Sushi with the lovely blogger behind Dubai-bites. An evening of Kashmiri chai and chatter at Tea JuncTion. And I still felt the need to swerve* off the road for more food last Thursday night, only for this beautifully irresistable creation…
…a lebneh and jam manosheeh.
*safely I might add, since my dad is reading this post and my car keys risk being be confiscated, no matter how old I am – and rightly so – for rash driving. If there were a safe last minute swerve, indicators and all, I had executed one right there.
I’d been splitting hairs as I approached the u-turn stop light.
…[amber] mmm…manakish, I love manakish! Should I try that joint? Naaaah, it’s late…
…[red] I slowed to a stop, still fixated by the tiny green “Manakish” sign across the road, jammed in between a line of restaurants close to Lamcy in Oud Metha. But I do have the munchies! …or should I just nibble on something at home? Except that there’s nothing as yummy as manakish at home, so maybe I should…? But am I really thaaaat hungry? Yes I am. DONE. I’m going there.
[GREEN] …hm. naah, maybe I’ll just come back.
And then, just as I was about to pass it right by, that dingy green Manakish sign called out to me like the wicked queen with the apple. Yes, but wait ’til you taste one, dearie. Like to try one? Go on. Go on, have a bite. [sinister wicked cackle]
Within seconds, I had parked my car in a fortuitously empty parking spot. The fickle woman in me had melted into that little girl in front of a candy floss machine. Yes, I want it. I SO want a bite.
As I strolled in, I saw the typical makings of a Lebanese corner bakery. The guy near the shawarma spit. The Arabic soap opera playing on the TV against the wall. The warm bready scent from the manakish ovens inside. And then I paused. Here was something unexpected — Bob Marley and the rest of Jamaica painted on the walls?!
That’s when it hit me. This used to be none other than one of my former, most loved, and now-closed, restaurants in Dubai – Bluefields (that I’d blogged about here last year). The Jamaican gem of a place that had introduced me to oxtail stew and one of the best vinegar-soaked grilled red snapper creations I’ve ever deboned and dug into, had now been annexed to the Mount Lebanon restaurant next door. My heart sank as memories of slow braised oxtail meat and Jamaican roti came flooding back to my mind. The Lebanese bakery hadn’t yet redone the colorful walls that were Bluefields’ legacy, in fact, they’d even left the Bluefields name on the top of their green signboard — something I noticed days later as I flipped through my photos. They’d presumably just taken over and switched out the bottles of allspice with tubs of za’atar. This whole plan of mine suddenly felt so wrong…I should have just gone home.
Well luckily for me, I stayed. Even luckier that I bothered to read through the manakish options, and to try something different from my usual za’atar and cheese manakish. And luckiest that the friendly server advocated the manosheeh with lebneh, a sort of Greek-style strained yoghurt, and jam. I can ram my head against a corrugated concrete wall for being surrounded by Lebanese bakeries in the city, and not ever having tried this brain-dead simple combination before. It was so classic, so timeless, SO ridiculously good. If an artist threw creamy splodges of sour lebneh against a round dough canvas, swirled in thick blobs of sweet tangy apricot jam, and dotted in nutty black sesame seeds across the wet layers, all with eccentric artistic flair, this is the priceless piece of modern art he’d come up.
The manosheeh base had this perfect pizza-style crispiness, just thick enough to hold the weight of thick strained yogurt, yet thin enough to fold over and eat like a sandwich for brunch. Or as in my case, for a midnight snack, which is really the best time to enjoy brunch foods anyway.
I’d have attempted a Lebanese-Jamaican rendition too…but for now, having noshed on Mount Lebanon’s manosheeh against the colorful murals of Bob Marley and the rest of Jamaica, I’d say that my nightly experience last Thursday comes pretty darn close.