BEIRUT: Naming a healthy eating restaurant Fiber hardly seems wise. If ever there was a word to dissuade dinnertime excitement and conjure instead images of excessive quantities of bland roughage primarily consumed to assist smooth excretion, it’s “fiber.”
But if you can overcome the off-putting name and find your way to either the Hamra or Beirut Waterfront outlets of Lebanon’s newest diet conscious restaurant, an array of breakfast, lunch and dinner options, many significantly more appealing than fiber, awaits. And every single one of them is calorie counted.
Some of those counts seem just too good to be plausible, let alone palatable.
Baked veggie spring rolls are touted on the menu as containing just 65.1 kilocalories. Staff assured The Daily Star that this was a per dish rather than a per roll total. Granted each of the four spring rolls that comprise the starter is smaller than your typical spring roll, and their baked dough is so thin it’s almost transparent and lacks the appetizing sheen that accompanies the deep-fried variety. Yet the rolls, filled with crunchy fresh vegetables and served with a light sweet and sour dip, are surprisingly tasty.
The salmon tapas starter is also highly recommended. Three small rounds of fiber toast topped with smoked salmon, light cream cheese, avocado, lemon and capers will, according to the menu, cost you just 77.3 kcal, leaving plenty of your daily allowance – generally estimated between 2,000-2,700 kcal – available for the main course.
With a selection of pizza and burger options, Fiber unshackles itself from the steam-everything preconception of diet food. That it actually manages to make healthy versions of these foods taste good is even more impressive.
The burgers, served on delicious multicereal brown bread buns, look delicious, and the vegetarian option may be the best veggie burger in Beirut. Its nutritious patty is packed full of a variety of healthy things, including red beans, mushrooms, carrots, celery, leeks, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, bean sprouts, eggplant, artichoke and ginger, making it a far more interesting meal than the deep fried slab of mozzarella that passes as a vegetarian option at most of the city’s burger joints.
In addition to chicken and beef burgers, Fiber also offers a turkey burger, something unavailable elsewhere in town.
Fiber’s burgers are served with skin-on potato wedges or nonfried French fries and a side salad; however, calorie counting diners should be aware that the counts given for the burgers exclude the sides they come with.
Also noteworthy is that, as tasty as the burgers are, the wedges are bland hunks of barely seasoned potato that in no way provide satisfaction similar to a greasy side of fries.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if a calorie count really looks far too good to be true then it usually is.
Fiber’s margarita pizza is advertised on the menu as containing 95.1 kcal, which, unless it’s a pizza comprising tomato slices alone, is pretty much impossible.
Upon inquiry staff explain that the calorie count is actually per quarter pizza, making the total count a much more credible, although still rather low, 380 kcal.
With a thin, but not so thin it can’t support the topping, multicereal and brown-flour base, Fiber’s margarita definitely tastes like a healthy pizza option, but that doesn’t mean it tastes bad. The tomato sauce is topped with a serving of cheese so generous that one may again question the advertised (per quarter) calorie count.
Fiber’s menu advertises that all its calorie counts are calculated by an “expert dietitian” and says that a “full nutritional facts sheet is available upon request.” But at the branch on Hamra’s Sidani Street last Sunday, staff told The Daily Star that the additional nutritional information sheet was unavailable.
Perhaps the unavailability of a precise nutritional breakdown is just as well as you tuck into a slice of Fiber’s carrot cake – 384 kcal of moist, cream-cheese-frosted pure indulgence.