CHECK OTHER REVIEWS FOR THIS PLACE:
Albergo's Rooftop: Fine Dining in a Cosy Atmosphere
Al Dente: A Fine Italian in Beirut...The Accademia Italiana Della Cucina Dinner
Beirut French Gastronomy Week: An Enchanting Grande Finale Dinner
Le Festival de la Gastronomie Francaise, Beirut 2013
Le Festival de la Gastronomie Francaise, Beirut 2012
The Al Dente Ristorante with Chef Jean-Pierre Jacob
Al Dente Ristorante at the Albergo Hotel, Beirut
Semaine de la Gastronomie Française: A Dinner by Guillaume Sourrieu
Semaine de la Gastronomie Française 2015: Chef Marc Meurin
A Dinner Prepared by Jean-Christophe Lebascle at Hotel Albergo
Tonight we dine, but it's not like any dinner or review. Tonight is special, a dinner organized by Flair magazine to choose the dish that will be published in their upcoming issue -The Rouge Issue.. Daniella Rahme, David Frem, Lea Kanaan, Jad Massaad, Mia Karam, Reema Nassar, Katie Gaspar and Wilson Issa accepted the challenge. Tonight we dine with a card, rating four entrees, four main dishes and four desserts.
There are a few places in Lebanon that really stand out and eventually become a landmark. One such place is the Albergo Hotel. Passing by the famous Rue Du Liban in Achrafieh, you can't but notice a beautiful building hosting the only Relais&Chateaux hotel in Lebanon. Hotel Albergo, nestled at the intersection between Rue Du Liban and Abdel Wahab el Inglizi Street is an iconic location known by most people. Inside this hotel are two restaurants. Choose between Aldente, the fine dining Italian restaurant or the Rooftop to indulge in one of the finest cuisines Lebanon has to offer.
Arrive at the hotel, pass through the beautiful lobby and take the elevator up to the roof. A large space, filled with sofas and tables, welcomes you in its warm and soothing ambiance. Ottoman chandeliers, Persian rugs among other eclectic details make this space an interesting set up to enjoy a memorable night of fine dining...
The place's fine decorations:
- A large, open square room.
- Sofas, tables and chairs with a bar at the very end.
- Brown wood takes over the space.
- A rustic old style gives this restaurant a unique identity.
- Brown, beige and red colors fine tuned to relax your eyes.
- Choose to sit on one of the square tables, the sofas, or the two rectangular tables.
- Yellow, dimmed lighting accompanies you through the night.
- Marble covers the floor, alongside Persian carpets.
- Many Arabic writings on the walls remind you of Ottoman days.
- On the right a corner with a TV and a library is perfect for drinks and business meetings.
- The fine carpets add a refined touch to the space.
The first impression:
- A beautiful calm and cozy space with a warm and classy feel.
- The head waiter with his black smoking jacket and red tie was helped by a waiter in a white jacket and black bowtie.
- A beautifully set table with a fine white table cloth, a centered porcelain ashtray and two flower pots.
- Raynaud China and silver cutlery with transparent crystal candlesticks.
Chef Erich Van Gheren offers an exceptional menu of classic dishes and gourmet specialties from which the most discerning of palates can be chosen.
Good to know:
- The menu proposes "Pates sans glutenes" and five "gluten free" choices
- Five items with the number of calories contained in them written alongside.
The things I enjoyed:
- The classiness of the place.
- Drinks are served with carrots and nuts and placed on printed coasters. I loved the carrots!
- Relaxing and soothing music.
- Bread is fresh and delicious.
The chef approached us to explain the dishes. Chef Erich joined the group in 1998 working on a special menu blending international flavors with a Lebanese touch. He knows his ingredients by heart and their names in Arabic.
On tonight's menu:
- Quinoa Tabboulleh with grilled shrimp
- Magret de canard salad with wild rocket, a four minute egg and fresh mushrooms.
- Salad of mache with traditional Labneh balls, vinaigrette, pistachio and beetroot.
- The Albergo salad put on the menu in 1998. Mesclun, apricot, poached chicken, grilled accawi cheese, pine nuts and pomegranate sauce.
- Risotto with Gorgonzola and the salty crunch of Parma ham.
- Braised lamb in a compote of dried cranberries and pears with cumin.
- Scallops, seared in a pan, served with pomme purée and butter, decorated with radish and chard. With brown butter powder.
- Mini cubes of cheese, tender apricot adding a touch of sweetness, fresh greens with a sauce that adds the acidity you need. Freshness, finesse and taste. A real blend of European flavors with a Lebanese inspiration.
- Duck, a smokiness, fresh rocket, thinly sliced white mushroom and a fine long lasting note of lemon with this rich duck fat that stays around your palate for a long time.
- The salad with Labneh balls was surely my favorite. How great those mashed Labneh chunks are, the sweetness of the firm beetroot diced to perfection and the pistachio crushed to add some finesse, some enjoyment, some style. That was my favorite.
- The quinoa salad is impressive! The taste of tabbouleh, the texture of quinoa, the enjoyment of thinly sliced shrimp with grilling notes and the juicy sauce. I loved the approach and creation. One thing; the parsley should be cut smaller.
- The risotto has this amazing taste of smoked and butter Gorgonzola that fits great with rice. Lightly salty, but needs a bit more boost.
- The jarret d'agneau is wow! To die for. The meat is succulent but I'd change the bizarre, sticky pasta. Don't judge too quickly, wait, breathe, enjoy the first bite while the others grabs you to finish all the dish.
- The salmon marinade is out of this world. The light caramelized sweetness made me want to lick my lips again and again.
- Oh my God! That's what fine dining is all about; the scallops, tender like butter, the creamy spinach, the purée, the dried butter, the lightly crunchy whitened radish... That's the work of a master.
- A crunchy tart topped with a molten chocolate with an impressive mint ice cream on the side with the greenest color I've seen to date. A majestic chocolate cake, smooth like butter and intense in flavor. The creme brûlée you can't miss. The lookoum ice cream on cake with sugared rose petal. The desserts are simply amazing, majestically created by an artist.
Dinner was superb, the chef knows what he's doing and the ambiance of this place makes of it one of the country's best restaurants.
The things I'd change:
- The wine glasses are too thick, heavy and look commercial. Many other classier alternatives would better fit this restaurant's style and level.
- Service needs more finesse. It's a problem I remember having at Albergo years back.
Recommended it is. Come meet chef Erich.