As one of the entry points to the country, Cebu City bustles with a rich variety of cultures; each offering a plethora of cuisines, music genres, and unforgettable faces. Next to Manila, it is where you can meet different flavors without the need to leave the country. Craving for authentic Japanese food, you can check out some of the restaurants like Nonki; for Mexican food, there's Maya; looking for Vietnamese, Phat Pho makes a good visit. With so many restaurants to choose from, you'll never run out of new dishes to try.
So when my blogger friend, Marco of Lami Kaayo, invited me to try this relatively new Lebanese restaurant called Beqaa, I was more than eager to pay a visit. After hearing another friend (Kyjean) rave about how good the restaurant was, the excitement in me could not be contained. Lebanese cuisine was something I've never tried in the past. The idea alone that I would be trying a new cuisine was really too much for me to contain. I savor these moments as if they were a chance for me to go abroad-- to actually experience the culture of the country and immerse myself with their community. As of this writing, I've already sampled a number of cuisines but never Lebanese. I took this as a welcoming opportunity to discover a new taste, one that I would potentially enjoy.
Wikipedia describes Lebanese cuisine as inclusive of 'an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood.' I find it as a fusion between Indian and Mediterranean food-- dishes seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and lemons; yet containing that prolific blend of spices that Middle Eastern dishes are best known for. Careful not to try dishes that were too common for our liking, we opted to get the ones without an asterisk (*) on the menu; as these were the Indian dishes.
As characterized by The Abaca Group, the interior design of Beqaa consisted of a modern look completed with hardwood floors, wrought iron finishing, and an open kitchen area. The dim lighting added a hint of mystery and romance to the establishment. Most of the dining area consisted of long tables, a quality of how Lebanese dining is keen on family dining and the fact that they almost never eat alone.
Knowing little about Lebanese cuisine, we had to ask our server which ones were the best sellers among their menu. Despite this, we knew we wanted to try something entirely new so we opted for the dishes that sounded too exquisite for our appetite. As part of The Abaca Group's training, each server was equipped with the knowledge of the dishes they served. They did not have to head back to the kitchen to ask their head chef on the ingredients as they have it memorized to the brim; this is one thing you can really appreciate about restaurants under their care.
As recommended by our server, we ordered the Mouhamara dip for appetizer; which came out really well. According to its description, the dish consisted of toasted walnuts and fire-roasted peppers. Expecting it to be fiery spicy, I was relieved when I was proven wrong. Served with a side of crackers, it was actually a pretty decent appetizer; one that you can thoroughly enjoy in between dishes as it had the ability to cleanse your palate.
Lebanese Lamb Stew (P435)
Considering Lebanon is under Islamic law, pork dishes are substituted by lamb. As another recommendation by our server, we decided to order the Lebanese Lamb Stew served with a medley of potatoes, onions, and pistachios. This was one of the best lamb dishes that I've eaten recently, especially since the last one caused me to feel sick. Beqaa's Lebanese Lamb Stew was cooked to perfection-- the meat was tender and the spice was just the right amount of delectable!
Lebanese Garlic Riz (P85)
Alongside the lamb stew, Marco and I shared a bowl of their Lebanese Garlic Riz served with toppings of toasted vermicelli and garlic slivers on a pool of perfectly cooked Basmati rice. This order alone was already a delightful experience as I've never had this in the past.
Shish Taouk (P395)
Our last dish, the Shish Taouk, consisted of a generous portion of grilled chicken marinated in creamy yoghurt and garlic; served on a bed of Tabouleh and a side of perfectly roasted fries. Arriving on our table, the aromas of the spices exuded and invited us to indulge in the dish; and we were happy to oblige. The meat was juicy, tender, and never boring-- Lami!
Sauces: Garlic, Chili, and Yoghurt Sauce
To add flavor to the grilled chicken, you can opt for one of the three sauces they provide: garlic, chili, and yoghurt. I recommend the garlic sauce as it really brings out the taste on the meat.
Overall, the experience was a unique one that I truly enjoyed. The dishes we ordered could have fed up to three people. With prices typical of that to Manila restaurants, it was a little over the typical Cebuano budget. But considering the dishes were good to share, you could easily split the bill with your friends. Despite this, the delicious and delectable food is an experience you should try; at least once in a while.
Beqaa: A Lebanese Kitchen is located at the 2nd floor, Design Center of Cebu, AS Fortuna cor. P. Remedio St., Mandaue, Cebu. For reservations, call 032 238 5539. They are open from 5:30pm to 10:00pm.