Try amazing Lebanese food in Cologne

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

One of the greatest joys (or perhaps disagreements) of traveling is planning where to eat. The obvious choice in Cologne is German food. For those of us that have been living in Germany for a while, we know that German food gets old pretty quick. While delicious, it’s not always at the top of the craved foods list.  While in Cologne I found a Lebanese restaurant called Beirut with outstanding reviews on TripAdvisor. With an impressive 4.5/5 rating, I thought, “Why not?”

Never in my life have I had Lebanese food. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what type of food might be served at Beirut Restaurant before I tried it. However, the amazing smell floating through the air from their establishment and the line of people outside reassured me that what was cooking was going to taste amazing. Beirut offers both carry out and seated dining, so the line outside the restaurant didn’t stop our party of two from getting a table. We didn’t have a reservation and were pleasantly surprised on a Saturday night at 7 p.m. that a table was available.

Without any prior knowledge of the type of food, we were a little overwhelmed by the menu, even though it was in English. When you enter the restaurant, you can see that the meat is freshly prepared on an Arabic charcoal grill, so you get an idea of what the selection is like. Other than that, we were clueless. Our waiter was incredibly helpful and described most of the menu to us. He recommended the “special for two,” but the table next to us had just received the special and there was absolutely no way we could eat that much food. There was so much it didn’t all fit on the table!

We decided to share a cold starter that included Homos (cooked chickpeas, mashed with sesame paste, olive oil and lemon juice), Labneh Bil Thoum (homemade cream cheese with garlic and mint), Tajen Savory (sesame paste made with peppers, onions, lemon juice and garlic) and a cilantro based salad with olive oil and lemon juice for dressing. For lack of a better term, I will call all of these items dips. We were given several pieces of flatbread to eat with the generous portions of dips. As simple as the dips sound, they were packed with outstanding flavor that was perfect with the flatbread. Similar to chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, but obviously fresher, this cold starter was addicting. We ate up every last morsel and were ready for more when our main dish arrived.

For our entree, we decided to share chicken, beef and lamb kabobs. Knowing the large portion sizes, this was the perfect amount. We were both able to try all three meats without ordering a huge portion of them. Each meat was tender and grilled with the perfect spices. Our food was brought to us promptly, and everything was hot off the grill. The meat was also served with roasted flatbread topped with tomato sauce, onions and parsley and the most delicious rice I’ve ever tasted (probably because it was loaded with butter).

Since everything up until this point was beyond our expectations, we decided to go for dessert, even though we were completely stuffed. We opted for Baklawa Bil-Bunduq, which is baklava, or a puff pastry filled with nuts. It was the perfect way to end our meal. We left completely satisfied and unexpectedly pleased with trying something new.

The staff at Beirut was more than helpful and made our dining experience wonderful. Definitely go and make sure you bring your appetite and euros, as they don’t accept cards.

Though we were a little nervous about trying a type of food we knew nothing about, the experience was totally worth it. How will you know if you like something if you never try it?

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