March 29, 2015 Beirut Lebanon Middle East

A Night with the Master: In the Kitchen with Hussein Hadid...

It was a special night. One of my favorite people in the gastronomy world, Chef Hussein Hadid was being awarded the “Prix du Chef de l'Avenir" by l'Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie (AIG). To celebrate the occasion, the master deliciously prepared an endless selection of flavors…

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I was invited to witness Hussein Hadid in action, as he prepares dinner – and it was not just any dinner.  I arrived early and the heat in the kitchen was on! Tables were set and the master was ready to lead his orchestra.

Hosting 120 food connoisseurs some of whom are members of ALG (Academie Libanaise de la Gastronomie), including its president Sheikh Fouad el Khazen, the Vice President Madeleine Helou, the president of the jury Ambra Dabbous, the general secretary, and treasurer Walid Mouzannar Gilbert Yared.

In his Mar Elias kitchen, Hussein Hadid, along side his 16 staff members, meticulously worked around large rectangular tables to prepare what can be labeled – a dinner fit for a king... Carefully and respectfully listening to Hadid’s guidelines, preparations in the kitchen was a joy to look at and an inspiration to share…

Outside, tables were already set. The warmth of amber and blue dimmed lights fills up the lower floor of Hussein Hadid's quarters.

The tables:

  • Ten tables occupy the lower floor of Hussein Hadid's quarters.
  • Table are all set with two forks, two knives and a spoon, each, as well as a full set for dessert … and four wine glasses - one for every kind.
  • Beige linen table covers with round mirrors in the middle where flower decorations are set.
  • The menu printed on a carton is placed on the napkin.
  • Candies and coffee beans cups with lots of candles.

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What a lovely place... worth describing: Hussein Hadid lounges:

  • Pass a parking space to find a large wooden door at the very end.
  • Behind it a huge open space that resembles an oriental setting from 1001 Arabian Nights.
  • In its center, you’ll find a black piano elevated on a wooden platform.
  • Lounges and long sofas can host hundred of guests for a welcome drink.
  • The decoration is based on earth colors: grey, brown, black, beige and some colors add a touch of joy.
  • Take some time to appreciate the Iranian carpets covering the stone floor.
  • White walls keep things simple.
  • Take the stairs to go down where the buffet table, kitchen and more lounges…
  • The blend between modernism and oriental authentic art is clear.
  • A well-decorated, yet simple space is filled with little tiny items.
  • At the very end is a dining area fitted with a long table you only see in castles.
  • Copper casseroles, utensils, design items, steel and collectors objects decorate this area fitted with a long table and a bar that can seat six persons.
  • Refinement with a touch of artistic flavors is the best that describes those saloons.
  • Next to it is the open kitchen. A spacious kitchen where everything is prepared.
  • Lit candles in the kitchen add ambiance. A piece of art!
  • Music was smoothly playing all over the place including the kitchen. The ambiance alone was something else.

The clock was ticking and the staff was getting ready: I see black truffles being meticulously cleaned with a toothbrush, the raw veal being caressed with rosemary leaves and hot oil, as the thinly sliced toasts were being removed from the oven and topped with a light dash of salt… and…Can’t spoil the surprise… read on… 

Dinner was served in the dining area while I sat down at a corner in the kitchen to taste calmly:

The veal, which is a signature plate I've already tasted before. Piemontese style veal tartare served with parmegiano reggiano and truffle oil and crispy croutons. Simply imagine raw meat, the Lebanese way mixed all together with truffle oil while the Parmesan adds a certain touch of European finesse. The smoothness of ground meat, a boost of pepper and the explosion of truffle oil followed by the finesse of firm parmegiano and a crunch of the perfectly toasted salty bread at the end. Simply awesome. A Lebanese authentic knowhow mastered for centuries has now been upscaled with a touch of unmatched finesse.

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A portion of raw lobster prepared in a circular shape, decorated with pieces of orange and red orange, olive oil, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate juice decorated with a green strip of dill. Thickly cut fresh lobster soaked in some amazingly tasty pomegranate juice adding the sweetness, pomegranate molasses for the acidity while the orange chunks add the freshness you expect for the dish to be unique. It's not the average thinly cut carpaccio so I believe it needs a tooth that's used to that kind of texture. 

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It was time for the risotto. Round soup plates each with a metallic ring hosts the risotto, some red wine sauce is added on the side as black truffles lay on top followed by Parmesan cheese. I was so excited to taste this plate, as it looked amazing. Al dente rice, a light crisp, the smell of truffles and the sweet wine sauce served alongside makes this a one of a kind risotto. I just wish you could taste it. Awesome!

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In the meantime, the dessert is being prepared…

The best was yet to come. Roasted Leg of Roebuck with herbs and juice mixed with fresh giroles mushrooms on the side reduced red port wine sauce with juniper berries. Three slices of meat, served medium rare, lay on a bed of pan-fried mushrooms alongside sweet sauce. Medium rare, super tender yet full of texture. The lightly sweet sauce and tender giroles adds a wow effect! Two thumbs up chef.

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Dinner was exquisite; now for dessert. Baba au rhum with whipped cream, oranges, strawberries and raspberries and rhum spiced orange syrup. Lovely smooth dough slacked to perfection with cream and most importantly the sauce, which makes all the difference. It was a bit sweet but good.

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Now this is what I call a “dinner” and like most guests described it, it’s a ‘royal dinner’ and I couldn't agree more. Having dinner with Hussein Hadid is an honor – a chef and a friend, I hope all of you will get the chance to meet one day…

Hussein Haddid can be contacted on +961 1 816120. Address: 50 Sheikh Abbas St, Moseitbeh, Mar Elias, Beirut, Lebanon.

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