Best restaurants in Lebanon: five Beirut spots on Mena 50 list

From Japanese cuisine to farm-to-table dining, these acclaimed outposts in the Lebanese capital reflect the city's vibrant culinary scene

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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:

Baron

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

Liza

Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 21

Liza's stunning decor was designed by Maria Ousseimi. Photo: Liza

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

Em Sherif

Mena's 50 Best Restaurants ranking: No 22

Handout of Em Sherif. Courtesy of The Qode

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

The best way to experience Tawlet's relaxed approach is through the afternoon lunch buffet. Photo: Tawlet Mar Mikhael

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

Clap

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

Updated: February 09, 2022, 3:05 PM
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