“Habibi” means “darling” in Arabic but describing the recently opened ‘Habibi’ restaurant as something endearing would be fairly off target. Though billed as a fine dining restaurant, Habibi is actually much more. Founder Michel Habibi likes to present the Habibi experience as one that’s more lively and entertaining than most restaurants the city has to offer.
Complete with mouth watering food prepared with the expertise of professional chefs and entertainment that is said to be unlike anything seen before in Sri Lanka, once you step through the white doors of the Habibi restaurant, chances are you won’t want to leave till the wee hours of the morning.
Habibi presents its customers with more than just the culinary delights from the Mediterranean. There’s live entertainment - Lebanese music and exotic belly dancers who weave through the tables and dance with the diners. It’s not merely about the food, it’s about having an enjoyable and one of a kind night-out experience at one location.
“Most people go to a restaurant for dinner and then have to go elsewhere for some evening entertainment. When you come to Habibi you won’t want to leave till we close which is at 2 a.m.,” says Michel describing a typical night at the restaurant.
That said, the authentic Lebanese cuisine is by itself enough to lure the gourmets. Prepared by Lebanese chefs and overseen by Michel himself, the food is representative of Middle Eastern cousine.
The hallmark earthy flavours of Lebanese cuisine and the distinctive tastes of lemon, olive oil and garlic are potent in every bite of the food served at Habibi. The Mezze platter is a colourful palette of textures and flavours that ranges from mild to piquant, consisting of traditional Mezze dishes such as hummous - a dip of sorts made of ground chick- peas, olive oil, tahini (sesame) and lime juice, and Muhammara— a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil, which is eaten with pita bread.
Some of the main dishes served include Kofta which is fingers of minced meat and spices that’s grilled, Falafels which are small deep-fried patties made of highly-spiced ground chickpeas, and chicken and rice.
The lamb served at the restaurant is imported from Australia as Michel says he hasn’t been able to find local lamb that can parallel it. He also ensures that the food retains its authentic Lebanese flavours by importing herbs and spices from Lebanon.
So if you’re tired of the run of the mill cuisine and would like to savour something different, check out Habibi at Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7, next to the CH&FC.