I met the charismatic slow food pioneer Kamal Mouzawak 10 years ago, when he was writing for a Lebanese culinary magazine. Mouzawak had always been passionate about promoting local purveyors, and in 2004 he set up Beirut’s first farmers’ market, Souk el Tayeb. His newest venture, Tawlet (12 Naher St.; 961-1/448-129; lunch for two $52), is an airy restaurant in the up-and-coming Mar Mikhael neighborhood where a rotating cadre of female producers from the market take to the stoves and turn out authentic regional specialties.
On my first visit, I feasted on fresh kibbeh nayeh (goat-meat tartare) prepared by Suzanne Doueihy, who is from the northern village of Ehden; another day, Siham Ghanem, who lives in the southern Chouf mountains, served h’risset ’akkub, a hearty lamb-and-wheat porridge with wild thistle that’s rarely seen on restaurant menus. The room was buzzing with young creative types and well-heeled Beirutis; they, like me, had come for the laid-back atmosphere and simple, rustic dishes. It’s a place where old Lebanon meets new, and everyone gets second helpings.
Anissa Helou is a London-based, Lebanese-born food writer and global culinary guide. For more on her trips, go to anissas.com.