Karam Beirut

There’s something startlingly classy about Karam Beirut. You just don’t expect a mall restaurant to have table linen. If only it had a fourth wall, you would never know you were in The Dubai Mall. The service is also more fitting for a cheery family restaurant than a shopping centre outlet. As a food critic, it sometimes happens that my dates will glance at the menu then toss it away, throw up their hands and tell me to ‘just sort it out’. This is what happened at Karam Beirut. Knowing how filling Lebanese meals can be, I opted to limit our mezze order to just three dishes, and then split a couple of meaty mains. We started with hendbe – cooked dandelion greens that were then chilled and topped with caramelised onions. I loved the dish for being a light note in an otherwise leaden cuisine, and the crisp onions gave it an addictive edge. Because I wanted an excuse to sample the bread, which came out appropriately downy, I ordered some mohamara, a smouldering little dip made with chillies and ground walnuts. It reminded us a bit of a dry tomato pesto. We also downed some fried kibbeh that had been given an especially amorous kiss of cumin. As good as the mezze were, they didn’t compare to the house specialty – the kebab karam. The tube of ground lamb was blended with pistachios before it was grilled, and the nuts had a magical effect on the meat, imbuing it with a buttery texture. The drool from the kebabs mixed with our own, and I noticed in my date the same look of unadulterated pleasure worn by a cat sleeping in the sun. Next we had samke harra, or spicy fish. It wasn’t the most appetising thing to look at; the creamy sauce that covered the hammour fillet had an odd yellowish hue and a slightly curdled texture. It’s rare that the presentation is at complete odds with the physical taste of a dish, yet this was the case. The marinade was wickedly sharp – the kind of zest that beats caffeine hands down as a pick-me-up. We finished up with an assortment of baklava. The pastries were bite-sized and flaky. Throughout the duration of our meal, we had almost forgotten we were in the middle of a shopping centre. It was the bill – almost twice the price of our favourite Lebanese local– that brought us back to reality. Karam Beirut may have offered a non-mall-like setting, but they were evidently still paying mall rents. As I settled up, I realised I wasn’t going to be making any special trips to eat here, just because there are just as good and more reasonable Lebanese bites to be had in Bur Dubai or Deira. But in the event that I found myself thirsting for a houmous in the bowels of The Dubai Mall, and with a large enough group to split the difference, Karam Beirut would be my first stop. The bill (for two) 1x Henbe Dhs22 1x Mohammara Dhs24 1x Fried kebbeh Dhs25 1x Kebab Karam Dhs52 1x Samke Harra Dhs69 1x Baklava Dhs28 Total (excluding service) Dhs220

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