The Best of Beirut
on Feb 12, 2014 By Danielle Issa
Ah Valentine’s Day, an occasion in which marketers will hoax us into believing this day is the epitome of all things romantic and dreamy.
The truth is, Beirutis don’t need a commercialized holiday to jazz it up, put on their finest, and dine in one of cupid’s haunts. Every day is cause to celebrate love, and Beirut is chock full of venues perfectly suited for starry-eyed lovers.
From the seaside to the mountainside, the stately to the simple, the conventional to the modern—here are the places where you’ll want to lock in a reservation ASAP.
Photo by Sam Fakhoury
Lola is an idyllic restaurant nestled in the pine-covered mountains of Naas, Bickfaya. When you first arrive, you are greeted by a cozy outdoor terrace that offers exquisite views of the valley below, but make your way inside to the warmth and comfort of the fire-lit dining space.
We recommend a fine bottle of Bordeaux red to start; the generous cheese platter (39,000 LL) which offers five select fromages from France; and a plateau de charcuterie (45,000 LL) complete with premium cuts of bresaola, jamón Serrano, prosciutto, and salami.
If hunger still prevails, order a medium-cooked steak-frites (42,000 LL) to share, but save room for Lola’s otherworldly pain perdu (22,000 LL), an island of French toast floating on a sea of rich caramel and gently cradling a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.
The biblical city of Byblos has a wonderful charm to it: the ancient seaport with the Mediterranean lapping at its shores; the cobblestone souks where you can find a plethora of trinkets and folkloric garb; the ruins of a Roman fortress; and a heaping selection of restaurants to satisfy your gnawing appetite.
Edde Yard is a real treat that brings together French and Italian cuisines and is best known for its outdoor flame-grilled steaks. Book a cozy table for two inside by the window, and warm up with a glass of Lebanon’s own Ixsir Altitudes.
Split a caprese salad (22,000 LL)—ethereally soft fresh buffalo mozzarella adorned with sweet tomato, arugula and fresh basil—before diving into a half-kilo côte de boeuf (110,000 LL) accompanied by herbed countryside potatoes and a creamy mushroom sauce, perfect for dipping. End with the house’s classic gaufre au chocolat (10,000 LL).
Photo via plus961.com
Julia’s is a picture-perfect dining venue in the heart of Achrafieh that serves French classics in addition to pasta dishes and an original kaak pizza. The restaurant is situated inside an old stone house, much of whose authentic character is preserved, together with a street-side patio and two private loge boxes suspended above it (book yours well in advance).
The tabletop candles, the soft music, and the dim interior lighting all make for a superbly romantic dinner. We recommend the gratinée à l’oignon, a delightfully messy onion soup smothered in grated Emmental; the champignons forestières, oven-baked mushrooms basking in a parsley-crème fraiche concoction; and the sizzling côte de boeuf with sautéed potato slices and a sensuous onion-compote sauce. Finish with Julia’s indulgent pain perdu.
Abd Al Wahab Al Inglizi street
Photo via hg2beirut.com
You’d be hard-pressed to find a quainter, lovelier little restaurant in all of Lebanon than the decades-old La Gargote, perched in the mountains of Broumana.
Serving up traditional French fare in a cabin-esque setting, the restaurant is a specialist in steak, homemade provincial mustard, and onion soup. Share a tarte au thym, a cheese-laden savory pie stuffed with fresh thyme herbs, before selecting one of La Gargote’s steaks.
Beware: the self-important maître d’ will refuse to have it cooked beyond medium. Ask for the rustic mustard, which comes in a massive clay jar, and heap several spoons of it onto your plate to dab your steak in. Wash it all down with a refreshing ice cream sundae (Le Parisien) drowned in crushed nuts and rum.
Photo via gardlen.com
Seza is a splendid Armenian bistro hidden along one of the many side streets of Rue d’Armenie in Mar Mikhael. The atmosphere is convivial and intimate all at once, sheltering you from the loud nightlife in this notorious quartier.
Seza’s food, prepared by passionate homemakers, is a delectable marriage among traditional Oriental, Mediterranean, and Armenian cuisines with a nod to the gourmet palate. Start with the itch, a dense salad of tomato, bulgur and parsley, followed by cumin-spiced lentil kufta, more familiar as kibbet 3adass. Make your way to the sou beoreg, a savory millefeuille layered with oozing cheese, before ordering fishna kebab, a spellbinding Armenian specialty of kafta meatballs slathered with sour cherries and plain yogurt. Afterward, Seza will treat you to a dizzying array of custards like the Lebanese rice pudding riz bi 7alib, mhallabieh, and meghleh.
Patriarch Arida Street
Photo via beirutna.com
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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