to kebab meats, not the full wraps we call shawarma.

As a big fan of chickpeas (especially in Chickpea Moi Deaux, or ‘Moi Moi’ as you people call it) and sesame seeds (which are ground to make the tahini in hummus), I’m usually so distracted by the hummus taste that I disregard all other details but not this time! The texture and consistency were just right, and it all went really well with the chicken strips.

I know hummus feels like one of those dishes you can’t really screw up or critique (like mashed potatoes or boiled yam) but the Arabesque Hoummos Shawarma is decent.

Side note: I went back during the week with Christina but the hummus had tribal marks and the chicken strips were tinier. Consistency, where are you?

Calamari Makleh

Calamari Makleh

Batata Harra

Batata Harra

The next two things I ordered were the Calamari Mekleh and Batata Harra. I really say the ‘Mekleh’ like there’s phlegm in my mouth, for some odd reason

I’m sorry

Anyway, quite the “na me f* up” moment after tasting the calamari, because I think I might be the only person in the history of restaurant-goers that has ever ordered calamari at a Middle Eastern restaurant. The Shish Taouks, the Shawarmas, the Manakeeshes and more of the top Middle Eastern dishes are all made from beef or chicken, so why did I order seafood?

I don’t know.

The calamari rings were a bit tough and bland, and the batter wasn’t the best – but that might just be the M-E way, I guess.

Moving on. After many “sorry sir, we don’t have that right now” comments by the waiter when we requested for fries, the Batata Harra potatoes were served and were really good. Spiced with coriander and garlic (but not the chilli the menu promised), these lightly fried diced potatoes were… it. Loved that they weren’t oily or too hard. Good stuff.

Meshwe Samak at Arabesque

The fourth and fifth orders that came were the Meshwe Samak and Mixed Grill. The Meshwe Samak was a grilled fillet of sea bass marinated in herbs, garlic and olive oil. The fish was moist (I hate this word), well grilled, seasoned beyond the outer layer and, wait for it, WASN’T TOO SPICY. Thank God! I’m yet to taste the pepper fish at Farm City, which everyone raves about as “Lagos’ best”, but I believe this makes a good substitute for us that aren’t fans of overly spicy food.

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The last serving of the evening but not the least, was the infamous Mixed Grill – no sophisticated Middle Eastern name for it... just ‘Mixed Grill’. Shame.

Well, the presentation for this has changed since Nosa and Folly’s review, but guess what Arabesque has kept consistent – the blandness! My fave of the three kebabs was the shish taouk (chicken) because it seemed to be the only one that had a hint of seasoning.

A Wonder Woman-like ending to a nice evening… sigh.


POSTSCRIPT

Overall, I wasn’t blown away or disappointed; I quite enjoyed the experience, ate a lot, didn’t feel like I gained much weight because everything seemed pretty healthy-ish and I’ll definitely visit again… with my own spices.

Also, three out of five dishes were decent so that’s like 60% - I guess they passed the pass mark.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Hoummos Shawarma - 3300

Calamari Mekleh - 2900

Batata Harra - 2300

Meshwe Samak - 5800

Mixed Grill - 5800 

 

PARKING

Decent parking on the road outside.

8 - 12 cars 

Salma's Revisited
 

NOSA: Folly wasn’t the biggest fan of Salma’s in our original review. The fish dish came out cold, by design, and it was all downhill from there. After talking to a couple of friends, she was a bit more open to trying Salma’s again.

... I didn’t like the experience at Salma’s was that everything was overwhelmed by lemon and was unnecessarily tangy. 
— Folly

FOLLY: A friend whose food opinion, I rate and respect managed to convince me that Salma’s is the best Lebanese food experience in Lagos so I was willing to give it another shot. I find the restaurant very beautifully decorated, so I was looking forward to going back to experience the space all over again.

NOSA: Salma’s was pretty busy when we checked it out. Late on a Sunday night too. That was definitely a good sign.

FOLLY: It was full of Lebanese people too. For any ethnic cuisine, it’s always a good sign when people from that region frequent the restaurant - then you can know it’s legit.

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NOSA: To start, we went with the usual hummus but we switched things up a bit with the Balila. Balila is a lot like hummus in some ways, but very different in many other ways. For starters, they’re both made with chickpeas but the texture of both dishes aren’t very similar. But I’m sure the picture already gave that away.

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FOLLY: The Balila is smashed chick peas with lots of lemon, a gentle amount of garlic, and a good swish of olive oil.

NOSA: The balila was a bit too much for me. I liked it but I tapped out pretty early and stuck to hummus for the rest the night.

FOLLY: I, unlike Nosa, preferred the Balila to the regular hummus because it had a lot more texture and flavour too. Random, the lemon juice did an excellent job of preserving this because we had some leftover which I took it home and then forgot to refrigerate for over 12 hours, and it was still in good condition.

NOSA: Our other starter were the Stuffed Kibbeh Balls. Kibbeh balls are football-shaped, the American one, croquettes stuffed with ground beef. For a country that is ready to die for small chops, I’m surprised more Nigerians aren’t big on Lebanese food. Sure, there isn’t enough pepper, but kibbeh balls would not be out of place in a small chops pack. When I set up my small chops restaurant, we’re going to have kibbeh on the menu because everyone has been sleeping. Nigerian-fusion food, you get?

FOLLY: The only thing that disappointed me about the Kibbeh was that it wasn’t served with Tahini by default. For something that is so dry it really does deserve a dipping sauce. I asked for pepper sauce because I’m Nigerian and the waiter brought easily the best ata din din I’ve had at a Nigerian restaurant. The pepper perfectly coexisted with ginger, garlic and a few other spices.

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NOSA: For the mains, we got the Pistachio Spicy Kafta and the Chili Prawn Sikh. I think we ordered the kafta thinking we’d be getting pistachio flavored beef or something. You can definitely taste the pistachio in the crunch, but not in the way we imagined. In hindsight, pistachio flavored beef sounds gross.

FOLLY: See, normal Folly doesn’t like Kafta and I thought the pistachio would make all the difference. Funky Folly should have listed to normal Folly and ordered the salmon instead. However, budget conscious Folly was also trying to get a word in so funky Folly’s experimental order won the battle of the Follys.

NOSA: A lot of Follys involved in this decision tbh. I actually liked the kafta unlike normal Folly. Made a breakfast taco with it.

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NOSA: Nigerian and Lebanese palettes may disagree on how to season chicken, but they’re definitely on the same page when it comes to seafood. The prawns were incredibly delicious. The lemon butter >

FOLLY: My absolute favourite thing we had at Salma’s. The exterior was chargrilled and smoky but the flesh of the prawn managed to be soft and buttery. Coupled with my ata din din, this dish was truly a winner.

We also got dessert which I mostly passed on because while I will sacrifice myself for many things that contain dairy, ice cream is not one them.

NOSA: But the proceeds from the dessert go to breast cancer charities so it was a good deed.

 

POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: My original position still stands. Probably the best Lebanese restaurant in Lagos.

FOLLY: I enjoyed Salma’s this time around and so I stand corrected.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Traditional Hommos - N3300

Chili Prawns Sikh - N10800

Stuffed Kibbeh Balls - N5000

Balila - N2750

Pistachio Spicy Kafta - N6500

Bouzet Salma - N2500

 

PARKING

Limited parking in the Maroko Bayshore area, but you can park in the Cactus lot. 

 

7 Square Follows the Lagos Restaurant Template to a T
 

NOSA: Over the weekend, we had a little dinner discussion about dining in Lagos and one thing that came up about was the role of a chef in Lagos. It is very rare to find a restaurant where the executive chef is highly visible on a daily basis. Visible in the sense that you can see them actively managing employees, checking on guests etc. There aren’t lots of places where you can spot the chef on floor and flag his attention if anything goes wrong.

What most restaurants tend to have is a “cook” and a front of house manager, which leaves a bit of a leadership vacuum.

FOLLY: And empty apologies tacked on with “my manager is not around”

NOSA: Precisely, because this leadership vacuum also comes with a lack of ownership and more often than not the second order effect of all this is inconsistency. It’s why your penne pesto tastes one way on one day and tastes another way on another day. 

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This brings us to our to 7 Square, which, like most Lagos restaurants, runs with the Ops Manager + Cook model. Or it appears to.

FOLLY: I’m pretty sure I saw the owner outside watching the game while we were there. Anyway, the menu at 7 Square was exceptionally boring and lacking passion and direction.

NOSA: In other words, it’s extensive, boring and all over the place. It’s simply a copy and paste of what you find in most places in Lagos. This could be a Cactus or Crust & Cream if you switched the logos out. Some random steak here and some generic burger there. Toss in some pizza or a nondescript pasta dish.

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NOSA: We didn’t have a bad experience at 7 Square, pretty good in fact, but it just left so much to be desired. Restaurateurs can’t keep opening the same restaurant and running the models. The bubble is going to burst soon. 

To start, we got the My Favorite; a weird platter with humus, sausages, french fries and pita bread. From the menu description, I thought everything would be in the hummus so Folly got pretty curious and ordered it.

FOLLY: I imagine that this was called My Favourite because the Lebanese owner used to eat sausages and hummus as a little boy. I can almost picture it. What I didn’t imagine was that it’ll be served separately. I thought we were going to get a hummus donut with a generous helping of sausage meet in the centre.

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NOSA: The hummus was serviceable, but the sausage was surprisingly great. Mixed with bell peppers and tomatoes, the sausage had this interesting BBQ kick to it and you get some hummus in there (weird, I know), it’s a party. 

FOLLY: The barbecue sauce and hummus combined oddly well. It seems like one those whimsical creations that children love.

NOSA: For my main, I got the Royal PIzza, which was surprisingly good. Thin crust, stringy cheese and straight out of a wood fried oven. A bit like what you’d get at Taverna or Pizzeriah or House Cafe, but a shade more expensive.

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FOLLY: The crust was a little bit more crispy than I’d like, you couldn’t fold the slice to eat it without it cracking everywhere. They used canned mushrooms but I get it fresh imported produce is expensive.

NOSA: On the bright side, this means more restaurants are catching onto the greatness of the wood fried oven for pizza and we can finally stop subjecting ourselves to Dominos as a society.

FOLLY: I ordered my main, the Half Grilled Chicken, to be basic.

NOSA: The name sounds funny too. Is it a grilled half chicken or a chicken grilled halfway? LOL.

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FOLLY: This is going to sound snobby but most times when I looked over at what other diners order at restaurants - most times groups that consist of Middle Aged Nigerians order some variant of rice and chicken so I decided to join them.

NOSA: That’s the go-to order in every Nigerian movie. Anyway, the chicken was surprisingly large. Shouts to them for being generous.

FOLLY: As well as largely forgettable. It was (thankfully) not overcooked and so wasn’t dry on the inside - kudos to them on that. Apart from that, there was nothing distinctive about the flavour so I took it home to recook it into my Zoodles which worked out perfectly.

NOSA: I read this thing somewhere about how eating chicken is bad for you from one of the gym bros I follow on Instagram. According to that piece of bro science, thanks to the way we rear chickens, they’re always in a state of fright. This fright releases some chemicals (bro science never specifies the chemical), which we eventually consume. Messes with your whole mojo and you can’t lift heavy anymore. I don’t eat a lot of chicken and I did a 225 lb power clean the other day so gym bro must be right.

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NOSA: We tried to close out with dessert, but from the 6-item dessert menu, they only had two items available. This brings us back to my little spiel at the start of this. When there’s no ownership in a restaurant, you get things like the polite waiter telling you all the dessert is available and when you ask the waiter to confirm, the waiter tells you they only have two items. 


POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: Eh, it’s ok. Largely boring, but the food is good. Very safe option.

FOLLY: I honestly thought 7 Square was about the desserts on their menu because they had a decent selection so to be told only two items - one of which was a fruit salad - were available was moderately disappointing.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

 My Favorite - N5000

Half Grilled Chicken - N6500

Royal Pizza - N5500

 

PARKING

Bountiful 

Does Las Gidi Express Sound Like a Lebanese Restaurant?
 

NOSA: I stumbled on Las Gidi Express while grocery shopping at Goodies, I mean Winners the other day. Sidenote: Winners has quality meat if you’re into that kind of thing. 

FOLLY: It's 2018 and Nosa is still trying to get me to go to all these "restaurants" that I don't want to go to.

NOSA: Anyway, Las Gidi Express is still very new as far as Lagos restaurants go. By “new”, I mean some chairs are still unwrapped.

FOLLY: I mean, that's why I didn't want to go. I wasn't even sure that it was a real restaurant. 

NOSA: Or maybe those are fresh imports. Either way, it feels like a place that’s still finding its feet. Perhaps it’s not too late to change name.

FOLLY: Oh yes, it definitely struck both us of as odd that a Lebanese restaurant would be called Las Gidi Express. A Nigerian fast food yes? but a typical Nigerian-Lebanese restaurant with a paper brochure menu, nope.  

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NOSA: To start, we ordered the Special Hummus. Hummus is our typical go-to at Lebanese owned spots. That’s usually how I gauge if they sabi the work or not. Unfortunately, the hummus was a bit meh. It was decent enough, but not great. A bit lazy perhaps.

FOLLY: It seemed like the cook felt the key to good hummus was just lots of olive oil and chickpeas. The beef wasn't browned as much and so the flavour didn't quite develop, the hummus was also desperately in need of a dash of salt. 

NOSA: A bit of a random aside, isn’t it great how family friendly Persian food is? All the plates are designed with sharing in mind. Or am I making this up in my head.

FOLLY: You're not.

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NOSA: Next, we got some Manakish. Half zataar and half cheese. And it smelt soooooo good. Makanish is like a Middle Eastern pizza and in Levant countries, it’s actually a breakfast staple. Pizza for breakfast sounds like something i did as a broke college student. Maybe pizza is an Italian manakish, who knows? 

FOLLY: Za'atar manakish is one of my favorite things about Middle Eastern food. The za'atar spices are a combination of thyme, oregano, sumac, and sesame seeds give or take.

In Lagos, you'd be hard pressed to find a Lebanese restaurant serve you something with dodgy cheese. This is because of the excellent supply chain management they exhibit by either owning the supermarket or having a friend or family member that does. 

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NOSA: For our mains, we went with the Mixed Grill (half) and some Fattoush. The fattoush might have been a bad idea. Way too acidic for me, but that’s a personal thing and not on Las Gidi Express.

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FOLLY: The Fattoush was also my mistake cause I meant to order Tabbouleh. I also agree with Nosa on how unneccesarily acidic it was. I've never had this experience at Syrian Club though, so I don't know if it's me or Las Gidi Express but there was something overly acidic about the dressing. 

NOSA: The Mixed Grill, however, was very lovely. The chicken was surprisingly flavorful.

FOLLY: The chicken wings were soooo good and honestly, I was surprised. This is because depending on where you go, the mixed grill is sometimes odd cuts of dry meat that are only bearable after dipping in the garlic sauce.

NOSA: As far as flavor is concerned, Lebanese food and Nigerian food are polar opposites. So more often than not, we (read: Nigerians) often get disappointed by their chicken. Not here though. The chicken in the mixed grill was the perfect middle ground. Both flavors coexisted in peace and harmony. 

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FOLLY: A solid mixed grill platter for a decent price. Considering that Nosa and I shared the small platter, I'm inclined to say this is great value for money. 

 

POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: Las Gidi Express was pretty good, but Syrian Club is undefeated. I rarely ever crave Lebanese food but if I do I'd go back here. 

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Manakish - N700

Fattoush Salad - N2000

Hummus + Meat - N3000

Small Mixed Grill - N4500

 

 

PARKING

The entire Goodies parking lot is available. 

Mashawi's is Textbook Lebanese Food
 

NOSA: We've been meaning to check out Mashawi's for a while but I wasn't too sure whether we could count it as a separate review from Vellvett because when you order from Mashawi's you technically seat in Vellvett's space. 

FOLLY: I completely let Nosa do the ordering because I was trying to sort something out and the menu didn't appeal to me at all so I just trusted Nosa to find the needle in the haystack. 

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FOLLY: He ordered the Mixed Grill, Hummus, and "Cheese Sticks"

NOSA: Cheese Rikakat, is what it's called.

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FOLLY: Oddly, the cheese sticks were my favorite thing but I could just "taste" them. The filling was made of garlic cream, halloumi, and feta. Some of the best cheeses after mozzarella, brie, and gouda if you ask me. 

NOSA: All that together and deep fried. I bet some Lebanese guy went to the Texas State Fair and came up with this because this is some really fat shit. Like all fat shit, I liked it. Smh at my life. 

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FOLLY: The mixed grill was not exceptional but as good as it gets. I felt all the meats were more seasoned than others that I've tried. The chicken wings were solid though, who knew you could find A1 chicken wings at a Lebanese restaurant.

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NOSA: Their mixed grill was probably the most underwhelming I’ve had in Lagos. It didn’t taste bad or anything, but it wasn’t as loaded as I expected. Mixed Grills are usually the culinary personification of gluttony. This one wasn’t.  

FOLLY: Nosa wasn't a fan

NOSA: The wings were great though, but yeah, I wasn't impressed by the whole thing. I think my annoyance is directly connected to how much it cost.

Probably.

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NOSA: We got the hummus with meat. The hummus was very hummus-y and hummus-ed well. About as hummus as hummus gets.

FOLLY: Precisely, it didn't blow us away like the one at BL.

NOSA: or Syrian Club

FOLLY: Also, it was oddly cold, I've never had cold hummus. 

 

POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: We've always wanted to check out Mashawi's and I'm glad it did. It's decent Lebanese food but not the best in Lagos. 

NOSA: Eh, for me. There's better.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Mixed Grill - N8200

Hummus Lahmeh - N3500

Cheese Rikakat - N3200

 

PARKING

Good enough on days that they aren't busy.