With the Middle East and North Africa's 50 Best Restaurants awards handed out this week, it’s no surprise that some of those names were from Lebanon, which many consider the food capital of the Middle East.
With a rich culinary history, wonderful fresh produce and skilled chefs, Beirut is a recipe for great food and satisfying dining.
Here is a closer look at the five Beirut restaurants that made the list:
Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 12
Down in Beirut’s trendy Mar Mikael district, Baron is a fun, friendly neighbourhood restaurant with a reputation for uniquely outstanding cuisine. Serving stylish and sophisticated dishes combining a variety of flavours, the popular dinner spot is well loved by locals, even if it will leave your wallet a little lighter.
Owner and chef Athanasios Kargatzidis has a passion for fusion cooking, backed up by more than 25 years of experience. Prioritising flavour and texture, his inventive, international menu – all cooked in an open kitchen at the heart of the venue – is a feast for the senses.
Each plate is designed for sharing, so expect to select a few options as a group rather than choosing individually. Whether it’s grilled meats, fresh fish or some of Baron’s exquisite vegetable creations, an exciting – and delicious – dining experience is guaranteed. A particular showstopper is the slow-cooked overnight lamb shank crusted in mint and mustard seeds and served with farro wheat. For dessert, their baked peach with pink peppercorns, served with sour cream ice cream and dukkah crumble, is a great way to end a meal.
Baron, Mar Mikhael, Beirut; +961 79 179 099; eatdrinkbaron.com
Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 21
Situated in an Ottoman-era palace in the heart of Achrafieh, Liza is the perfect place for a lazy weekend brunch or to celebrate a special occasion. The stunning decor, designed by Maria Ousseimi, maximises on the light-filled rooms with triple arch windows by using neutral tones accented with gold, combined with geometric patterns and arabesque partitioning.
Their menu blends traditional Lebanese cuisine with the refinement of high-end techniques, offering a variety of mezze and mains, such as citrus marinated roast chicken on smoked green wheat. Light bites such as grilled halloumi with sweet tomato jam are a delicious combination, and for those with a sweet tooth, their creamy ossmaliyeh or spiced meghli pudding is sure to hit the spot.
While Liza is on the pricey end of Beirut restaurants, the great food, gorgeous setting and sophisticated ambience make it worth the price tag.
Liza, Achrafieh, Beirut; +961 1 208 108; lizabeirut.com
Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 22
Em Sherif is the epitome of hearty, authentic Levantine food and a name well-known to both locals and tourists. Less concerned with perfect presentation, it’s a relaxed and charming place to grab lunch or dinner with friends, with many mezze options perfect for sharing. Tarab music is often on play, giving the restaurant a nostalgic and welcoming ambience.
With a seasonal menu, their food is always using the best local produce to create tasty treats such as pumpkin kibbeh stuffed with Swiss chard, summac and walnuts. Their grilled shish tawook or kafta skewers are crowd favorites, paired with zesty hummus or a crisp fatoush salad. The menus often offer something for all pallets, from kibbeh tartar for meat lovers, to roasted cauliflower with mint yoghurt dressing for vegetarians or anyone feeling like a lighter meal.
Em Sherif, Achrafieh, Beirut; +961 70 919 119; emsherif.com
Tawlet Mar Mikhael
Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 28
A trip to Tawlet is always full of tantalising surprises. Championing a farm-to-table approach using only seasonal, organic produce, their food is always fresh and combines a multitude of flavours and textures.
Tawlet’s mission is to reinvigorate recipes found around different villages and regions of Lebanon, crafted by home cooks to make sure the food is exactly as grandmother would have made it, using recipes passed down through families.
The open-kitchen style means there are no barriers between the cooks and diners, giving them the opportunity to talk, share stories and learn about the food and the region it comes from. Serving incredible dishes from a weekly menu with a different cook every day, Tawlet plates up everything from stuffed vine leaves cooked with lamb to fried eggplant salad in pomegranate molasses.
For an affordable price that helps support small-scale farmers and home cooks, the afternoon lunch buffet is the best way to experience Tawlet, as it will be hard to choose just one dish to try.
Tawlet, Mar Mikhael, Beirut; +961 81 266 060; soukeltayeb.com/tawlet
Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 47
Commanding an impressive view of the Beirut skyline and the Mediterranean Sea beyond, Clap is a rooftop restaurant offering high-end Japanese dining. Featuring a beautiful open terrace, visitors can enjoy a fantastic variety of Asian-inspired dishes and a gorgeous panoramic view all at once, especially at sunset.
In addition to chic surroundings and a relaxed atmosphere, Clap boasts handcrafted sushi, Wagyu steaks, decadent desserts and a spectacular range of both classic and signature cocktails, perfect for a delightful night out. At the same time, their bar bites and a robust business lunch menu makes daytime drop-ins an equally appealing option.
Some items – such as their surf and turf maki roll, featuring king crab, Wagyu beef, avocado and yuzu kosho – are definitely pricey, but worth every bite. However, more affordable dishes, such as black cod in sweet citrus miso sauce, are also offered. Their matcha cheesecake is a perfectly balanced sweet treat for any occasion and rounds off the vibrant Asian flavours starring in the main menu.
Clap, Downtown, Beirut; +961 70 633 888; claprestaurant.com
Mena’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 in full:
1. 3 Fils, Dubai, UAE
2. Zuma, Dubai, UAE
3. OCD Restaurant, Tel Aviv, Israel
4. Tresind Studio, Dubai, UAE (also won Art of Hospitality Award)
5. Sachi, Cairo, Egypt
6. Orfali Bros, Dubai, UAE
7. Fakhreldin, Amman, Jordan
8. LPM Restaurant & Bar, Dubai, UAE
9. George & John, Tel Aviv, Israel
10. Gaia, Dubai, UAE
11. Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, Dubai, UAE
12. Baron, Beirut, Lebanon
13. Coya, Dubai, UAE
14. HaBasta, Tel Aviv, Israel
15. Myazu, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
16. Reif Kushiyaki, Dubai, UAE
17. Animar, Tel Aviv, Israel
18. Tresind, Dubai, UAE
19. Kazoku, Cairo, Egypt
20. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai, UAE
21. Liza, Beirut, Lebanon
22. Em Sherif, Beirut, Lebanon
23. Lowe, Dubai, UAE (also won the Sustainable Restaurant Award)
24. Pescado, Ashdod, Israel
25. Hakkasan, Abu Dhabi, UAE
26. La Grande Table Marocaine, Marrakesh, Morocco
27. 13C Bar in the Back, Amman, Jordan
28. Tawlet Mar Mikhael, Beirut, Lebanon
29. Amazonico, Dubai, UAE
30. Marble, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
31. Mirai, Manama, Bahrain
32. Iloli, Casablanca, Morocco
33. BB Social Dining, Dubai, UAE
34. Coya, Abu Dhabi, UAE
35. Indochine, Dubai, UAE
36. Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Doha, Qatar
37. Porterhouse, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
38. Zooba, Cairo, Egypt
39. Fusions by Tala, Manama, Bahrain
40. Milgo Milbar, Tel Aviv, Israel
41. Sufra, Amman, Jordan
42. LPM Restaurant & Cafe, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
43. White Robata, Kuwait City, Kuwait
44. Hoseki, Dubai, UAE
45. Izakaya, Cairo, Egypt
46. La Closerie, La Marsa, Tunisia
47. Clap, Beirut, Lebanon
48. Butcher & Still, Abu Dhabi, UAE
49. Plus61, Marrakesh, Morocco
50. Tokyo, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia