Thursday, February 27, 2014

Urbanista, Bliss Street

A couple of days after that we have started the spring semester at AUB, Urbanista, which is already a popular restaurant in Gemmayzeh, opens its doors on Bliss Street. Every Monday and Wednesday, I would meet up with my best friend Nour and occasionally some other friends to discover something new on their menu.
Urbanista has indoor as well as outdoor seating and you can always find an empty table to sit either outside or inside. Upstairs, where I usually sit, there are very comfortable one seat sofas as well as a long table where you can enjoy food while working on your laptop or just studying.
Their prices are correct considering the quality and variety of food they are offering, (over 80 food items and more or less 40 beverages); for instance, they serve Bresaola toast for 18,000 L.L., Pasta and Risotto for around 20,000 L.L.. However, their prices are slightly higher than the average on Bliss Street. (Minimum price for food is 11,000 L.L.)
The first few times I went to Urbanista, the service was horrible: I felt that the waiters were still getting to know each other, because it took several minutes for them to notice my hanging hand when they were standing just in front of me, chit-chatting. With time, they learned to become much more alert and aware of their responsibilities.
Some of the food that I have ordered over the couples of times I have been to Urbanista made it at the top of my list; but other dishes were less satisfying.
The overview and critique that I have posted with the pictures below can roughly give you an idea about what to order if you ever plan to go to Urbanista, be it on Gemmayzeh or on Bliss.

The "Egg & Brie" omelette is accompanied with a French bread. Personally, I didn't eat the baguette, but friends complained the bread wasn't enough when they shared it together; and they asked for Refill three times. I would suggest Urbanista to ask their customer for the bread.

The "Egg & Brie" omelette comes with olives and very few thin slices of brie cheese, this is for the deceiving part. Urbanista should be more generous in serving all the trimmings to enrich the main dish.
The pancakes are delightful! I already had it three times. The bread is not raw and they give you with it real maple syrup sauce and a strawberry coulis. I love strawberries!
The "Strawberry, Banana smoothie" comes with a choice of milk or yogurt (I had it with yogurt). It was just fine, I thought it was a bit bland and I had expected it to be more exploding with the strawberry and banana flavors. For instance, I doubted that they had put in bananas.
The "Organic Smoked Salmon" sandwich deceived my expectations. The toast was a bit dry. Maybe another choice of bread would have been more suitable or perhaps it would be a good idea to add some more of lemon juice. The salad leaves were partly seasoned.
"BBQ (chicken) burger" is one of the best I have ever had (I love CBJ's BBQ burger too). I enjoyed to have some curly lettuce in the burger; of course I didn't eat the coleslaw on the side. The potatoes are a smart solution between the french fries and wedges.
 The "Chicken mini bites" are another favorite. They are crunchy but softhearted. They come with a Tartare sauce but I would prefer it with BBQ sauce, and you can ask for it! The french fries that came along with it were not warm enough, serious bummer. Cold fried food is not tasteful.
  The "Pain Perdu" must be a favorite for cinnamon lovers. But even if you're not quite a fan of cinnamon like me, the Pain Perdu will work just fine. I would recommend Urbanista to add on the menu or specify, at least orally, that this dessert is cinnamon flavored, since it becomes a discovery once you taste it. The ice cream was already melting when the waiter got me the dish; I believe that the cook should be smart enough to add it at the end, once he had finished preparing the bread.
A picture for the "Salad bar", that is not quite usual if you can see.
The "Vanilla Angel Cake" is the same as the one I once had at St. Elmos, same same bland Vanilla cake. Well, I guess they must have got it from the same bakery or the grocery store. It was good, but not as good as St. Elmos where I am used to a bigger slice of cake, more of a tastier whipping cream, and most of all, a lot more pieces of fresh strawberries!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kabab Ji, Bliss Street


Everybody loves Kabab Ji once in a while. But when it was one of the only healthy, clean, and tasteful food solution on Bliss street, (before the opening of Urbanista and the coming opening of Paul), you grow bored of it after some time.
Kabab Ji is a Lebanese restaurant that serve special poultry/meat/kebab sandwiches and other Lebanese dishes like the “Lahem Baajin” meatloaf, the Tabbouleh salad, Hummus, Labneh, and pastry among others.

The employees at Kabab Ji are very Lebanese and it’s like they expect you to  get used to their service instead of giving attention to the customers. In fact, they can do much better on their customer service. Yesterday, I was staying late at AUB and I decided to go to Kabab Ji for a late lunch. I come in and I sit down and after a few moments, a waiter rushes to my table and gives me the menu. I dismiss it and tell him that I am ready to order. He calls another waiter to take my usual order: one grilled veal Lebanese bread sandwich without the cheap pickles with french fries and tomato slices, 3 pieces of baked cheese cigarette pastry, and a small bottle of water. 

The waiter relied on his failing memory instead of taking notes; a minute after he went off, he comes back to ask me again whether I wanted the pastry fried or baked. After 5 to 10 minutes, the waiter comes back with 2 pieces of baked cheese pastry roll instead of 3. It’s okay I didn’t say anything, a few less calories is never a problem. I didn’t wait much for the sandwich because it wasn’t lunch peak time. I grab the sandwich and I take the first bite. Okay, good enough. And I take another bite. The third bite unleashed a burnt black-charcoal slice of onion. It was awful, it made the sandwich taste bitter. 

How reckless can the cook be? He could have thrown away this onion and have it replaced with another one. Doesn’t he care about what he puts in his sandwiches? I called the waiter and told him what’s wrong with my sandwich and he answered even worse. Instead of apologizing, he replied to me that it’s not burnt, not that it’s obviously black. I can even say that he seemed bothered by my remark. I answered that the cook could have paid more attention to what he was putting in the sandwich. He turns his back and speaks to the cook that’s on the assembly line of sandwiches. Then I hear the cash register woman just in front of me burst out laughing mimicking the guy’s words, “se2abit”, or in English “it happened” as if it’s no big deal. The cook is really not concerned with the quality of sandwiches he serves, not at all.

 Then, I was waiting so I assumed alone that maybe he was preparing another sandwich for me. Nearly after another 5 to 10 minutes, the waiter comes back to me with another sandwich and says that they are very very sorry undoubtedly with a hint of irritation. I take a bite of the new sandwich. It was obscenely cold, even the French fries. I finished my sandwich, I wanted to leave.

I strongly believe that Kabab Ji should train their personnel to have a more professional attitude, improve their manners, and be at the attention of their customers. Kabab Ji should focus on serving lebanese food, not the Lebanese attitude. Competition is becoming more severe on Bliss street, Paul and Roadster Diner are opening up soon. Therefore, I expect Kabab Ji to make additional efforts if they want to keep their customers coming. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New York Street Style, F/W 2014-2015

   While we’re still in winter, and the weather is suddenly getting colder in Lebanon, it may be a good idea to get inspired from the freshest street looks of this past fashion week in New York. 
   Expect to see on the blog soon the upcoming trends of Fall/Winter 2014-2015!

I love the way the skirt covers the boots and leaves you wondering how high they reach

Chiara Ferragni

Jourdan Dunn Off-Duty

Models Off-Duty

Susie Bubble on the right

Trainers or the new hit

How cool is the cap? It's written "the sun" in Arabic.

Rumy Neely

Friday, February 14, 2014

Haute Couture Spring Summer 2014, Paris

Chanel Line Up

   Paris hosts the Haute Couture fashion event a few weeks before Ready-to-Wear fashion week kicks off in New York. Speaking of which was the finale yesterday, and London fashion week (14-18 Feb) is about to start today. Now, let’s talk about the stunning hand-made clothes and the less desirable ones. Mainly, I will be discussing the brands that we all know in the order in which they have scheduled their catwalk show:

Sunday 19 January
Monday 20
Tuesday 21
Wednesday 22
Thursday 23
Atelier Versace
Christian Dior
Giambattista Valli

Stephane Rolland
Bouchra Jarrar
Alexandre Vauthier
Julien Fournie
Maison Martin Margiela
Elie Saab
Jean Paul Gaultier
Viktor & Rolf
Zuhair Murad

Atelier Versace
Versace’s collection is always predictable. Donatella never has us surprised. Her runway is always packed with Russian looking models with heavy charcoal-black eyeliner. Sometimes, I feel as if Donatella is reproducing her own self on the catwalks. This season’s couture collection represented a palette of pastel colors instead of last year’s more flamboyant and flashy colors. In addition, the collection uses shiny satin textile and the few studs are never too far away to see. Lady Gaga, new face of Versace and dear friend to Donatella Versace, was proud to attend on the first row.

The typical dress

Very popstar, but I loved it

Lady Gaga at the show

After its second to last fashion show in 1954, Schiaparelli finally declares the house open for business again with its new creative director, Marco Zanini. The designer has left his previous role at Rochas to assume his new responsibility. Much of the collection was inspired from the archives of this heritage brand, “although not too much” stresses Marco. “It’s very important this isn’t too literal”. One of my favorite pieces was the huge ornate sleeves.

Christian Dior
Unlike Chanel, and you will see it later on, Christian Dior’s collection included glittering trainer shoes as well as fancy heels that extended with a strap till under the knee. The collection was decorated with different versions of perforated garment. In some outfits, the perforation gave it a sporty feel and it resembled mesh fabric. While in others, the perforation were bigger on silk and it depicted more sophistication and it resembled guipure.

Giambattista Valli
I loved Giambattista Valli last year, and this year they have officially become one of my top favorites. In this collection, most of the brand’s work was done on the lower part of the outfit, or the skirt. Likewise, the mix of colors were perfectly matched and cheerful, which is really an expectation but also I believe it is a rule of thumb for the Spring/ Summer season. And by cheerful, I don’t necessarily mean flashy and flamboyant.


Chanel worked the tailleur as perfect as always, and of course, they have added a couple of long dresses along side. It was Cara Delevigne who opened the show and made its closure. Also, this season, the show’s set wasn’t the only surprise: embroidered, jewelled and lasered-to-look-like-lace trainers hopped on the boundless staircases beneath the vast glass domes of the Grand Palais. Sad news, although Chanel sells ready-to-wear trainers already, those dream couture shoes are not going to be sold over the counter.

Stephane Rolland
Designer Stephane Rolland used monochrome as well as a warm yolk-yellow color in his collection. He decorated his silhouettes with a huge, distorted and twisted peplum. to add volume and drama to his silhouettes. As much as on the waistline, Stephane added volume and drama occasionally on the shoulders.

Bouchra Jarrar
Maybe Bouchra Jarrar was mistaken with the season, or maybe she is spending her summer in either the poles, her collection included fur, and not just once. Yet, I loved the jackets, so great to party!

Alexandre Vauthier
This collection depicted a game of texture, sculpted volume, and warm colors. Have a look at the details of the woven leather in the crimson red dress!

Julien Fournie
Another favorite of this season was Julien Fournie. In his collection, he accomplishes my dreams of a little girl; he represented the woman stuck in between the role of a ballerina, a princess, and even a goddess with those 3D volume inspired wings added on the short sleeved dress and the jacket. I felt that the designer included these subjects into his outfits, judging from the palette of colors he used cleverly (pale pink, lilac, ice blue), the voluminous skirt appearing like a reversed rose, and the glitter, showing underneath the sheer silk in the last dress.

Maison Martin Margiela
In contrast to last year, this season’s collection of Martin Margiela is much more interesting. Yet, the model’s faces was still covered with a mask. Maison Martin Margiela pulls a statement by saying it’s about the clothes and not the models. Don’t get thrilled if you see for instance Cara Delevigne or Karlie Kloss, enjoy the fashion show for its collection. Graphics were important in this collection; they were present as flowers and abstract assemblage of elements. My favorite was the tattoo shirt.

Elie Saab
Elie Saab on the other hand, focused on making beautiful dresses whether it is in color, beaded, in sheer or lace. 

Jean Paul Gaultier
Not too far from last year’s inspiration of India and Gypsies, this year, designer Jean Paul Gaultier lived the concept of the butterfly throughout most of his collection. For example, he implies his idea by integrating the wings of the butterfly on the collar of his suits or he adds volume dramatically on the shoulders. Like a near tradition, Jean Paul invited Dita Von Teese to flutter on his catwalk wearing an actual butterfly.

Dita Von Teese

I wasn’t utterly inspired with amazement when I saw Valentino’s collection. The dresses did not appeal to me as the ones from last year, which had a particular emphasis on grillwork lace. This Spring and Summer collection used darker and warmer tones that better suited an autumn spirit. Nevertheless, I still appreciated the almost transparent sheer silk dresses.

Adam and Eve dress

First model on the catwalk

Viktor and Rolf
Viktor and Rolf’s collection was too much indulged into the world of a ballerina. They even faked ruffles. Maybe the sole detail that I appreciated from this line was the wrapover dress in pale pink.

Drawn ruffles

Wrapover or "cache-coeur" in French.

Zuhair Murad
I watched Zuhair Murad’s collection on this video. There was beautiful dresses as always, but notice the gold leaf belt, I believe it was irrelevant and incohesive with the dresses. The predominant colors in the collection were lilac, aqua blue, and pale gold. I loved the fluffy dress at 6:28-6:32 min, the shark peplum on the dress that follows with butterfly shoulders, 10:45 to 11:03 was another cool moment, and at 13:35, watch the bride coming out with a round of applause.