The Best of Beirut
on Aug 18, 2014 By Danielle Issa
French gastronomy is renowned for its heavy sauces, savory steaks, and intricate desserts. It’s all about fine ingredients, refined assembly, and tasting every element of the dish as you appreciate its presentation. Sure, you could travel to Paris to get your fix of French fare, but why would you when Beirut’s replete with exceptional French dining outlets?
Indeed, the best of France can be had in Lebanon, complete with the nook-and-cranny-filled baguette bread and creamy salted butter to embark you on a journey of flavors. Here’s our pick of la crème de la crème of Parisian-style brasseries and fine dining restaurants in the city. Bon appetit!
Image via Couqley on Facebook
Au Bistrot de Michel has the feel and charm of a genuine bistrot de quartier thanks to the red overhanging curtain that greets you at the entrance, the tightly-packed square tables inside, and a chalkboard menu listing all of the day’s specials. The true test of its authenticity, however, is the food, and my God, it is good. There are two dishes you absolutely must have at Michel. The foie de volaille (19,500 LL) is chicken liver cooked in Porto wine and seasoned exquisitely—it is the French take on 2asbeh sawda. Pair it with a cone of slender fries to dip into the rich, pepper-infused sauce. The calamars sauce meunière (20,000 LL) features pan-fried calamari tossed with capers, lemon juice, and parsley, and its generous portion will satiate both eyes and paunch. Save room for the unmatched crème brulée (9,500 LL).
Couqley has rightfully earned its reputation for superior bistro-style cuisine, affordable imported wine, and Chef Alexis Couquelet’s inimitable steak-frites platter. In fact, every time you visit Couqley, you’ll be tempted to try other offerings on the menu—and it is an impressive, varied menu with everything from soupe à l’oignon to escargots—but you’ll find yourself succumbing yet again to the steak-and-fries combo (29,000 LL). A tender flank of entrecote, doused in a secret sauce and garnished with a leaf of parsley, emerges with a mountain of pencil-thin fries and a fresh green salad tossed in Dijonnaise. If this is what France tastes like, then vive la France!
Image via Instagram
For something with a bit of flair, try Prune in Mar Mikhael. Deriving its name from the dried plum, Prune gives this fruit center stage in many of its dishes, and the sweet-savory marriage couldn’t be exemplified more deliciously. The poulet aux prunes (36,000 LL) dishes up tender grilled chicken breast severed into chunks, cooked with prunes, and adorned with almond slivers. Served with puréed potatoes, it is divine. Le Pain Retrouvé (12,000 LL) is Prune’s take on the classic pain perdu: two bricks of milky, egg-y, custard-like bread basking in caramel and accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Don’t leave without discovering this wonder.
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What makes Le Petit Gris stand out from its peers is its scrupulously organic cuisine, made using fresh Biomass products. Named after a garden variety of snails which the restaurant boasts as its specialty, Le Petit Gris is an adventure for your gourmet palate. Start with the crabe frais façon waldorf, an enticing entrée of fresh crab coupled with julienned celery, Granny Smith apples, avocado, and a mayo-mustard vinaigrette binding it all together. The Coquilles St. Jacques, a rarity in Lebanon, are buttery-soft scallops dressed in coriander, chives, and a squeeze of lemon. End on a sweet note of mango millefeuille.
Rue du Petit College
Image via NoGarlicNoOnions
How about dishes from the provinces of France, like the famed heavy cuisine de la Sud-Ouest? Bergerac is your destination, with French chef Alexis Claveyroles at the helm of a belly-pleasing voyage to the heart of the Southwest. The confit de canard unveils a duck thigh baked in its fat to a pleasant crisp, served atop caramelized onions and slices of oven-roasted potatoes. The terrine de foie gras is home-made, and the cassoulet—a classic stew cooked in a tapered clay pot and characterizing cuisine from la terroir—is an absolute must.
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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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