Beit Wakil (Aleppo): A sophisticated dining experience
If you do not stay at the 450-year-old Beit Wakil Hotel, you should definitely have lunch or dinner at its restaurant.
In addition to being a fabulous hotel, the Beit Wakil is also a great restaurant. The courtyard of the restaurant is very romantic, with a fountain and lemon trees in the center. Prices are not listed on the menu, but the bill will not be too heavy on the western wallet.
Al Zeitouna Restaurant: Damascus night
Al Zeitouna is a lovely restaurant in an old house in the Christian quarter with a beautiful central courtyard. A perfect setting for a balmy evening.
Favorite Dish: The food here is the typical range of Syrian cuisine with a wide range of mezze (the muhammera is particularly good) and the usual grills. Alcohol is served with some very good Lebanese wines being available.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Historical Travel
Casa Mia - Palmyra: Casa Mia - Palmyra
A friendly restaurant in a street north of the Palmyra museum (well sign-posted) with homemade food of the day. The restaurant has a nice courtyard, the food is tasty, and the the prices are modest. The best value for money I got in Palmyra. Emil Butragueno, former striker of the Spanish national soccer team, once dined here with his family (he left an autographed shirt and a family photo)!
A word on Palmyran restaurants in general: with the exception of Casa Mia and Hotel Ishtar, good restaurants were rather hard to find (didn`t try the food in Hotel Zenobia though). For the most part, I encountered buffet-style venues with rather substandard food, and quite often overpriced.
Al Cantara - Aleppo: Al Cantara - Aleppo
This restaurant in an old villa in the center of Jdedayde quarter serves both Syrian and Italian food. I can`t vouch for the Italian food, but the Syrian food was mouthwatering. I especially recommend the meatballs in cherry sauce ! It is slightly more expensive than average but absolutely worth the price !
Al kasr al wali - Aleppo: Al kasr al wali - Aleppo
According to my hosts the best restaurant in Aleppo, and there is some truth in this claim. The restaurant is in the courtyard of an historic villa in the Jdedayde quarter (Al Arbaaeen Street). Impeccable service, gorgeous food, and still reasonable prices (though more expensive than average). If a band is playing, there is a surcharge of 10%.
Naranj - Damascus: Naranj - Damascus
Probably the most expensive restaurant in Damascus, but absolutely worth the price. Located near the roman triumphal arch in the middle of "straight street" (southern oldtown), this restaurant has great rooftop tables and even better food. The price for a meal can be up to 1200 - 1500 Syrian Pounds, but it is worth it.
Al Kawali - Damascus: Al Kawanil - Damascus
In my opinion the best restaurant in Damascus, hands down: great location in an old city palace along the western stretch of the "via recta" in the southern Oldtown of Damascus, good service, mouthwatering dishes and unbeatable prices - a meal with starters and drinks might cost you around 500-600 Syrian Pounds. From the photos in the lobby I recognized that former U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry once visited the place.
El Jallab: see the bread being made
This restaurant on the Damascus -Latakia Road is a popular stop for drivers. On one site are counters and ovens where bread, pizza and samosas are made. It was interesting to see the young chefs making and twirling the dough and using wooden paddles to put and remove the bread or pizza into the ovens.
Favorite Dish: We ordered a number of appetizers and then grilled lamb, chicken and kofta. Meat dishes cost from 100-200 Syrian lira. Mezze dishes from 50-100 Syr. lira.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Food and Dining
Four Nourias - Hama: Four Nourias - Hama
A nice open-air restaurant with a good range of dishes located at the river Orontes opposite four waterwheels (nourias), hence the name. Very popular with the locals. The only downside is that it is someway off the beaten path 20 minutes walking distance to the east from the Oldtown, so you should use a taxi to get there.
AL Kamal restaurant - fantastic: Al Kamal restaurant
Amazinkly wanderfull extraortinaryy -berfect restaurant!!!!
Love the food- wanderfoul for food lovers - berfect services.
All dishes are absoloutely special. Very good prices - not expencive.
Favorite Dish: - Koupes-
-stake with white sause-
-salad with smooth white cheese and dressing-Related to:
- Family Travel
- Luxury Travel
Vegetarianism is not typical in Syria. In hotels and restaurants accustomed to foreigners people will usually know what you mean but otherwise you may have to explain what it means. Luckily Syrian people are very accommodating and there are lots of vegetarian dishes on offer.
As meals consist of lots of small dishes you can select those that are vegetarian to make up a satisfying meal. Typical choices could involve mixed stewed or friend vegetables, hummous, aubergine dips, fuul (a dish of beans) and falafel. You won't go hungry. If you go to a restaurant aimed at foreigners or a fancy restaurant there will be specific vegetarian dishes and at smaller local restaurants pick from the 'side dishes', which are anyway big enough to fill you up!
In the markets you can buy a huge variety of nuts, fruits and dried fruit as snacks. Freshly squeezed juice is sold in the streets and is delicious and cheap- including pomegranite juice which is hugely expensive in England!
Eating at houses might be more tricky as people eat meat a lot and assume that visitors would want to eat their idea of a good meal- lots of meat! Definately tell your hosts in advance and ensure that they understand that you want no meat at all. It shouldn't be too tricky as they can make extra 'side dishes' for you to eat! Don't wait until the food is brought out as they will be upset if you refuse it on sight and might think it's more to do with their cooking...
Some people asked 'why?' and were so astounded that I might have been the first vegetarian they met! Have a few answers ready to avoid looking like a complete loon.
Trying to avoid eating too much...
Seriously, this is tricky. People want to ply you with food, particularly if you are in their home. The food is fantastic but if your appetitie is smaller than that of an elephant you may have problems! Refusing food is rude so you have to be a bit cunning:
- Eat SLOWLY. This way everyone else finishes and starts concentrating on plying you with food when you are still hungry!
- Profess an interest in the lighter dishes- once you say you like a particular dish your host will keep offering it to you or placing the best bits of that dish on your plate. If you eat there again they will probably cook it again! So if you say your favourite dish is the bowl of figs dripping in syrup you may regret your keenness on your next dentist trip... If you're going to say you like something make sure it's moreish and light!
- Start saying you're full up early as they won't believe you the first fourteen times you insist that, really, you can't take another bite!
- Don't go to someone's home for dinner unless you really are hungry. Don't eat beforehand!
- You'll be expected to at least try every dish- if something really doesn't appeal do make a show of having tried it once then start praising something else and switch to that instead!
But eating at people's homes is a fantastic way to sample the best food in Syria, get to know people in a relaxed manner and make people happy as people take great pride in their cooking, so it's worth putting on a few pounds!
When Eating with Syrians
- Typical meals are very social with lots of dishes which are shared between everyone. You will have bread (round and flat) with which to pick up food and eat it. If you prefer cutlery and a plate do ask! Often people would assume I wanted cutlery.
- In homes people may sit at a table or on a mat on the floor to eat. Men and women may eat separately even in their own home. As a female visitor you might be invited to join the men or the women- as a male visitor it will almost certainly be the men!
- The various dishes will be laid out and you pick up food with pieces of bread to eat. There will be meat, vegetable and salad dishes as well as some dips, such as hummous.
- The host will offer you pieces of food by placing them next to you or on your plate, if you have one. The host has selected these as the best bits so do eat them!
- You will be plied with food. I really can't emphasise this enough. People want you to eat a lot and it's rude to refuse food. I've written some tips for those who have small appetites!
- After the meal there may be fruit and sweets. There will definately be tea. Don't leave before the tea as this is also rude!
Bekdash, Damascus: Incredible Ice Cream Experience
A throng always surrounds the doorway. Inside a hundred people are seated at long, cafeteria type tables. You can watch the ice cream being created, pounded into submission by three men by a scaled-up version of a pestle and mortar. It is scooped into huge vats and waiters serve generous bowls by the dozen, loading twenty servings onto trays before heading down the aisles to dish them out. Virtually everyone has vanilla with pistacchio topping but chocolate and strawberry are also available. The server always gave me a huge serving of each with a wink.
Castle Cafe?????: Camp Crac!
Next to Crac des Chevalier there is a cafe ---a huge eating hall attached to a hotel(?).
In here you indulge in ....in....chicken and chips ----but not as you know them! The cauliflower side dish is soaked in a herbie oil before it is fried. Bliss. Very unhealthy. Bliss though!
If this wasn't enough, the Divine (remember the music/film star ---the big guy with the pencilled eyebrows and the huge dresses) styled waiter is so camp that it's like a floor-show.
The whole food thing is really 2* but the experience is 5* ---unforgetable.
Favorite Dish: The cauliflower. Mmmmmm.
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