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Chez Jean-Claude Bistro Français, Beirut
I can't count how many times I wanted to visit Jean-Claude again. Over four years ago, before I started NoGarlicNoOnions, I came here for dinner which I still remember to date... Days have passed and many restaurants have opened and Jean-Claude is still a reference for good quality, service and food. Tonight we dine at Jean-Claude's.
It's a fine diner, more of an upscaled bistro where you're welcomed by a local valet and enter a restaurant handled by a head waiter in a black jacket and tie and helped by waiters in white shirts and black ties. Jean-Claude was there having a drink on the terrace, while his lovely wife tours around, making sure all the guests are happy.
It's a classy space, green carpet and a yellow feel. Wood covers the walls, lit by warm spots, red fabric benches and green fabric chairs made of black wood. Yellow table covers, roses decorating the center of the table and some paintings from the beginning of the century. I like the glasses, the bread basket, the chips bowls and cherry tomatoes served to start with, the cheese sticks on the side and the Peugeot mills.
The menu is made of two sides. One side for the starters, and the other for the main plates. They are known for their salads to which you can add foie gras, and their meats including their famous raspberry sauce. 13 cold starters, 3 hot starters, 13 plates and 4 choices from the grill.
As a first impression the clientele is of a certain age, youngsters don't know Chez Jean-Claude much. The waiters, young themselves, need some training to have better posture and a more synchronized way of moving around. Everything went well, but could have been better, or at least how I expected it to be.
We had dinner:
- A thin layer of bread topped with a thick chuck of foie gras, served next to a mountain of thin green beans sprinkled with salt and pepper on a bed of lettuce. A simple plate with a certain touch of finesse, flavors and aromas of oil. I enjoyed it with no complication.
- Endives Roquefort was as good as the green bean plate. Four endives decorating a mix of blue cheese and shredded endives in a bath of olive oil. The excess of olive oil was good with some lemon.
- 500 grams of enjoyment, a beautiful chunk of meat, a fully-fledged entrecôte that looked black but appetizing, shining from above, crunchy with a tender heart, salted and peppered and served with mini fries on the side. It's amazing, how tender it is and lightly crunchy on the edges. No salt is needed, but some old style mustard would surely be of added value.
- The famous pepper sauce with cherries is not to be missed. Meat of a good quality, tender and flavorful, well cooked and covered with "the" sauce everyone talks about.
Dessert choices were chocolate tart, lemon tart and sorbets. Those are not prepared in-house, but brought daily from Patisserie Cannelle.
An excellent and exceptional Baba Au Rhum made by Cannelle. A fluffy, well soaked dough topped with whipped cream served with rum on the side. Sweet, balanced and fresh with lift sugar and great textures. It's not chewy and not spongy but firm and condensed. Poor the rum to enjoy the alcohol boost and a light bitterness.
- Plastic bottles are not up to standard in such a restaurant; glass fits better.
- The waiters need a bit more training, more class.
- The plates can surely look better to be up to the bill.
- Prices are way too high for a bistro unless it's a fine dining place.
Now for the conclusion... I like this place, it makes me feel special every time I visit, but what we ate didn't justify the $150 price tag; a total bill of $600. Is it a bistro or a fine dining restaurant? Without having to compare with other places, I believe Chez Jean-Claude needs to lower the prices or upscale the offerings.