I am a great admirer of Middle Eastern food - I live lamb, kebabs, humus, and such. When I saw Cedars of Lebanon close to the hotel where I was staying I convinced my colleagues to try it out for an early dinner. We almost passed by it as it is quite unassuming and seems like a hole in the wall from the outside. However, once inside, we saw that the restaurant is rather large, with a huge hookah next to the door, and a separate hookah room. I hear that the restaurant has a belly dancer, but we didn't see her. In fact, the music playing in the restaurant seemed to be 80s music that was put on repeat, and it clashed strongly with the decor of the restaurant.
There were four of us and we were seated at a table close to the front door, which was a tad annoying since the restaurant was not busy. The sun was low in the west, hitting us through the blinds. The air conditioning was set on warm, it seems, and our waiter soon arrived, sweating and smiling. I must admit, he was friendly. But he was also slow. Actually, I'm not sure if the waiter was slow or the chef, but the point is that the wait times for food were longer than they should have been considering the number of patrons at the restaurant.
We all ordered lentil soup to start with, and then ordered different things - I had a hankering for a lamb shank, which I ordered. The soup was good - it had a lot of cumin in it (I'm not a big fan of cumin) - and the rest of my compatriots praised the soup to high heaven. If (like me) you dislike cumin, pass the soup up. Someone at the table ordered humus and falafel, and humus was absolutely delicious, while the falafel had too much going on. It tasted as if someone wanted to see what happened if they put every single herb they had in their kitchen into the mix, then peek at patrons' reactions. I know this is not what happened. I'm only saying it seemed that way. So there.
When the lamb shank finally arrived, it was delicious, tender, spiced just perfect, served on a bed of rice and with a side of vegetables. We all got huge portions. The entire table fell silent, which is a good indicator the food is delicious, as everyone was too busy enjoying food as opposed to flapping their gums. The only annoyance was a bad mix (and remix) was 80s music blaring from a nearby speaker mounted on a wall. I felt like I should Google some Lebanese music on my phone and play it. However, I was too busy eating. We had a vegan in our group (it's like having an unusual pet), and he tried giving us all a hard time for eating flesh. We all started pushing the "flesh" towards him, while at the same time stealing bits of his food, which I affectionately called garnish.
By the time we got our checks we all got a few gray hairs and a wrinkle here and there. It could've been worse - they could have waited until we were wearing Depends, throwing dentures at passers-by. As that didn't happen, we still won. Our waiter, still perspiring, but elegantly so, collected our payments with a flourish and explained that we could not get an aperitif for dessert, as the restaurant was penalized for not checking an ID when serving a drink - so no alcohol for us. For a moment I felt I was in a busted speakeasy, and I quickly snapped out of that unrealistic fantasy.
In any case, the food was great, and the waiter was friendly. If we were seated somewhere where we didn't get a stripe of sunburn across our faces, if the air conditioner was actually on, and if unfortunate clothing and hair choices were not jumping out from the music speakers, we could overlook the slow service. But all that put together would have been cured by a glass of something to take the edge off. No luck there either. I hope these things are fixed, as this could be a really good place to go to regularly. Bon appetit!
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