Brains! Brains! Brains!!!

September 11, 2011


The End of Summer      

The Middle East has always seemed liberating in that you never have to plan for the weather. My neighbors and I decided to spend our last day before class relaxing at a beach toward Sieda. 30,000 Leera later I was bobbing in the waves of the Mediterranean. Not only was the water warm, we were among what may some of the area’s only bikini clad sunbathers. The beach owners also took care to line the hills with infinity pools as if ocean wasn’t enough.

Somehow we had kept so busy that my jet lag actually got worse. Knowing we had to wake up early for orientation, we dusted the sand off our feet and headed back to Beirut. The following morning I dragged myself out of bed and met the rest of my peers at LAU. Funny enough, many of us have had to beg and plead our universities to accept transfer credit from a place as “contentious” as Lebanon. So far, the program seems well worth whatever risk there may or may not be. Our classes are as small as 4 students and quite intensive.

I’m admittedly discouraged by how different the Lebanese dialect is from the Egyptian I have been studying.  Many of the most common words changed completely, and others are so accented they’re beyond recognition. I now understand why Arabic is sometimes referred to as a “life long language.”


Within Beirut, buildings bombed to ruin stand out from the otherwise lustrous skyline like thorns on a rose bush. In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped 2 Israeli soldiers in an attempt to bargain for the release of prisoners. Israel’s response was swift and explosive. Incredible amounts of infrastructure, only recently reincarnated from the civil war, were again leveled. It doesn’t take too many strolls along the Corniche to understand the indiscriminate nature of the 2006 bombing campaign. As we searched for a cab across from the skeletal remains of destroyed buildings I realized how unpredictably the bombs fell, and that, had I been looking for a cab there in the summer of 06, my fate may have been the same as the building’s I was gaping at. That moment, I think I caught a small glimpse of the terror the Lebanese have learned to take in stride.


Wednesday we had the afternoon off so we decided to check out Bourj Hammoud, (The Armenian District). My neighbors and I have been on a mission to retrace the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain, and having already hit up Le’ Chef, the Armenian District was next on the list. We were looking for a restaurant called Onno, it was to be a search of disorienting and ambiguous proportions. After arrival we flagged down another taxi and checked two places in the wrong area of the city only to discover it was in the opposite direction from where we had arrived. In the end, it was well worth the wait. I can say with confidence, that all the most adventurous food I have ever dared to taste, I had in one meal, at Onno. The portions came fairly small so we were able to order an exciting array of dishes. Everything we had was unique from the way it was cooked to the way it was spiced, but somehow it worked beautifully. Even better, the service was exceptional and the staff was friendly, so much so that they gave me they’re e-mail addresses. (see pics below).

As chance would have it, some people from the summer language program stopped into Onno and sat down next to us. After our (delicious) meal, we all toured Bourj Hammoud via a scavenger hunt from Time-Out Beirut Magazine. After the civil war, Lebanon took on a daring and daunting reconstruction project. However, some areas without adequate political representation fell through the cracks. In Bourj Hammoud, many relics of the war remain intact, and by intact I mean peppered with bullet holes.

This is The Beach

Layla, Steve and I stopped by Rifik Hariri’s Tomb. He was the Primer until his bombing in 2005. Few can take more credit for leading Lebanon through to its restoration.

These were his body guards

This is My Room, Home Sweet Home

Restaurant Onno, A Must-Eat Armenian Dinning Experience

This is Bone Marrow, well spiced

Quail Eggs on Basterma, Armenian Beef Prosciutto

Kibeh Niyyeh, Spiced Raw Meat

Yogurt Sauce on Oven Baked Doh filled with Meat

Beef Cubes in a DELICIOUS Sweet Cherry Sauce and Cashews

Brains! Like Spiced Tofu (somehow it works really well)

Baby Sparrows, Eaten Whole, The Bones Give Them a Satisfying Crunch

These were really, Really good

Our Friend Zu Zu (Right), Next to the Onno Store Owner

One of the stops on our scavenger hunt was this monument which commemorates the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

Felt pretty bad for this Tucan. The pet show employees came out to tell me not to take pictures so I’m not sure how legal he is..

The Shot Up Buildings of the Armenian District

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3 Comments on “Brains! Brains! Brains!!!”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Wow, the bone marrow plate looks really really good!!!


  2. Tamar Nigolian Mohtadi Says:

    Thank you for your lovely comments, happy to hear you like our food
    like us on facebook and be a fan of ONNO restaurant


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