In her effort to tag my ass, lovely Kaya had actually saved it.
It’s been one hell of a busy week. Since I cannot claim that I’ve been amused at work there’s no point in posting about it. You already have more than your fair share of problems, I fathom. The least I could do is manage to provide you with some entertainment. I have been running on empty for the last few days until this morning when I hit a brick wall. Here I am, I reckoned, one day away from the weekend with nothing to show on my blog. Then Kaya, bless her, came along and did me a favor. She tagged me and boy what a relief that was. She wanted me to tell her, and the rest of you, about my five favorite restaurants in or around Tartous.
I have already posted about a couple of these places, nevertheless, for the short of memory, for newcomers and for lack of anything else to write about, here’s my list with two different ratings. The first is what these places think of themselves while the second is my own.
1) Ayn Al Jawzat, Saeen
For a lazy afternoon of eating and drinking, away from home, there’s no place I’d rather be except Ayn Al Jawzat. This little restaurant in the middle of nowhere has been my favorite hiding place for the last 21 years. The owner, Majed, is an army buddy of mine. He prepares simple, delicious and affordable Mezza. If you have something special in mind, say Burghul b Hummus (with lamb meat or chicken) just give him a call ahead and he’ll cook it for you. You can always order the barbequed chicken of coastal Syria there, and in season, the tasty small river fish are part of the Mezza. The view is magnificent, the sound of silence overwhelming and the tender breeze hypnotizing. In the dead of winter, I also go there. Majed will light up the fireplace for me or for you, even if there’s nobody else. You see, that’s the whole idea. When the weather turns real nasty and only the deranged dare step out of their shelter, I go there to enjoy my solitude, a Batha (1/4 liter) of Arak and Mezza just the way it was meant to be.
Majed (Abu Issa) will treat everybody right, however, to get that extra bit of super hospitality, go ahead and tell him: “Abufares had sent me here.”
Saeen is a small village located in a valley east of Tartous. To go there you need to take the Dreikish road from Tartous and drive for 20 km until you reach Hbabė. There, you fork at a left descending exit for a distance of roughly 3 or 4 km till you get to the village and to Ayn Al Jawzat. If Thou Shall Ask, Thou Shall Not Get Lost. If you like to read more about what I do in Saeen, read “Everything You Wanted to Know About Arak and More.” To see pictures of the place, check out “Pictures from Saeen, Ayn Al Jawzat.”
Ayn Al Jawzat is rated as ½ Star
My rating: 5 Stars (indoor, outdoor)
2) Yamak, Tartous
Any city on the coast, any coast that is, claims to offer the best seafood in the world. There’s no reason why I should act modestly and not join in. Yamak Restaurant offers the greatest, most fabulous and freshest fish on the planet. Located on the last floor of the Chamber of Commerce building in Tartous and right in front of the small marina where the shuttle boats to and from Arwad moor, the restaurant offers a commanding view of the sea, the island and the harbor. It’s frequented over the weekend by seafood lovers from interior Syria and from Lebanon. For a very reasonable price you can eat your fill of the fish of your choice or other traditional coastal plates. I go there on weekdays when the place is more on the empty side. But, you must’ve already found out about my idea of an outing. I hate crowds and I like to eat alone. If that’s not your style, the next choice could be ideal for you.
Yamak is rated as 3 Stars
My rating: 5 Stars (indoor only)
3) Shate’ Akhdar, Bseereh
This is my second choice when I feel like eating seafood and for 2 reasons. First, you have to pay more to eat your fish and it’s because of Second: It’s fully packed most of the time. Over the last few years, this place has been gaining in popularity due to good management (of course family owned and operated) and its superb location directly on the beach. They offer great Mezza and seafood but I wouldn’t be able to really say that this joint is better than Yamak. However, this particular point is always open to debate in Tartous. I have to admit though that the outdoor setting in the evening is just fantastic. The sea reaches within feet of your table. There’s another advantage to this secluded place, the second floor is a small motel. During the day, the outdoor terrace is dotted by the swimmers and sunbathers. If you are into crowds come here. If you’re like me, stay in town.
Bseereh is about 8 km north of Tartous on the Lattakia Hwy. Follow the sign near the cement factory and stay on the old road till you literally reach the sea.
Shate’ Akhdar is rated as 3 Stars
My rating: 3 Stars indoor, 5 Stars outdoor at night)
4) Nabe’e Hassan, Markieh
On the River Markieh, Nabe’ Hassan is one of the oldest restaurants in Tartous. The ambiance is serene and the food great. The tables are placed in parallel rows with the river and there’s a simple feeling of happiness and contentment in the hiss of the trees, the flow of the river and the chatter of the dispersed clients. Mezza, Shish Kabab and Sha’af (barbequed lamb meat) are as good, if not better than much more pretentious restaurants. It’s a great place for a family outing or for a large group of friends. You might have noticed by now that I’m not into food per say when it comes to restaurants. I’m more into being comfortable and at ease. Let’s face it; we don’t have a great variety of choices in Tartous. What is referred to as international cuisine is all but unknown. If I were really to eat well I’d stay home and enjoy the fruits of Om fares’ labor, or even mine. Or, I would pick my next and final choice.
For driving directions to Nabe’e Hassan and for photos and a more vivid description, please read my earlier post “Nabe’e Hassan on the River Markieh”.
Nabe’e Hassan is rated 1 Star
My rating: 4 Stars
5) Kadmous, Rimal Zahabieh
If you don’t mind feeling as if you’re eating in your own dining room and if you don’t find it a bit strange that an elegant restaurant is collocated at a gas station, but appreciate great salads, meats, chicken and sweets then this is your place. Kadmous offers really great food but totally lacks any character. The service is excellent and so is their very reasonable pricing. My father, a man who never drink anything but water and tea, loves this place for instance. So do the hundreds of summer inhabitants of Rimal Zahabieh. There’s a no-nonsense feel about the setting: We serve good food. If you like that then you’ve come to the right place. They even prepare their own fresh bread which is simply delicious. Strangely enough, it closes down at 7:00PM unless reserved for a special party. By the way, it’s ideal for weddings and similar occasions. The restaurant is located 15 km north of Tartous on the Lattakia highway, right across the road from the Rimal Zahabieh beach.
Kadmous is rated 4 Stars
My rating: 4 Stars
Now that I have completed my tag I truly am too tired to inflict any further damage or pain on anybody else. I needed the writing exercise although I have to admit that my words today certainly lack any punch. I lack any punch. Come tomorrow afternoon I will be a free man (for 36 hours or so). I hope my weekend will really be worth writing about. Until we meet again...