Archive for Urban Reviews

Review: Food Box Co.

Yesterday, the guys over at Food Box Co. sent me some things to try out. It was quite a pleasant experience.

I always loved the noodle-box concept, because it’s simple, quick, and easy-to-eat in an office environment. Food Box Co. delivers very well on that front… the branding is crisp, the die-cut of the boxes is absolutely gorgeous, and the experience is fuss-free and delicious at the same time.

My favorite item from the meals I tried was the spicy Chinese rice with peanuts and vegetables. I’m even already craving it; strongly recommended if you like spicy food.

To try Food Box Co., you can find them on the First Circle, or contact them at 079-979-8967.

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[UPDATED] PF Changs Amman

Update, May 7, 2014:
I was contacted by the Digital Marketing Manager at PF Changs for a dinner at TAJ this week, and I’m pleased to say that the arrogant manager mentioned below does not work at PF Changs anymore. Customer service has also improved a lot, the waiters were very nice and helpful.
It’s always great when people read reviews and fix things accordingly! Hattip to AlShaya for being customer service pros.

Avoid PFChangs in Amman. Food is burnt, has no flavor, and the waiters are arrogant that we just don’t know how it should taste. Plus, it’s insanely overpriced. Avoid at all costs, and go local.

Case in hand… Seven people, five of which are ravaging hungry boys who would eat anything. Mongolian beef so inedible that aside from being tasted by seven, it got taken away only half-eaten. Waiter and manager feedback: you just don’t know how it should taste. you pesants, it is supposed to be burnt and too salty, but we can replace it if you really, really want, but you just don’t know.


Go local. Recommended Chinese: Shanghai in Jabal Amman, Abu Khalil in Jabal Amman, Noodasia in Abdoun.

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Urban Review: Azkadenya, Arabic Restaurant in Amman

The other day we had lunch at Azkadenya, an Eat restaurant that describes itself as “a modern/retro Arabic restaurant that serves the traditional dishes of the good old days but with the modern day twist.”

Given its location on Mecca Street, I automatically assumed that Azkadenya will be as bland and characterless as every other place in the area. You know, an overpriced, cookie cutter, “upscale” junk food-serving “restaurant” with uncomfortable chairs, disastrous service, and horrible acoustics.

But I was so pleasantly surprised when I walked into the restaurant. If Azkadenya has anything going for it at all, it’s a WHOLE lot of soul.

As a far as personal taste is concerned, I am not a fan of the Rana Salam-style “Arab pop art” theme. It’s been overdone, though not in Amman. But it isn’t the theme that blew me away. Reiterating Basem Aggad, I have yet to see a consumer experience in town that is as integrated as that of Azkadenya.

Everything fits perfectly, the place is a mix of rough and delicate, from the exposed concrete ceilings to the decorative mashrabeyeh-like boxes that cover the ventilation shafts. The cutlery is beautifully designed to include Arabic sayings, and the place mats are vintage Arab ads printed on cheap newspaper paper. Even the sugar sachets are designed, and I was taken by such happy surprise when my plate told me “Sahtein o afyeh” after I finished my food.

Check out their napkins:

And the waiters’ outfits:

The food, you ask. Yes, I have to admit that I was so smitten by their attention to detail when it came to branding that I almost didn’t care about the food. Yet, my experience was excellent with the food too.

We were only four, so we didn’t order much; cheese man2ousheh, sayadeyeh (fish and rice), seneyet zahra bi theeneh (cauliflower in tahini), and hendbeh (some plant). The seneyet zahra was to die for, probably best I ever had. The sayadeyeh was also excellent, definitely something I might crave soon. The hendbeh, unfortunately, wasn’t edible, and the cheese man2ousheh was slightly bland.

The prices are high, given the portions. The service was quick and efficient.

Overall, Azkadenya is a fantastic addition to Eat’s portfolio. I am usually not a huge fan of Eat Restaurant Group. Their Italian restaurants (Casereccio and Bruschetta) are overpriced and average tasting. Their fastfood options (Shawermama and Urban Grill) are bland. Their “shisha” place, Lemon, is cliche in that horrible Ammani way that makes me want to gag. For the most part, they have absolutely no character.

Yet, credit has to be given where credit is due; the restaurant group has amazing attention to detail, the food quality (taste aside) is always superb, and they’re unbelievably professional.

I do hope that they attempt to carry over some of Azkadenya’s charm to their other eateries.

You can reach Azkadenya at (06) 554-9391.

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Just what is it that makes today’s Beirut so different, so appealing?
Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?
by English artist Richard Hamilton, 1956

22-11-2011 – Beirut

It’s been half a dozen times or so that I’ve set foot in Beirut since my first visit in 2006.

It has always been Hamra, the university soul of the Western part of the capital, with the faux-Bohemian street dwellers in their rebellious garb lounging the sidewalks.

Oh, Beirut, the rebel. This city is rebellious in every sense. It’s rebellious in its politics, it’s rebellious in its peace. It’s rebellious in its openness, it’s rebellious in its fundamentalism. Nothing seems to matter. Everything seems to matter.

I walk into my four-star hotel, and request a smoking room, like I usually do. The receptionist, a Palestinian with a Lebanese watheeqa called Mohammad — as I discovered from a 15 minute conversations with him about the advantages of online recruitment — laughed at me. “Smokers are welcome anywhere here in Beirut! The rooms are all yours!” he said.

I smiled. I’m not used to being welcomed much as a smoker these days, especially since I recently came back from the non-smoking capital of the Arab world, Dubai.

Mohammad is both entertaining and friendly as he checks me into the charming Mayflower Hotel. The hotel is an old one, having first opened its rooms to travelers in 1957. It has the beautiful charm of a vintage picture book; the wooden detailing, the warm marble floors, the outdated furniture that reminds me of the love I feel when I walk into my grandmother’s house.

Behind Mohammad on the large wall of the reception area is a giant tapestry of keys on over sized keychains that resemble mills from a distance. As he checks me in, I get excited abot the prospect of using a room with a key (I only had that experience once in Damascus as a teenager), but my excitement is shut down when Mohammad hands me a plastic card. Obviously, the keys are there for display, a remnant from a past when all doors had to be opened with a metal instrument that was used to manually operate a lock.

It matters not, though, because the ancient lifts more than make up for the plastic. There’s an old copper ashtray on a stand in the corner, and I feel like I’ve taken a time machine to the days when elevators had to opened like a room, and when smoking in a confined space of 1 by 2 meters was a perfectly normal thing to do. The typography on the control panel is brilliant, and I stare at the round buttons with the floor numbers with amusement.

Ah, the charm of the old!

My room itself is as gorgeous as the experience so far. The OCD in me immediately starts inspecting sheets, furniture, and towels for stains, but I found none. The rooms had been rennovated recently, as you could tell from the wall closet and television, but the wicker furniture is really old. The faded tungsten lights cloak everything with sepia undertones. There’s a huge balcony with two white plastic chairs propped in the corner, where I’m currently sitting and scribbling my thoughts while sipping from an Almaza can and smoking a cigarette.

I’m so in love with the hotel room that I get caught in the emotion of it all.

Beirut. Even the world is melodic, I think to myself, although I am not hopelessly in love with this city. Like a true Ammani, I am tempted by its crazy charm, but I can’t handle the craziness at large doses.

I smile to myself in joyous euphoria as I sit outside at 11:00 o’clock on a balcony overlooking Hamra. I love this city, with all its craziness.

There’s something fresh about the air. It’s warm, in comparison to hilly Amman. The noise pollution is welcomed, as I know that I don’t have to deal with it every day. I’m scribbling furiously on cheaply printed stationary with gold embossing and a Bic pen.

I could sit here for hours.

Life is sometimes about these little timeouts. There little moments where you really have nothing but ink — look, ma, no wi-fi! A few times a year, even a digital junkie like myself needs to spend the night sitting alone on a cheap, white, plastic chair, drinking Almaza and breathing the sea-scented air of Beirut to truly grasp the joy of living.

- End -

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

Mayflower Hotel, Beirut

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A Love Ode to Turtle Green

Turtle Green Tea Bar Amman

It’s official, I declare it to the world: Turtle Green is my favorite place in Amman.

The people who work there are awesome, their drinks are delicious, and the seats are amazingly comfortable. You can sit there all day working, reading, or just hanging out. Depending on your mood, you can choose to either disconnect yourself from your surroundings by taking a corner seat, or be a social animal by engaging in random conversations with strangers. There’s absolutely no way that you wouldn’t see less than five different friends on any given day.

Somehow, and I can’t place my finger on exactly how, Turtle Green manages to capture the most beautiful essence of Amman. It’s young. The furniture is worn, sturdy, and practical. The artwork is misplaced and random. The selection of drinks ranges from the utterly cliche to the deliciously different. Everything seems temporary, yet permanent. The owners are always hanging around, sans argileh and backgammon sets. The sharp corners are patched with leather, the signage is cardboard, and the tissues are placed in makeshift shelves. The regulars start becoming fixtures in your life, your 7ara comrades, though you might not know their names.

Turtle Green represents all that is beautiful about Amman.

During Ramadan, I spent a minimum of three hours on a (practically) daily basis lazing around on their couch. It felt like home. Alas though, as I am mostly boycotting Rainbow Street, I don’t hang around Turtle Green as much as I’d like to these days.

For the love of God, someone give some love to Weibdeh.

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Urban Review: 3asrooneyeh, عصرونيه

One of the most annoying things about working from 9:00 to 6:00 is trying to figure out what the hell to order for lunch. There aren’t many options that are easy on your wallet, healthy enough to eat often, and yummy at the same time.

Fortunately though, there’s a new place that ticks off all three of those things. 3asrooneyeh is a ka’ek place near the Shamali Gate of Jordan University. They have a large menu, and their ka’ek are the whole-wheat Lebanese style, as opposed to the one we use in Jordan.

You can thank me later :)

3srooneyeh restaurant amman

3srooneyeh restaurant amman

3srooneyeh restaurant amman

Here is their menu:
3srooneyeh restaurant amman

They deliver, you can call them at 06-535-42-49

عصرونيه عمان

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