Can you believe that such a little place would house so much magic? With a name paying homage to one of the Levant’s favorite ingredient staples, Pomegranate Molasses, Debs El Reman delivers the promise of taking you back to memories spent in rural areas of Lebanon, eating amazing food in a cozy atmosphere.
Nestled within the “basement” level of the outdoor Miral complex in Mahboula, this intimate eatery might be missed between the hustle and bustle of other options available. But not with its vibrant signage! The aquamarine blending with a rosy pomegranate and artful text allow diners to come in with open arms and to settle into the equally colorful and comfortable interior of the place.
Adorned with seating boasting communal simplicity, knick knacks of jars lining the walls along with traditional Levantine style jugs and the soft crooning of the beloved Fairuz playing the background. Anyone hailing from the fertile crescent will feel like they’re at home, stepping into their grandmother’s house and about to enjoy a meal of their lifetime.
The menu is a storybook in itself, with so many options to choose from. Starting with drinks, I was greeted with not one, but two different concoctions to try. A classic Jullab with lovely pistachios floating atop, and a rosewater cocktail decorated with pretty petals and took me back to the mountains of Lebanon with just one sip. Served in mason jars for a modern touch, both were refreshing and enjoyable.
And then, as though my grandmother was in the room, a plate of something marvelous was placed before me. “Shawarma Baklava, ma’am,” the waiter announced proudly. Taken aback, as the two regional favorites are scarcely even spoken of in the same sentence, I was intrigued. And there it was – the first crunch that made me realize that this was my new favorite way to eat shawarma. Encased in the crunchy dough that is usually used for syrupy sweet baklawa, chunks of tender shawarma meat were expertly filled and accompanied by a classic breadless fattouch salad. Drizzed with the quintessential tahini sauce, this was truly a treat not to be forgotten.
A fusion inspired salad was then presented: Halloumi Deyay (chicken) Salad – yet again, an unlikely combination. It works, though, especially with a pesto pairing and the careful, subtle grilling of the chicken. Expert tip: layer this salad on your fork as much as possible when eating, to really experience all the flavors – you won’t be disappointed.
Though I was itching to order my main, the chef had to grace me with one of the house specialties – a sample from their wood oven baked manakish. Served in the style of pizza, I was privileged to try both the Jebne Harra (cheese) AND the Sujok. If you’re judging my gluttony, I don’t care. They were both amazing, giving me the best of both worlds: the presentation of Italian pizza, and the tastes of the Arab Meditterannean, reminding me that as this restaurant reaps, we aren’t so different from our neighbors at the opposite side of the sea after all.
This was reaffirmed when a Ftirit Bakleh in the style of an Italian Stromboli was placed before me. Filled with vegetables and presenting wonderfully doughy exterior, I took a bite, allowing the cheese to ooze and the taste of the tangy pomegranate molasses to engulf my palate as a reminder of why this place is named after the beloved Levantine nectar to begin with. Thumbs up, chef.
But then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. A little clay pot magically appeared without my consent – and boy, was it worth it. Filled to the brim with a ragout of sorts, containing succulent chunks of halloumi cheese, eggplant and – oh wow – kafta? I took a bite and realized I was in trouble. This fusion dish reminiscent of Lebanon’s Turkish forefathers was so addictive, and gave my own mother’s kafta a run for her money. Don’t tell her I said that.
At this point, I was pleading for the food to stop, but was conflicted. It was all so good! So comforting! Fairuz herself was beckoning me to eat more with her soulful words dancing in the background, but I couldn’t.
I could, however, do with something sweet.
Halva Mousse, or Layale Lebnan? Why choose! I was gifted both, and after coming this far, I didn’t look back. With a bite of the reimagined, traditional Arabic sweet, using a perfect mold of creamy Halva (a sweet sesame paste sweet) encrusted with pistachio and dusted with sneaky chunks of Turkish delight and homemade pomegranate sugar, I was in heaven. Then, I took a bite of the even creamier, fruit filled parfait that is Layale Lebnan, and I had reached absolute Nirvana.
Turkish coffee was the only way to end this experience, and I half expected someone to pop up and offer to read my cup. They never did, but that’s alright. It was relaxing and authentic all the same.
Debs El Reman is an absolute example of a gem that should not be overlooked. Their menu is bursting with options from classic indulgent breakfasts, to light sandwiches, and reimagined, deconstructed Shaami favorites hailing from the lands of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Turkey. This is indeed a beautiful experience and with a touch of the right music and even just one or two of your favorite people, it’s sure to make your list of go-to places.
Believe me when I say, city dwellers: it’s worth the visit.
Debs El Reman is located on the bottom level of Miral Complex, off the coast of Mangaf past the Hilton Resort. Call them at 2228 2439 for more information and follow them on Instagram @debs_alruman.