Savory to sweet, iftar at Beirut’s Em Sherif Café is a treat

The eatery is famous for its uncomplicated Lebanese fare. (Photo supplied)
Updated 04 June 2018

Savory to sweet, iftar at Beirut’s Em Sherif Café is a treat

BEIRUT: Ever since Em Sherif Café opened near Beirut’s Zeitouna Bay two years ago, it has been the place to see and be seen.

The establishment is owned by the charismatic Mireille Hayek, the diva of Lebanese cuisine who opened her first restaurant, La Parilla, in 2006. She sealed her reputation as a golden restaurateur with Em Sherif, which means the mother of Sherif, Hayek’s own son.

The concept of this eponymous cafe is grounded in traditional family values. “We are a family who loves to eat. You just have to look at me,” Hayek says, breaking into a hearty laugh. “I have always loved to cook. I cook at home for my family and friends. The recipe for success is simple, you just need good food and good service.”

She insists that the food served at Em Sherif Café is home cooking at its best, “I like authenticity in Lebanese food. There is no room for fusion.”

This year, a delicious appetizer called the “ajina bil awarma,” a pie stuffed with small chunks of fat-coated meat, features on the iftar and suhoor menu for the first time. Hungry diners can also enjoy a range of traditional Ramadan favorites, including soups, fattoush and fatayer — pastries stuffed with meat, cheese and spinach.

For those who favor a light iftar, the eatery offers a delicious spicy chicken. The presentation of this dish — and this can be said of all the dishes served at the restaurant — is superb. A long, rounded chili crowns the spicy chicken, accompanied by two little square bowls of sauce, including the addictive hot sauce.

To end the meal, those with a sweet tooth can opt for the pistachio brioche, which consists of a thick layer of crushed pistachios topped with ice cream, delicately sandwiched into a brioche and then popped into a hot oven.

With up to 800 customers a day, it is no wonder that the café is a must-try this Ramadan if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Beirut.

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

Updated 44 min 59 sec ago

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

CHENNAI: Stories about slums and poverty are not easy to script. They can easily turn into vulgar celebration, as Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was seen by some, notably legendary Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos.

But director Zoya Akhtar (“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” and “Luck by Chance”) manages to steer herself clear of slipping into this trap with her latest drama, “Gully Boy,” which emerges from one of the biggest slums in the world, Dharavi, in Mumbai.

There, thousands of people living in a sprawl of huts have a bewildering variety of experiences to narrate. One story is that of Murad’s (Ranveer Singh), whose chance meeting with a rapper, Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), opens a magical door.

The film, inspired by real-life rappers Naezy and Divine, focusses on Murad’s ambition to become a rapper, and how he achieves it, despite his driver father’s fears and his uncle’s disdain.

In one scene, the uncle tells Murad that a chauffeur’s son can only hope to be another chauffeur, a servant in other words. A humiliated Murad takes this to heart, but quietly vows to transform his dream into reality.

His sweetheart Safeena (Alia Bhatt), who is studying to be a doctor, pushes him towards a hip-hop life.

Witten by Akhtar along with Reema Kagti, “Gully Boy” is undoubtedly the director’s career best, and Ranveer’s too. In a role that literally overshadows his earlier outings (including “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat”), he brilliantly conveys the angst and struggle of an underdog, and how his unflattering social status attracts ridicule even among those merely aspiring to be rappers.

Ranveer infuses into Murad a quiet determination that helps him cross frightening social and cultural barriers.

Safeena is also imaginatively fleshed out as a fiery woman who helps Akhtar create his own brand of rap music (some grippingly done by Naezy and Divine).

What is even more exciting is that “Gully Boy” brings rap out of the shadows and in this process the city and the slum, sensitively lensed by Jay Oza, seem to be screaming that miracles are possible even in the face of Mumbai’s painful inequities.