Archive | Reviews

Review – Munchease Khaldeh

On the highway from Beirut to Saida there probably not a single restaurant or sandwich joint worth seeking for good food except for this burger place called Munchease.

Until last summer I never thoigh of checking it out even though a couple of friends kept talking about how good it is, but it wasn’t until they once dragged there me that I knew what I was missing!

I know there are several good burger places in Beirut but Munchease is probably the most underrated one among them. Passing on the highway you can’t miss it after COOP as it stands out with the wooden design and cool ambiance.

The menu is straight forward and is divided into 4 sections, starters, subs, burgers, and hot dogs. By now I can claim I tried almost everything they have and was never left disappointed except for when it gets too crowded inside (especially on weekends) even though the friendly waiters try their best to cope with everybody.

The portions are in general quite generous, and you can sometimes get enough with appetizers alone whenever you do not intend to go on an eating spree! My personal favorites are the mozzarella sticks, onion rings and chicken wings, and although they’re all fried items but they always served crispy and taste “clean” (or non-oily). I highly recommend you try the chicken wings by the way because they’re as good if not better than those served at popular american diners in town.

On to the burgers. They’re good, trust me, and I won’t go on to describe the bun and the patty because they’re just good! However, one thing you have to know about the people at Munchease is that they like their items to be overloaded with sauces and cheese. So the burgers they serve will always be messy (good luck avoiding to drip) and quite heavy with all the cheese inside. I personally always feel full with their decadent combo meals and never managed to finish the fries at the end.

For starters, I recommend you go with my all time favorite “Munchease Special” since it has the least amount of cheese, and make sure to try their different dips since they all taste good especially the honey mustard.

Price wise, value for money is quite fair compared to other places, a fulfilling meal for two with drinks will set you back around $20-25 which is far less that what you’d pay at other popular diners or burger joints.

Long story short, Munchease is worth the 10 minutes drive from Beirut to change from the usual places you’re used to, and with the summer season ahead, it’s also one of the ideal places to hit on your way back from the southern beach resorts.

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I’m Absolutely Loving Karrenn.com

Searching for a new car and settling on the right one for you is never an easy task in Lebanon because auto ads always lack transparency. Most of the time, the advertised prices you see on billboards correspond to the base models and are exclusive of VAT and registration fees, moreover the displayed cars turned to be the fully loaded edition which eventually costs more money.

That’s where comes the role of Karrenn.com, a website that promises to cut through the advertising lingo and provide simple facts and figures about the newly released models. It has been around for several months now but I personally didn’t really notice it until I saw the new 0% billboards for the 2017 Nissan X-Trail and wanted to have more information about it, and then saw their recent article about the same ad. Their approach is quite straight forward, they provide a comparison between the advertised price and the final one including VAT and registration, along with complete specs of the car you will be paying for. Moreover, they list any other available editions with their corresponding final prices and provide you with their recommendation to whether buy or not. For example, in the case of the 2017 X-Trail, it would be a good decision to buy one with the offer RYMCO is currently running.

I also went over other articles they posted and noticed you can easily make a preliminary decision about the right car for you with the figures they list. So in case you are searching to buy a new car, I highly recommend check Karrenn.com and spare yourself phone calls and visits to the dealerships in town.

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Smurfs: The Lost Village (Arabic)

If you grew up during the 80s in Lebanon then you definitely remember watching The Smurfs in Arabic! I personally used to to enjoy them as a kid with Joseph Nano, Samira Baroudi and other Lebanese actors voicing the smurfs and Gargamel.

Smurfs: The Lost Village was released on March 30 in Lebanon and is currently showing in two languages, English and Arabic. I opted to watch it in Arabic to see how does it compare to the old episodes we used to watch, and because a new character (Smurf Willow) is voiced by Lebanese Raya Abirached whom I admire so much.

Despite the fact that voice actors have eventually changed, I totally loved The Lost Village an felt it was true to the Smurf spirit. I also had my 4-year-old kid with me, and judging by his impressions once the movie was over it is fair to say he had a blast watching it. The movie follows Smurfette and three of her smurf friends as they venture away from their village to discover a new colony of smurfs, with of course Gargamel trying to capture them at every possible chance.

It goes without saying that Smurfs: The Lost Village is more suitable for the younger audience, so if you have kids this is currently the best movie to pick among the ones showing. And needless to say, watching it in Arabic is guaranteed to bring you some childhood flashbacks!

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Society Bistro – French Cuisine at Extremely Affordable Prices

Society Bistro at Saifi Suites Hotel is a french restaurant that has been in business for several years but became a serious hot spot almost one year ago after dramatically reducing its menu prices. My friends kept trying to drag me there since last summer but I only managed to go for the first time two months ago and totally regretted not doing so earlier!

To begin with, the restaurant’s interior is pretty cool, the non-smoking section has a ceiling made of blown glass grapes while the smoking area is decorated with backlit cymbals. And to reserve a table you sometimes should place your booking weeks ahead especially if it’s on weekend since it’s always full. However, if you have no problem waiting then you can simply show up with no reservation at 9:30 or 10:00PM and wait a bit before you get seated.

The first thing that will strike when you go over Society’s menu is how low are the prices are compared to other places of the same level. We’re talking about $6-$10 salads, $10-$21 mains, and $4 desserts, and don’t let these prices fool you into thinking Society compromises portion size or quality, on the contrary their portions are pretty generous and I personally loved all the items I’ve tried so far with my favorite being the Black Angus Tenderloin.

I honestly suck at describing flavors so I won’t act all foodie on you and just leave you with these appetizing photos all courtesy of @vistasbyrony.

Bottom line, while it’s becoming normal for restaurants to charge $20 for a burger nowadays, Society Bistro is quite a gem! With a friendly staff and cool ambiance I highly recommend you go check it out if you haven’t done so already.

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Battlefield 1 Now Available in Lebanon and it’s Epic!

If you follow gaming news and are interested in first person shooters, you probably know that Battlefield 1 is due to be released on October 21. However, some retailers in Lebanon already have it on their shelves (some had it as early as last Saturday).

I bought it. I played it. It’s Epic.

This latest installment in the battlefield franchise takes you back World War I and lets you experience the dawn of all out war.

I played a few hours of the single player campaign and fought my way through a few online rounds and I can tell you this game is the most engaging, cinematic, and visually breathtaking first person shooter I have ever played, and I’ve played a lot.

The single player campaign tells the war stories of multiple soldiers spread over various locations during the first world war; and you can choose which story to play first. The locations are so visually pleasing that you’ll be spending some time just looking around you at the detailed environment of the Italian Alps and the Sinai desert (while aiding Arab rebels fight the ottoman empire) just to name a few.

The Bf1 multiplayer is as epic as you’d expect it to be. You are seriously able to wreck havoc with the tools at your disposal. The way weapons handle and their sounds are so genuine. Explosions are just eye candy. Having played the open beta, the retail version is much more polished with no bugs so far.

Now excuse me. I got an online match to play.

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Review – “Film Ameriki Tawil” 36 Years Later

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Last night was the avant premiere for the highly anticipated Film Ameriki Tawil and I had the privilege to be among the attendees. Needless to say, it was really awesome to finally see the original footage of this play since I have always enjoyed listening to this masterpiece by Ziad Rahbani on the radio!

As in the case with Bennesbe Labokra Chou, M Media did a fantastic job by reconstructing several old videos in order to create this movie. However, unlike last year’s end result, Film Ameriki Tawil has a better image quality, looks much smoother thanks to the use of fixed cameras during the original recording, and has an almost consistent audio level and quality. So if you felt annoyed by the shaky image in “Bennesbe Labokra Chou” then I can guarantee this one is much more better and has much better scene transitions. In my opinion, this movie does more justice to Ziad Rahbani’s work than the previous one.

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As far as the acting is concerned, I believe I would be stating the obvious by telling it was impressive. I mostly loved the authentic performance by Joseph Sakr, Ziad Abou Absi and Rafik Najem. Watching Sakr singing three time during the play/movie was alone a treat for me! So, to make a long story short, I highly recommend you go watch it and take older people like your parents with you because they’ll definitely get some good memories and laughs back! The official release date is set for October 20th, and for those who would like to get a sneak peak of it I have shared a beautiful video on Facebook of “Raj3a bi iznillah” with the whole cast dancing to it. (link)

However, as I recommended last year, do yourself a favor and delay booking your tickets a bit, Ziad’s diehard fans will naturally attend the early screenings and my opinion about them still stands, they’re annoying! One guy was sitting behind us last night and almost recited the whole scenario while the movie was playing.

On another note, I have a good new to whoever missed watching Bennesbe Labokra Chou last year, the guys from M Media will soon be officially launching their streaming service which will allow you to watch their productions for $5 per month (think of it as a Lebanese Netflix) and that includes Bennesbe Labokra Chou which will also be available for watching on their website.

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Gadget Reviews by Zaher Hallab

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If there’s something we miss in the Lebanese blogosphere then it’s definitely tech or gadget review blogs. And that’s the gap Zaher Hallab is trying to fill with his new channel on YouTube.

I first met Zaher back in 2009 and have always known him as a tech geek, and given that he says things as they are, I believe he’s pretty much capable of providing reviews and opinions on new gadgets and devices.

His first published video is a review of the LG G5 and I can fairly say it was well executed except that it could have been made a bit shorter. I definitely recommend you subscribe to his channel for the new videos to come.

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Review – Samsung S7 Edge and Gear VR

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I’ve been using an iPhone 5 for exactly 3 years now and recently started looking for an alternative. Among the current flagship mobile phones I was basically tempted to either get a 64GB iPhone 6s or a Samsung S7 Edge, still having never owned an Android mobile before, I didn’t want to get the S7 Edge and end up regretting it, so I thought of asking Samsung for a test unit and they were kind enough to send me one along with a Gear VR.

Long story short I’ve been using the S7 Edge for a couple of weeks now and totally loving it! In this review I won’t go all techy on you with specs and stuff, but rather describe how I found the S7 Edge fitting my needs as a blogger and someone who uses the phone camera very frequently.

Design

Plastic covers on older models of the Samsung S phones were the main reason that made me avoid them, they just made the handsets look cheap. This however has changed with the S6 and its rear glass which made it look more elegant, while the S7 Edge is a further enhancement with beautiful curves. The unit I got looked premium with the gold color on it.

The S7 Edge is also considered a compact phone. It is almost the same size of an iPhone 6s but has a larger display (5.5″ vs 4.7″), and this was made possible by minimizing the amount of bezel above and below the screen which increased the screen-to-body ratio by a great deal.

Screen

The QHD display on the S7 Edge is absolutely gorgeous! A friend of mine always bugs me with how good AMOLED screens are, but I honestly didn’t know they  were THAT good. Colors looked much more vibrant and made it hard for me to go back to watching media on an LCD screen.

Still, and even though it isn’t a deal breaker, the screen was a bit reflective for me when I was using it outdoors.

Camera

Having a 3 year old kid I always find myself using my phone camera whenever he’s fooling around. And for that, I really appreciated how quick is the autofocus in the S7 Edge camera. It also performs pretty well in low light.

Here are a sample of unedited photos I recently took. (Click on each photo for the original size)

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Usage

It’s not a secret Android wasn’t the friendliest mobile operating system. And being a longtime iPhone user, I really hate to say it but Android has come a long way in being much more user friendly. In fact, I found it easier for me to write a blog post on the S7 Edge than on my wife’s iPhone 6s.

Moreover, since Android is a more open platform, I found it much easier for me to deal with some files I usually need to upload to my server from time to time. All in all, Android is indeed more flexible if you’re a tech person.

Gear VR

I’ve never used a virtual reality headset other than Samsung’s, so I really cannot compare the Gear VR to other products.

I personally found the Gear VR very easy to setup, and the available 360 videos and images were quite entertaining. I was mostly interested in travel videos showing places from exotic parts of the world and I really enjoyed them, it was cool sitting on my couch and feeling like I was somewhere totally different.

The headset however felt bulky on me after 20 or 30 minutes of usage, so watching full length movies on it wasn’t my thing.

The Verdict

With a cool design, a stunning camera, and a sharp display, I really can’t ask for more. In fact, I’m honestly having a hard time returning the test unit! 😛

If you’re interested in buying the S7 Edge along with the Gear VR, the guy I usually get my handsets from is offering them both for $690. (Note that his prices differ from day to day)

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Review – Beirut Fawq Al Shajara بيروت فوق الشجرة

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I recently watched “Beirut Fawq Al Shajara” written by Yehya Jaber and starring Ziad Itani, the same duo who brought us “Beirut Tarik Jdideh” a couple of years ago. And while the latter featured stories inspired from the day to day lives of people living in Tarik Jdideh, the new play focused on events that took place around other areas in Beirut. It might sound redundant at first, but trust me it isn’t. Ziad Itani delivered once again a solid performance without feeling fake on stage, and never failed to crack the audience up at the stories he was illustrating.

Beirut Fawk al Shajara follows the story of Fouad, a Beiruti influenced by his Turkish grandmother as a child, who manages to engage into relationships with many women of different nationalities as he ages while working as tailor. With each relationship we get introduced to some event that took place at a certain time in Beirut’s recent history in a humorous way.

What makes it all interesting is that despite the whole story being fictitious, the events Ziad Itani tells are all pretty accurate. So you’ll be laughing your heart our over the play duration but still learn a good deal from the recent history of the city. You are also guaranteed to be leaving the theater and for some reason humming “Oh lali 3ala Oh lala”!

All in all, and as a side note, I’m really satisfied about the plays Lebanese artists have performed over the last few years such as Venus, Ka3eb 3aleh, and Injazat 7ayat to name a few that do not speak to the audience in a dumb way the same way Lebanese movies and drama series mostly do.

Beirut Fawq Al Shajara is showing at Teatro Verdun (Dunes Center) on Mondays and Thursdays, with tickets selling for 35,000L.L. Needless to say, I highly recommend you go watch it!

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A Very Subjective Opinion on “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” The Movie

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I finally managed to watch “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” in cinema a couple of days ago and was so delighted to finally see the original acting instead of imagining the scenes in my head!

The work that M Media has done is definitely remarkable since the movie is actually made out of several amateur recordings of the play that were carefully reconstructed and arranged to make a relatively smooth movie. But as much as I enjoyed watching the whole thing, I couldn’t stop thinking the whole time that “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” is so perfect it deserved a way better video quality.

The videos are basically all grainy, out of focus at times and shaky at others. I don’t mean there was anything that could have been done better… Retaking a shot is absolutely not an option in our case and the producers were obliged to work with anything Ziad was providing. However, the end result was unfortunately a movie that I don’t feel like watching again unlike the audio plays that I never get bored of. Ziad El-Rahbani is probably the only one to blame for not taking the shooting seriously back then.

“Film Ameriki Tawil” will soon be also showing in cinemas, and I just hope it is recorded in a more professional way. Ziad’s play are timeless and deserve to be treated the same way some Egyptian classics like “Madraset Al Moushaghibin” and “El Wad Sayyed El Shaghal” are still being aired on TV sometimes.

Anyway, what I’ve wrote should never keep you from watching “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” on the big screen. And despite the bad quality of the video, I guarantee you will still enjoy finally seeing the original acting, especially the part where Joseph Sakr sings “3a Hadir El Bosta” with everyone around him dancing to it.

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