On any given weeknight, there is a steady stream of customers filing into this popular Lebanese joint, which is located across from a dense collection of cell phone shops on a busy stretch of road in the UAE capital. Outside, the open-air patio section is almost too full to find a tablel. Servers with glowing baskets of shisha coals carefully weave around the droves of customers, balancing fresh coals atop the bubbling pipes. It’s the same on the street too; waiters clutching plastic takeaway bags dash to a long row of double-parked cars to hand out ‘drive-thru’ orders before quickly scribbling arriving cars’ new orders.
Inside, it’s just as busy. The long, open-flame grill is crammed with skewers of roasting meat. The chef stands back in the smoky room, surveying it all and pushing more plates edge to edge to make room on a crowded counter top as the orders keep coming.
There’s a reason that this budget casual dining eatery is packed nearly every night of the week – it’s centrally-located, has more than enough space to handle a large volume of customers (Lebanese Flower claims that its largest location can serve 300 people at once), and makes fresh and flavorful Lebanese fare at half the price of a big hotel.
The hummus with meat is creamy, covered with pine nuts and freshly grilled strips of lamb, though the meat’s oil is a bit heavy. The moutabal – grilled eggplant mashed with sesame paste, garlic, plenty of bright green olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice – has a smoky flavor and smooth consistency. It’s one of the best in town.
The shish tawouk – hunks of skewered chicken grilled to perfection – comes to the table steaming under a thin layer of pita that covers the dish to keep the heat in.
Lebanese Flower’s mixed grill dish offers a bit of everything – seared cubes of juicy lamb, chewy logs of minced meat kebab, and chunks of succulent shish tawouk. The sampler is served with hawawshi, a thin, Lebanese-style meat pie.
None of these dishes is particularly spicy. Ask for your food extra-hot and you’ll get a plate of whole green chilies delivered to your table, served with a smile.
Service can be slow and inattentive, since servers have to negotiate the rush of people looking for food at tables and takeaway, constantly ringing telephones for delivery orders, and all the honking from customers ordering from their cars. But no matter – this is part of the charm of eating at the Lebanese Flower.
Lebanese Flower opened its first Abu Dhabi branch in 1986. Last year, they opened a fourth. It is a local institution and a solid place to turn when looking for traditional Middle Eastern cuisine that appeals to everyone.
Lebanese Flower Restaurant: see the menu
Address: Hazza bin Zayed Street (one block northeast of Wahda Mall), Abu Dhabi, UAE
Telephone: +971 02 6414128