Thursday, September 23, 2010

dinner at Manuella

One late afternoon on our way back from a day in Beirut, we stopped to eat in Jounieh at Manuella Restaurant, a large, popular seaside restaurant with both indoor and outdoor options for seating. We sat by the Mediterranean sea, under the thatch roof in the open air. For your famished eyes, they first treat you to some fresh brilliant hues. You don't know whether to stare at it or eat it. We did both.
Shortly after filling our eyes with colour and popping some pumpkin seeds and peanuts into our mouths as my brother and sister-in-law planned what we will eat, the mezze was laid out before us. Among other plates, this included grape leaves, a large artichoke, hummus (chick pea dip), tabbouleh, (parsley salad), baba ghannoush (aka moutabbal, coal charred eggplant pureed), purslane salad, and shangleesh (dried yogurt balls in spices and oil). We also had a dish of raw kibbeh (lamb meat with soaked wheat--although it really looks just like a plate of raw pounded ground meat), which my brother- and sister-in-law have to eat at every restaurant. I usually just have one scoop in my pita bread wedge. My husband doesn't eat it. I always say with a twinkle in my eye, "What kind of Lebanese are you who doesn't even eat raw kibbeh?"
 We also had a dish of fattoush, a salad which is my favorite and that I have to eat at every restaurant in Lebanon. If made correctly (and it usually is) it is very lemony, with an extra tart kick from a smattering of sumac. It is a perfect summertime dish. If I recall correctly, the plate at the fore of the photo is moo-zhaddra (that's a phonetic spelling); it's a brown lentil and cracked wheat dish with fried onions on top. There was also a plate of delicious stir fried greens which I can no longer remember the name of but it's something that is special to the Lebanese. This summer I ate all sorts of green plants in Lebanon that I have no idea what they are.

And that was just the starter.

After filling our bellies, the waiter cleared the table and laid out various seafood dishes from shrimps, squids, octopus and inky squid. The inky squid looked....very inky.

Looking over all the food, I exclaimed, "Goodness gracious! Who's going to eat all this food?"

My brother-in-law said with solemnity, "Don't forget, we still have the fish to eat. I ordered fried fish for us."

I munched and munched and the more I munched the more I felt my stomach push against the waistband of my jeans. 
 "Keep eating!" my sister-in-law laughed when I slowed down.

Time for a break.

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