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Authentic Lebanese dining with a trendy twist

By Shabana H. Shaikh, October (2009) edition of bazaar
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Karam Cafe
Karam Cafe

Lebanese cuisine has always seemed to me like an undisputed leader in the food circle certainly showing no sign of being pushed off the culinary runway anytime soon. So, we, being harbingers-of-all-things-good-and-here-to-stay, will add to its glorious repertoire by singing in the arrival of one of Kuwait’s newest Lebanese food joints – the Karam Café, which opened at the Avenues Mall in March this year.

On my way to Karam Café, I realized that when you walk through the maze-like Avenues Mall (yeah, yeah, I am not mall savvy) in search of a restaurant, you’re genuinely seduced by sights and smells that start your stomach growling, looking forward to your upcoming feast. Fortunately, I was bemused with the sight – a funky, spidery name-sign - indicating my destination. I was also pleased to take in the tasteful contemporary décor of the interior, which eluded an air of hospitality, rather than cold sophistication. Karam Café, which takes after the family name of the Karams of Beirut, has always taken pride in offering the essence of Lebanese cuisine.

The Karams started off in the 1960s with their grass-roots diner Karam Beirut in Lebanon and being principally keen on authenticity, serving fine quality food to their local patrons was their priority for nearly four decades. “The name Karam Beirut also reflects the culinary riches and bounty that its namesake city offers, as Karam means generosity in Arabic,” says Sahar, Karam Café’s Marketing Manager.

Today, the Karams and their partners are considered owners of some of the leading restaurants in the Middle East. Karam Café is the second to open outside of Lebanon following Karam Café in the UAE.

Now let’s see what Karam Café is offering us here in Kuwait. According to Patrick, the restaurant manager and my host for the evening, “Most people think hommous is hommous or kebab is kebab no matter where or how it is served. While that may be true theoretically, what they aren’t aware of is the authenticity of the ingredients used in their preparations, which makes one unique from the other.”

It is easy to see why Patrick manages Karam; his love for Lebanese cuisine is quiet evident.

And yet, there I was wondering what could possibly be new about another Lebanese restaurant? I decided to be unbiased for the next hour or so. With Patrick’s careful selection of some of the items on the menu, I sampled Karam’s kitchen produce, and for food, Karam Café gets my nod of approval. Although mostly familiar to the palate, each dish has a unique and refreshing taste. My favourite pick was their fatayers, prepared with a little twist to the conventional fatayer. Karam Café’s unique salad selection, besides the better known fattoush and taboula is specifically recommended. Another must try is their kebabs which were juicy, well-made with the finest ingredients and simply delectable.

It was evident that the food was prepared with careful skill and indeed keeping in mind quality and freshness of its ingredients. Each of Karam Café’s regional chefs is trained under the Master Chef of Karam Beirut. “At Karam, dishes are first created, tasted and perfected before the cost involved is discussed,” says Patrick, which says a lot about the food they serve to their guests irrespective of whether you are at the restaurant in Beirut, UAE or Kuwait. Even my flute of Kiwi juice was made of five pulpy, sweet kiwis!

Karam Café not only concerns itself with authentic food, but is also reasonably priced without compromising on quality.

Lebanese cuisine has long been a favorite among food connoisseurs. Apparently, Lebanese, like Levant cuisine in general is regarded as one of the world's healthiest cuisines because of the use of minimally processed vegetarian recipes, in addition to an abundance of fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and nuts, as well as extra virgin olive oil. A unique cultural history influenced by the Ottoman Turks for nearly five centuries has inspired a distinctly modern Lebanese cuisine.

The Ottoman Empire, also known by its contemporaries as the Turkish Empire, was an empire that lasted from about 1299 to 1923. It was the Treaty of Lausanne by the Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, followed by the French colonial presence in Lebanon, that helped make Lebanese food such a popular Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

Karam operates three brands of restaurants in the Middle East; their standalone high-end Karam Beirut brand, the quick-service Karam Express brand and the new trend Karam Café. Keep a look out for Karam Beirut, which is most likely to be launched in Kuwait before the end of the year, promising effortless quality that makes a lasting impression.

Karam Café is located near Magic Planet at the Avenues Mall. Contact them at 22597903


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