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I was not sure what to expect... As I walked into Liza. Do they serve Lebanese food? Lebanese with a twist? Lebanese the way French people see it? I was not sure... Some people I know like it, others less so, so accompanied with two of my friends, I decided to give this place a try. Amazement: Was the feeling I had as I walked into this magnificent piece of art. Liza, the renowned name behind the Lebanese restaurant in Paris also has an address in Beirut up on the first floor of the Metropolitan Club in Ashrafieh.
Liza, owned by Ziad and Lisa Asseily, is a brand that was created in Paris almost 10 years ago and has just now opened its door to the Lebanese public in a home that was once lived in by the Boutros family up until 1995. Lebanese cuisine is what Liza serves and it does so in a throwback to days gone by evoking the symbols and heritage of The Lebanon.
Up the stone stairs lies Liza, the magnificent Liza whose architecture has reached high standards, blending together old with new. An old Lebanese house preserved to perfection with modern decorative structures introduced to add a touch of refinement.
- Here on the first floor of the metropolitan club, Liza’s décor is the result of the combined efforts of Lebanese artisans and designers from across the globe.
- Access the restaurant through a long corridor that takes to the main dining room. To its left is the bar while looking to the right gives you an idea of the view on the busy streets of Achrafieh
- The high ceilinged rooms surround a central hall from three of its four sides and a narrow balcony can be easily accessed through a triple glazed arcade.
- The floor is covered with reflective white marble floor cored with marble square tables, each surrounded by a golden strap. The tables are perfectly set with a fine cutlery of large sized forks and knives. Copper trays are used as placemats.
- Around the tables, old rugged leather chairs welcome guests
- Each room in Liza is intended to tell a story through the elements placed within
- An elephant is suspended from the main hall’s ceiling in the smoking room
- On the opposite side of the hall is The Money room where old Lebanese lira bills blown out of proportion decorate the walls. The historical sights on the bills allow the customer to be transported to a different part of the country and the nostalgic feel is further enhanced by the modest wooden blinds that soften the light as it filters through.
- One of the rooms, the one next to the bar has two oval tables that can host private events. The walls have green plants painted on them
- Lights and lanterns pend down the very high ceiling refreshing the space
- Light music plays with style in the background
Lunch started with a complementary drink offered by the waiter. The speciality Liza drink (LBP16,000) which blends miski and lemon on ice together. A unique taste, offering a subtle sweetness from the miski, while the lemonade erupts with aromatic wonder. Tasty and easy to drink, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The drink was served with crumbles of fried bread topped with Zaatar and olive oil. Yum... What a change from peanuts and cucumbers that are normally served in Lebanese restaurants. The menu sections:
- Le Lunch de Liza
Lunch is served:
- We started with hummus (LBP9,000), served in a copper bowl and with loafs of Borghol bread. The bread was interesting: a fluffy square of bread with a brownish color, airy and light with a neutral kind of taste: it lets the condiments really stand out.
- Now things started to get serious as a long plate of sfiha bites (LBP11,000) landed on the table. Square bites of dough filled with lamb meat like Lahme Beajine. Beautiful bites of toasted bread with crunchy borders and filled with juicy meat and its pleasant pomegranate molasses aftertaste. Premium quality meat, beautiful textures and a nice spicy aftertaste that accompanies you for couple minutes afterwards.
- Tabbouleh (LBP12,500) is a must order. It’s like a salad you've never seen before, constituted of parsley mixed with diced apples. No tomatoes, no borghol... Simply parsley, apples and onions mixed with lemon, olive oil and spices, lots of them. Exceptional to say the least. PS: On the menu you're promised to have tomatoes in it but I think it's better without it since we've enjoyed it that way.
- I love Labneh (LBP12,000), it’s something I refer to as Lebanese caviar. Ordering it everywhere I go, it gives me an idea of the creativity of the chef and surely of the freshness of the ingredients; not all Labneh is good. At Liza, other than the exceptional quality, the Labneh is mixed with tomato cubes, crunched aged black olives and tiny circles of green onions. On top lies a layer of fresh wild thyme. With a bit of olive oil... I could eat that all day. A perfect combination.
- More was yet to come. Imagine a piece of grilled halloumi (LBP17,500) with its texture, juiciness and saltiness served with a tomato but not any tomato, a tomato jam with its juicy sweetness. An explosion of textures and flavors combined in a simplicity that turns out to be an extraordinary innovation. Sesame on top and it’s a marvel. Two thumbs up.
- Ftile Nayye (LBP32,000): When I thought that I'd seen it all, one more plate made me fall in love with this restaurant all over again. We all tasted beef carpaccio and many of you regularly have raw meat in Lebanese restaurants... How about we venture into a refined and revisited dish worth writing about? Take the "Ftile" meat, cut into thin slices, season it with salt and here you are: a Lebanese carpaccio. Thin slices of tender meat, with a beautiful marble of fat all melts under your teeth like butter. Olive oil, lemon juice... Yum!
- The plat de resistance was Daoud bacha bel berghol (LBP27,500). This Lebanese dish is usually meatballs bathing in a tomato sauce with grilled onions on a bed of rice. Lisa's version is more innovative and tasty at the same time. Tender meatballs on a bed of Borghol, nuts, caramelized onions, mixed with vermicelli and fresh pomegranate bits. I loved it.
- To end lunch, the ritual in Lebanese restaurants is to order the mixed grill platter - meat, Kafta, chicken tawouk, grilled potatoes, cabbage salad. Tasty, Juicy Kafta and tender meat with beautifully looking grilled vegetables. Simple yet very tasty. (LBP36,000)
But no meal is complete without some fine desserts. If our lunch was that good, would desserts be just as good?
- We had two signature plates, the sfouf bel laktine (LBP16,000) and rose loukoum ice cream with biscuits (LBP14,000). Sfouf, one of my favorite Lebanese sweets is setup in a cylinder shape. A sandwich of sfouf filled with ashta cream and pumpkin jam covered with sugar syrup and crushed nuts. The sfouf turn out to be even juicier, absorbing the sugar syrup while the ashta in the middle mixed with pumpkin forms the core of sweetness making this dessert unique.
- And remember the Ghandour biscuits we used to eat with loukoum? Liza transformed the loukoum into ice cream and here you are devouring a sandwich of crispy biscuits that crumble under your teeth in a hundred pieces while the loukoum, rich, flavorful and cold, caress your palate in style. Superb!
Lunch was really good. The welcoming was exceptionally professional meeting the standards of a fine dinning restaurant, the food was simple, innovative and very tasty, and not to mention the Liza's decor which is worth an article on its own...The luxurious feel of the place made my heart skip a beat. The house is a place you should visit for sure, I promise you an experience of a lifetime.