The Best of Beirut
on Nov 13, 2014 By Danielle Issa
We Lebanese appreciate the merits of lamb: its meat is tender and rich with complex flavors, and it is far less marbled than beef, which makes it leaner if you trim the fat around its edges. An excellent source of protein, iron, and zinc, lamb meat can be vital for metabolic processes and red blood cell formation. I don’t need to preach its dietary benefits—its taste alone holds the power of persuasion.
Where to go to satiate your lust for lamb? Well, there are plenty of options, and almost any traditional Lebanese restaurant won’t fail you (they even offer lamb testicles). Here, however, we stray from the mainstream to offer you our picks of more diverse dishes incorporating the favored Mediterranean meat.
Few know that the Radisson Blu Martinez in Ain Mreisseh houses an exceptional Mediterranean restaurant called Olivos. Even fewer know that their lamb shank is one of Lebanon’s finest specimens of a dish. Resembling more a leg of lamb thanks to its substantial size, this cut comes resting atop a purée of mint-flavored celeriac and mashed potato, an ode to the chef’s British training. Sweet sugar snaps and roasted cherry tomatoes with red currant jus offset its meaty savors. The lamb is by all counts a hands-on endeavor, requiring you to pull back the skin and fat to uncover the tender meat inside. But the contrast of flavors, spices and textures is absolutely tantalizing and redeems every ounce of labor you put forth.
Ibn Sina street
Moti Mahal is Lebanon’s premier Indian fine dining institution and is credited with having introducing tandoori cuisine to the world. You’ll be utterly mesmerized with the melt-in-your-mouth lamb seekh kebab, the counterpart to our Lebanese kebab but seasoned with conventional Indian spices. Those fearful of piquancy can rest assured that the heat is mild at best, but we still recommend you order a lassi blended with finely chopped mint leaves. It’s jazzier than ayran and keeps the palate cool between each bite.
Minet El Hosn
PF Changs has been attracting coverage lately for its new sushi fare, but in all fairness, we love the place for its signature modern Chinese-American cuisine made fresh, simple, and irresistibly tasty. The international chain is famous for its Mongolian grill, so don’t waver. Sweet, soy-glazed lamb seared in a wok with full green onions, this dish will ignite your appetite. There’s also a Mongolian beef option for the less courageous, but go with our guts on this one.
Feel like classic Nicoise cuisine from the south of France combined with Mediterranean influences from neighboring Italy? La Petite Maison, which landed in Beirut just a year and half ago, is your paradise, serving supremely simple yet scrumptious fare prepared a la minute, aka when you order it. The Côtelettes d’Agneau Vivienne are fancy French for grilled lamb cutlets with a spoon of smoked eggplant puree. Tender, succulent and juicy, they are seasoned with black pepper and nothing else. Order sides of string beans and steamed broccoli to mask the voracious carnivore in you.
Inside the Intercontinental Vendome Hotel
So maybe you’re craving more portable food, like a wrap of minced lamb with spices perfect for on-the-go gorging. We can’t emphasize Furn Beaino enough. The famous joint in Sarba is run by brothers Samer and Wissam Beaino, who inherited it from their father. And there’s no question that their specialty la7m b3ajin deserves a perfect mark for its premium blend of lamb, tomatoes, and spices. Crispy and appetizing, this la7m b3ajin will leave you yearning for seconds.
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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