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Hassouni

Al-Falamanki

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[img]http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs137.snc3/18479_568747024611_37003198_33645710_898754_n.jpg[/img]

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5. Al-Falamanki is like a huge, classy old-school Arab cafe, with a huge courtyard (packed in the summer, unused in the winter when the above photo was taken). The grounds are gorgeous, it appears to be built out of an old house, and the courtyard is full of tall trees and greenery. "Arab Golden Days" music plays in the background--the place was started and is owned by the son of the eponymous al-Falamanki, who was, among other things, an oud player for Umm Kalthoum.

Hookah: 5 out of 5. consistently he best I've had in Beirut. They use what look like KMs with Egyptian bowls (very rare for Lebanon), and give you huge egyptian style hoses. The bowls are very wide and shallow, providing a lot of surface area for the coals. I'm not sure what brand they pack, but their proprietary special mixes are not dissimilar to some of the spicier Tangiers flavors. Flavor is fantastic, pull is fantastic, and like everywhere in the Middle East, you're served natural wood coals.

Service: Variable. This is Beirut, and service here is never great. In the summer, the waiters are pretty awful, it took 15 minutes to get a beer after our order was taken. In the winter it's considerably better. There's almost always a wait. The nargile attendants are usually better than the waiters, and come by fairly quickly for coals and other things (such as blowing out your bowl, which I never see in the US).

Food: 5 out of 5. Excellent full Lebanese menu, and one of the few nice sit-down places where you can get manaeesh made on a saj (as opposed to the oven). For those that don't know what I'm on about it, order a manooshi with kashkawan and zaatar, and take the saj option. Full bar by Lebanese restaurant standards, in the summer, it's really nice to have a "Mexican beer" which is Lebanese beer with a shot of lemon juice and a salted rim...like a beer margarita.

Price: 4 out of 5. Food and drink are reasonable by American standards, and standard for upscale Lebanese standards. This place is upscale though, no question. The food I recommended above is probably around $4, a beer is about $5, and a nargile I think is $8 or $9 for normal fruit mu'assal. Ajami and unflavored stuff is more, and the mixes are more too, about $10.

Overall recommendation: Awesome. Best hookah in Beirut, and excellent food. Full of character, at its best in the summer when you can sit in the courtyard.[/size][/font][/color]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size="3"][color="#5D5D5D"][size=2]www.alfalamanki.com[/size][/color][/size][/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size="3"][color="#5D5D5D"][size=2]One more pic:[/size][/color][/size][/font]
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[color="#333333"][font="tahoma"][size="2"][size="2"]UPDATE as of October 2010, for this, the undisputed King of Argileh Gardens: Big old house with a massive tree-filled courtyard garden, has the biggest selection of stuff to smoke (mu'assal, 'ajami, nakha, salloum, zaghloul, jordanian something, and various special house mixes that taste a lot like kashmir but not quite the same). Also superb food, but didn't eat this time. [/size][/size][/font][/color]
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[color="#333333"][font="tahoma"][size="2"][size="2"]Worth noting - the previous review was from Christmastime, when the outdoor garden was closed (despite it NOT being cold!) this review is from very late October, and the garden was still open. So if I had to guess, they move everything indoors sometime in November. I take back what I say about it being best in the summer. Summer in Beirut is usually too hot. If it's cooler at night (sometimes it's STILL hot), then sweet, but I'll now amend that and say the non-extreme seasons (fall, spring) are best.

As I said, this place is unique in serving Egyptian hookahs.[/size][/size][/font][/color]
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[color="#333333"][font="tahoma"][size="2"][size="2"]Also, this time the service here was so good that not only do they blow out your bowl after 20 minutes, but after another 15 they give you a WHOLE NEW argileh just to have a fresh smoke! (Note, service is NOT like that in the high season - summer and around xmas/new year)[/size][/size][/font][/color]
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[color="#333333"][font="tahoma"][size="2"][size="2"]Here is mine, DA. Standard Mu'assal cost 15,000 LL = $10. 'Ajami and other things were a bit more. Admittedly this is more than most other places but you really do get a special environment.

[img]http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs394.ash2/67273_592465677241_37003198_34553058_4443215_n.jpg[/img]

The garden:
[img]http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs028.snc4/33783_592465652291_37003198_34553057_5470690_n.jpg[/img]

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[color="#333333"][font="tahoma"][size="2"][size="2"]Here's a sadly dark video I took of the place:[/size][/size][/font][/color]
[font="tahoma"][size="3"][color="#333333"][size="2"][media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl8xcbg-DhU[/media]
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[font="tahoma"][size="3"][color="#333333"][size="2"]How to find it: Immediately south of Sodeco Square, between Ashrafiye and downtown, occupying the entire width between Damascus Street and Monot Street (famous for its club). A lot of people in the area know it if you ask for it, and it has it is own parking lot and valet service, which is not common[/size][/color][/size][/font]

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