A look at the new spot serving up the healthiest food in Lebanon.
Dalia Taher Haddad estimates she’s read over 100 diet books. All can be distilled down to the same mandate: eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Which is how Haddad chose the name for her new restaurant, Eat Sunshine, using plants as the staple of each dish. “I thought, these plants eat sunshine, and we eat them – so why not eat sunshine?”
The menu includes a bright assortment of super foods, deliciously prepared. There’s a yellowish-orange turmeric latte made from root and coconut milk, bright purple beetroot tapenade and ‘noodles’ made from spiralized squash in a green pesto sauce crafted from walnuts instead of cheese. (The restaurant serves free-range meats, but avoids dairy and soft drinks).
The recipes are simple and most dishes can be prepared in around 20 minutes. “If you’re sitting here and saying ‘Wow this is amazing,’ it’s not because we’ve produced it in any fancy-schmancy way,” Haddad says. Instead, the emphasis is on the ingredients. “I can tell you where each and every single item comes from,” she says. And 90% of what’s on the menu is from local organic farms, like Jlal at-Tormos in South Lebanon.
Haddad wasn’t always passionate about healthy food. As a child she spent summers in Europe, eating fast food every day. She later took up smoking, had problems with her skin, and was fatigued, she says, for most of her life. Reflecting on her former administrative role for banking giant J.P. Morgan, Haddad says, “I wasn’t happy in my soul.”
A few years back, she married restaurateur Mario Haddad Jr. and quit her job. After two years spent doing “nothing – literally nothing,” she began to take up cooking as a hobby. Her interest in healthy food came when she was looking for recipes that might help clear her skin. Interest quickly turned to obsession. “I needed to fill that hunger inside of me,” she says.
As her diet improved, so did her overall health. She quit smoking. Her skin cleared up. (‘I haven’t worn makeup in years,’ reveals the gorgeous Haddad.) Studying by correspondence, she pursued a degree in nutrition and began working one-on-one with clients to improve their own eating habits.
In May, she opened Eat Sunshine, a bright and airy café in Monot, determined to share her love of wholesome food with the general public. Her husband cautioned her about the challenges of the cutthroat restaurant business, but Haddad was determined. “I said, ‘If I can’t do this, I don’t know who can.’”
Involved in every aspect of the café’s creation, she designed the interior herself. Pots lined up on one wall were acquired during a recent trip to Marrakesh. The striking palm tree wallpaper is the same “Martinique” design seen in the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA.
Haddad hopes that her café will become a center for healthy eating in Beirut, not only serving healthy food to customers but also informing locals about places they can buy delicious organic food. There are even plans to host seminars on healthy cooking, as well as yoga classes in the adjacent garden.
She’s certainly a persuasive spokesperson for the cause. A junk food connoisseur, I was a reformed character after sampling Eat Sunshine’s delicious offerings. It will take time for my body to repair, though – and that’s just fine, according to Haddad. Keep adding healthy food to your diet, and eventually the body will prevail. “Over time, your body becomes stronger than your mind.”
Monot St., tel. 01. 325.980