Welcome to the world of luxury, welcome to the world of Balthus, one of the few premium dining restaurants still standing in Lebanon. Serving its accustomed clientele for more than 15 years now, Balthus knows how to retain happy customers, by offering them a good experience they won’t forget. A soothing menu, professional staff and great food in an unforgettably beautiful setup.
I was invited for a business lunch, which I came to early, to study the little details around me. Enter the door on the ground floor, stop for a moment and enjoy the great sculpture of chairs, before moving up the stairs or taking the elevator to the first floor. Warm lights, beige leather chairs and beautiful tiles fill in the space while long, designer lights follow the ceiling from side to side.
As you enter, you will be welcomed by a designer structure, a mountain of chairs from the floor up to the ceiling by Eva Szumilas; from here you'll know what to expect up on the first floor. Look around and be amazed by the dozen golden mirrors covering the walls, the new age paintings or the tables covered with white cloth and topped with a full set of cutlery and thin glasses.
After ordering, a basket of bread landed on the table. A basket of freshly baked and heated bread, one white and another multi-cereal, crunchy on the outside and so tender on the inside waiting to be spread with some butter and enjoyed. Perfect bread, I wish I could take it back home with me.
Lunch at Balthus was just perfect. Beautifully decorated plates, premium ingredients and some great tastes... The main ingredient, one single ingredient: Love, lots of it felt in every bite.
I was so excited to try their food… the last time I was here was more than 3 years ago:
- Lentil salad comes in a round plate filled with a mountain of lentils and decorated with diced tomatoes. Perfectly cooked lentils, slightly hard, as they should be, and mixed with a fine lemon and olive oil juice. A sprinkle of coriander adds finesse and color to this delicious salad.
- The green bean and mushroom salad is as good as its cousin. Green beans mixed with sliced white mushrooms in a bowl of fresh green iceberg lettuce. What makes it unique is the seasoning, simple olive oil and lemon dressing, with a pleasant salty aftertaste that stays around your mouth.
- Bouillabaisse: Every Friday, expect to see a full house, many coming here for the Bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse originally was a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish, which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets. There are at least three kinds of fish in a traditional bouillabaisse: typically red rascasse, sea robin and European conger. It can also include gilt-head bream, turbot; monkfish, mullet; or European hake. It usually also includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins, mussels, velvet crabs, spider crab or octopus. Vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes are simmered together with the broth and served with the fish. The broth is traditionally served with a rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron, and cayenne pepper on grilled slices of bread. My uncle had it and loved it, as always. I think the picture is mouthwatering enough.
- I personally had the sea bass filet served with shredded zucchini, tomatoes, olive oil and lemon. Simple, yet tasty, I enjoyed the finesse this plate offers. With that, I ordered a plate of spinach, which was simply cooked without oil or any add-on. Even though it looked dull and dry, I enjoyed their crunchiness and freshness.
- The best was the mashed potato, or potato puree. Homemade, you could see the olive oil mixed within. A smooth mix of potatoes, simply potatoes, which I ate slowly, so as not to finish the plate quickly. The butter, the smoothness, the finesse… That’s redefined simplicity.
- Even the French fries were unique. Crunchy, fresh and oil-free French fries topped with an adequate amount of salt.
- My other uncle had the steak tartare, he said it was just perfect. I can still hear him moan while enjoying one bite after the other.
So, the tradition is to end up lunch with a hefty dessert and what else than the famous Pain Perdu everyone is trying to master, fighting for the “best pain perdu” title. Many talk about Balthus’ pain perdu and I believe they are right; Balthus’ pain perdu is surely one of the country’s finest.
A round piece of bread, soaked in milk, is homogenously cooked and toped with a layer of caramelized sugar. The journey starts by a crack while the sugar brakes, opening the road to the wonders below. A milky bread that’s not soggy, not too milky, that doesn’t smell eggs, and enjoyable to the last millimeter. I loved its inner moisture and juiciness and its sweetness that’s just perfect. Next to that is a chunk of vanilla ice cream, which is also very good. Best for last is the caramel sauce mixed with cooked, diced apples, a sauce that was thick, full-bodied and not too sweet. In a couple words, everything constituting this plate is just perfect except its presentation which can be improved.
Pros and Cons: Expensive but a restaurant that has lasted 15 long years, booked every day. Food is really good... Service can be better.
An enjoyable lunch. A bit pricey for a French brasserie, but believe me, you’ll get great food for your money.