Exploring Touta Ballouta, a Lebanese culinary gem in Portugal, with Cynthia Bitar

Exploring Touta Ballouta, a Lebanese culinary gem in Portugal, with Cynthia Bitar

As you enter Touta Ballouta, an inviting ambience greets you, seamlessly blending the warmth and comfort of home. From the very first moment, you’ll feel the embrace of a friendly atmosphere, akin to a cherished gathering place. We spoke with Cynthia Bitar, partner and executive chef at Worldkitch LDA, to learn more about this Lebanese culinary gem in Portugal.

What prompted you to launch Touta Ballouta and why did you choose Lisbon as your destination?

As a chef and in general, I thrive on embracing fresh challenges and engaging in exciting projects. Despite my extensive European culinary experience, the prospect of starting my own business in this vibrant region captivated me instantly. Having spent the past few years exploring Portugal, I developed a profound appreciation for it. Furthermore, its natural beauty, the warmth of its people and the striking parallels it shares with Lebanon in ingredients and traditions resonated with me. Moreover, fueled by a passion for new challenges, I eagerly embarked on this venture, ready to create a unique culinary experience.

How does Touta Ballouta set itself apart from other Lebanese restaurants in Lisbon?

Touta Ballouta’s “cuisine libre” distinguishes us among Lebanese restaurants in the region. Furthermore, we craft a non-traditional menu, staying true to our culinary DNA and authenticity.  Our goal goes beyond providing a unique dining experience. We strive to serve food that is not only comforting but also speaks to the hearts of our guests. For example, our menu features hummus, batata harra, cheese rolls, moghrabieh and freekeh. Each uniquely tackled with our distinctive twist. Moreover, embracing a vision for a vibrant Lebanese cuisine, we play with temperatures, textures and diverse cooking techniques. Thus, we aim to craft an experience of delightful surprise with every bite.

Enumerate the similarities and differences between Lebanese and Portuguese cuisine and what are the challenges/advantages of familiarizing the locals with these?

Though Portuguese cuisine differs from ours, there are always some similarities in the flavors and ingredients.

I spent months immersed in the country. I’ve also explored food markets and restaurants, connecting with people, chefs, local producers and restaurateurs to deepen my understanding of the culture. Portugal’s remarkable tomato season, olive oil, ginja like Levantine fichna cherry, Algarve seafood and Alentejo’s porco preto made a lasting impression. Crafting Touta Ballouta’s menu has been an incredible journey. We use premium ingredients to infuse the taste of our hometown into each creation.

What feedback have you received from guests?

We’ve received a great deal of positive feedback. One guest said: “It was not just dinner; it was an experience! Very delicious food, beyond expectations.” Another guest remarked: “What a pleasure dining here; the experience was extraordinary.” Others have also said: “The menu boasts a delightful blend of modern and traditional flavors, creating a culinary masterpiece.” We have been inundated with wonderful comments.

Can you share your plans for 2024 and 2025?

Beyond my dedication to Nazira Catering, which commands a significant portion of my time, my current emphasis is on Touta Ballouta. While aspiring to expand in Europe, my priority is maintaining high culinary standards and excellent service for our valued clients. Despite having numerous projects in mind, I approach each decision with a great deal of care and consideration. Furthermore, I am driven by my unwavering commitment to delivering tailored and personalized service.


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touta ballouta ambiance 2
touta ballouta ambiance 2
Touta Ballouta

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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