You would never imagine that a place like this, hidden down a dead end in Mar Elias, could even be close to serving not only good food, but some of the finest dishes the world has ever talked about…
This morning I'm back, I'm back to enjoy some great food, the best of its kind, and that’s coming from someone who has toured Lebanon searching for the best foul, Fatteh and hummus out there. Al Soussi has been here forever: Al Soussi is the place you have to take your kids, where authentic Lebanon is described so eloquently in the Hummus (and that's just to start with!).
It was 8am already when we arrived at Al Soussi. The men were happily preparing one plate after another, and the rich aromas of grilling and frying took over the street. Follow the smell, hear the mouth watering sounds and spend some time in a street food space that’s filled with passion and positive vibes. In the full flow of activity and despite his age, Raji and his cousin play with food in a synchronized way. How beautiful it is to see them grill the butter and toss the pine nuts over it before throwing the mix on some cold laban. Forget about health, forget about cholesterol and enjoy.
After half an hour of preparations, we were invited to sit inside. One plate after another landed in front of us. The hummus is so unique, prepared in-house the real Beiruty way. The foul, without garlic, melts like cream under your teeth. The fatteh, a blend of cold laban and cooked chickpeas with toasted bread and fried pine nuts, is heaven on a plate. The chicken liver is prepared with grilled vegetable cubes and to make things even better, we were offered a complementary salad with breakfast.
Sit back and relax, blend in with the setup, listen to the jokes, live the experience and don’t expect anything fancy. Go back to the old days, the living Beirut, the pumping heart of the capital, and enjoy seeing tourists from all over the country meet Al Soussi. “Foul, toum 3al Ri7a” the employee shouts. Raji repeats after him, confirming the order of fava beans with a little hint of garlic. More was yet to come. Msabbaha: exactly like the foul, or hummus, with bits of cooked chickpeas, mixed with fava beans and seasoned with lemon and olive oil. An intense, rich flavor of lemon, olive oil and perfectly cooked ingredients with a subtle hint of spiciness as an aftertaste.
The Fatteh here is to die for. A certain know how, a method of creation that’s so simple but filled with a love and passion that's felt in every spoonful. The king starts by putting toasted bread at the bottom of the bowl followed by Laban, cooked chickpeas, then another layer of toasted bread around the edges of the bowl before throwing the mix of fat and pine nuts grilled to perfection a few minutes earlier on top of it all. The toasted bread absorbs the hot fat, turning it into crispy, firm chunks of bread. What an innovation! Crunchy bits of nuts and bread, cold laban with hints of orange and lemon and some smooth well-cooked chickpeas for extreme and unmatched pleasure. It's food ecstasy!
The restaurant’s first location in Downtown Beirut opened in 1890 and, after 85 years, relocated to Chehade Street, in Mar Elias, where it has been since 1975.
The Eggs and Awarma is not your average breakfast plate. I'm not sure how he manages to do it, but the moisture within, the liquid yolk, the tender meat, the richness and fluffiness, the sumac and salt... I've had plenty of awarma, but none like this plate. The special thing about it is that Beirut’s awarma (meat with fat) is different to the one I know. My experience of awarma, in the Metn and Keserwan, is simply minced meat conserved in fat. The Beirut version is long slices of shredded meat with less fat than I’m used to… I really enjoyed it. I loved the juiciness, the seasoning and, most importantly, a distinct taste of lemon that comes at the very end and that will put a smile on your face.
Afterwards, Mr. Raji wanted me to taste a plate of Zaatar mixed with pomegranate molasses. Fresh green thyme with spicy chili and onions mixed with pomegranate molasses to add some sweetness in a plate offering an interesting lemony touch. Another salad they serve is one of rocket leaves and tomatoes; simple yet very tasty.
I've been around, tried dozens of hummus, Balila, Mousabbaha and Foul places... Had eggs, salads and all kinds of authentic breakfasts... Al Soussi is different, the vibes at Al Soussi and the passion put into every plate are all very different and I love them. Al Soussi is a place in Lebanon that needs to be on your bucket list.
A dream place, a breakfast paradise... I feel good and leave happy with a smile on my face.