With the arrival of the Holy month of Ramadan, we’re invited to celebrate tradition. Whether in adorning our homes with Ramadan’s famous ‘fanous’, gathering friends and family to experience the month’s rituals, or even breaking the daily fast with your loved ones—tradition is everything. At Franji Branji in Al Bida’a, modern Levantine cuisine celebrates these values that we hold dearly to our hearts in the form of cleverly creative dishes. More importantly, the restaurant’s rendition of classic dishes also reminds us that the flavors of home are best presented with simplicity in mind.
With the above combination successfully mastered, the balance between old and new is achieved with Franji Branji’s delightful story. Inspired by non-identical twins Franji and Branji’s life journeys, Franji traveled the world to discover new cultures while Branji’s love for his mother’s cooking and the simple life in the country kept him close to home. Upon completing their studies, they both returned to their home town and contemplated their next move. Deciding on celebrating their experiences, beautifully blending Franji’s acquired taste with Branji’s passion for tradition, a concept was born. They revamped their grandparent’s old kiosk, and developed an innovative concept that served up both classic and modern interpretations of their favorite dishes.
Today, Franji Branji’s retro-inspired décor will instantly make you feel like you’ve journeyed back in time. Stunning handcrafted Levantine tiles aged with time are juxtaposed against exposed concrete floors, the patio doors open up to an uplifting outdoor dining area, and the interior will always leave you smiling. While you listen to singer Fairuz’s soothing sounds softly echoing throughout the restaurant, you can lay back in the classic salon chairs, gaze at the pendant lights made out of old food cans and even walk through the old kiosk doors as you head towards the gorgeous old bread oven. Vintage posters, catchy slogans like the iconic Lebanese phrase ‘Hi, Kifak, Ca Va?’ line the walls, and your journey up the stairs to the upper dining level will introduce you to Franji and Branji’s definitions of today’s most used social media apps via quirky artworks.
Personally, I’ve always been searching for a dining destination such as Franji Branji. My friends’ faces would turn up in disdain when they see me topping off a plain man’oosheh with camembert cheese and honey instead of a classic akkawi cheese. So, dear reader, you could only imagine this writer’s happiness when she spotted a beef shawarma alongside a Margherita pizza-inspired man’oosheh on Franji Branji’s menu! From traditional Levantine mezzeh to smartly crafted creations and delicious desserts, Franji Branji’s menu will surely impress.
We started off our Franji Branji experience with a reimagined Fattouch salad. Instead of the classic fried pitta bread usually served with this refreshing green salad that is topped with with a pomegranate dressing, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw mini cheese spring rolls beautifully sitting on top of the salad. We also sampled the Franji Branji signature salad that beautifully captures the classic sour Labneh in a modern light. Rounded spheres of Labneh are pistachio encrusted, and stuffed with dates, offering a beautiful sweet and sour flavor that is offset by a balsamic vinaigrette on Mesclun greens. I’m already hooked!
As for perfect sharing dishes, we recommend the Franji Branji man’oosheh with pan-sautéed tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella from their saj offerings. If you’re in the mood for a classic Fatteh, the Fattet Kebbeh (who doesn’t love a classic Kebbeh?) and the soul-comforting Chich Barak that comes with plenty of those addictive meat dumplings cooked to perfection in a minted, garlic yogurt sauce, will do the trick! Fatteh lovers, fear not, as Franji Branji also offers a classic Hummus Fatteh, as well as delightful Kafta option. We also loved the Franji Branji signature cheesy spinach dip, as well as the Kafta pan prepped in the oven with one large minced meat patty infused with onion and parsley and topped with grated fried potatoes. With every bite, we were delivered with memories of inimitable provincial dining, coupled with an imaginative nod to the present fusion of flavors.
When it came to our main dishes, we really wanted to save our classic mixed grill experience for another trip to Franji Branji. Instead, we chose to dine on beef shawarma that was marinated to tender perfection with a fragrant parsley, tomato, onion, and sumac mix, and a succulent Kafta Burger. Topped with slightly nutty caramelized onions, tomato, and a generous dollop of mint and Tahini (sesame paste) sauce the traditional way, we relished the fact that we were enjoying the minced meat patty, usually served skewered, in such an unexpected presentation. Falafel lovers, fear not, Franji Branji also has an excellent burger rendition on this traditional favorite.
Mains completed, the desserts at Franji Branji captured our hearts. Prepared with a playful touch, we absolutely inhaled the Vermicelli Fondant Cake. Hidden at the core of what appears as a timeless Levantine dessert is a warm chocolate fondant, topped off with vanilla ice cream, crunchy caramel popcorn and finished off with chocolate sauce. If choux pastry tickles your fancy, then this Franji Branji signature dessert will excite the senses as the expertly prepared choux pastry is filled with aromatic orange blossom and rose water-infused pastry cream, topped with a homemade strawberry jam and crushed pistachio. Did we mention that they also serve up scrumptious Nutella-filled Qatayef? Trust us: the chefs at Franji Branji have perfected their dessert menu—just remember to order a delightful café blanc or classic Turkish coffee to end your exceptional experience.
Franji Branji is located in Remaal at Al Bida’a. For more information call 2226 3142 and follow @Franji_Branji on Instagram.