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Of all the Middle Eastern cuisines, Lebanese is certainly the most exciting, and luckily for us, there are many great authentic restaurants in Budapest where you can enjoy unique and traditional Lebanese flavours, as well as genuine hospitality. What these places have in common is that, in addition to the wonderful surroundings, you can taste hot and cold mezze, mainly lamb and chicken dishes, and desserts to sweeten even the gloomiest day. And for sweet or savoury, spicy crunchy snacks, head to RIFAI Premium Snacks, another spot specialising in Lebanese flavours.
Baalbek is a lively, bright, and sunny restaurant on Belgrád rakpart, where you can sample oriental cuisine in an excellent atmosphere. The restaurant's name evokes both the Lebanese Sun City and the famous landscape by Hungarian avant-garde painter Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka. It is a place where traditional Lebanese flavours meet the panoramic view of the Danube and legendary Arab hospitality. Note the unique hand-painted wallpaper, with motifs and surface treatment reminiscent of a sophisticated silk kimono fabric, where elegance and design combine with tradition in the interior. The hot and cold mezze menu is plentiful, and it's worth trying one of the specialities of the place, the mixed mezze plate with hummus, spicy muhammara, and cheese rolls, among others. The main courses and grilled dishes include a variety of lamb dishes, from minced lamb rice to lamb meatballs, and of course, vegetarians can also find something to their liking. There are also two children's menus if you're coming with the family. And what better way to end the meal than with a truly authentic dessert, such as Om Ali with coconut, cream, and raisin puffed pastry, or a traditional milk pudding with rose water and pistachios, accompanied by a true Arabic coffee? In addition to Lebanese dishes, they also offer a selection of shisha, or hookah, which is unique in Budapest.
WLB tip: Their VIP room can also be booked for bigger events.
Mozata is an exciting blend of an authentic Lebanese bistro, bakery, and speciality café in the city centre. They serve the best of Lebanese cuisine, including one of the best falafel in Budapest, and the texture and flavour of their hummus is like a trip to the Middle East. Not only is the flavour authentic, but so is the decor, which combines modern interiors with elegance. The varied Lebanese dishes faithfully preserve Lebanon's rich gastronomic heritage. The wide range of tempting hot and cold mezze is the perfect choice to share with friends or family over a good conversation. All their meat products have a certification of halal and they offer over 40 vegetarian dishes, including vegan and gluten-free options. Their in-house bakery is also a special feature, where the irresistible smell of freshly baked pita and unique mana'eesh (flatbread) wafts through the room, the latter available in a variety of flavours, stuffed or as flatbreads, spread with spices, sauces, and olive oil. When it comes to sweets, you can't go wrong with the rose sponge cake, the classic milk pudding, or the rakakat, rolls of fried dough stuffed with fruit, dried dates, halaweh and pistachio. In terms of drinks, traditional Lebanese soft drinks, lemonades, signature cocktails, and a selection of Lebanese and Hungarian wines are available. As the first European winner of the LEED Gold certification, Mozata also pays great attention to sustainability.
WLB tip: Mozata's special mint and sage black teas and their special coffee are also worth a try.
Located in the city centre, on Semmelweis utca in the 5th district, Byblos features special flavours reflecting the richness of Levantine and Lebanese cuisine. They offer a harmonious blend of traditional recipes, with a modern twist in each dish. Both lovers of authentic flavours and those who are new to oriental cuisine will be impressed. As well as flavours, they are committed to quality, whether it's a kebab or a mezze plate. The vine leaves stuffed with rice, or yalanji, are a must-have, as is the crispy falafel with tahini sauce or the cheese in crispy filo pastry. The lentil soup and the spicy shrimp soup are also worth trying on a chilly day, but you can also indulge your taste buds with a lamb kofta, a spicy grilled chicken sandwich, or a seabream fillet with harra sauce. There is also a wide selection of grilled dishes, available in 2 or 4-person options. At the end of the meal, make sure you try the kunafa, a Levantine cheese with semolina and vanilla ice cream, or the Byblos Baklava, also with ice cream, made even more magical by pistachios. On December 31st, Byblos offers an extra New Year's Eve menu to bid farewell to 2023.
WLB tip: The owners of Byblos have recently opened Jouri near Byblos, where Moroccan cuisine takes centre stage.
Special oil seeds are a cornerstone of Middle Eastern culinary culture. Seeds are used as appetizers, guest desserts or just to add some crunch to dishes, but even festive tables are unimaginable without seeds. Founded in 1948, Lebanese RIFAI has remained true to Middle Eastern traditions and is committed to offering hand-picked, specially roasted, authentic, premium delicacies. Their products have finally been available in Hungary since October. RIFAI Premium Snacks, located in the Aréna Mall, currently offers 26 different seed specialities for takeaway or on-the-spot crunching. The seed warmer keeps the seeds at a constant 30 degrees Celsius, which, when eaten warm, offers a special experience, as do the special seasonings. The range includes cashews, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, and more, with flavours such as truffle, coconut, cheese, thyme, chilli; soy cashew; pistachios with lemon or chilli, or almonds with lemon, smoked, sriracha or salted caramel. They also sell exotic dried fruits, premium dates, stuffed dates, and malbans. For Christmas, they also offer a wide range of personalised gift boxes filled with seeds, dried fruit, and sweets. From 2024, they will also offer RIFAI's own roasted Lebanese coffees and freshly made almond, hazelnut, and cashew creams on the premises.
WLB tip: If you can't make it to the RIFAI at the Aréna Mall in person, you can order online.
(Cover photo: Baalbek)