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One of Beirut's most popular restaurants is still going strong. My last experience there, almost 4 years ago, was shockingly bad, but I am back for the food everyone is still talking about. Awarded with the "2012 Restaurant and Bar Design Award", Cocteau is located in the heart of the "Carré D'Or" Beirut, together with other restaurants including Kampai, Sultan Brahim, Angelina, Ladurée, La Petite Maison and L'Avenue.
As I walked into Cocteau, my first impression was again WOW! The great decor, the lighting, the high ceiling, the trendy long chandeliers decorated with books, the round and square tables, the long glass bar, the huge wine cellar and most importantly their warm welcome.
I was delighted by the general ambiance and the vibes this restaurant offers. The tables were occupied by mostly women groups and businessmen, served by a dozen waiters wearing white from head to toe with a red scarf tied around their necks. All tables are beautifully set up in a fine dining way.
A classy menu printed in color shows "Le Grand Écart" by Jean Cocteau -a ma chère Suzanne, son ami Jean, 1960-.
On the first page you'll find the dishes of the day (salads, tartare, Grills and desserts), followed by a staple selection of salads and hors-d'œuvre, fresh pasta, seafood, tartares, grills, starters from the butchery, and desserts. You can also read about their awards and certifications as well as the fact that they are a "five star restaurant".
Lunch starts when the decorative flower is removed and a basket of fresh bread arrives at the table, with butter and olive tapenade. Crunchy bread, sesame buns and French baguette. Tasty!
Lunch is served, starters first:
- Fresh asparagus, six, thick and served warm with Hollandaise sauce on the side. An excellent Hollandaise - I'd love to have with some eggs. Asparagus is of premium quality with an enjoyable texture that melts in the mouth like butter.
- The tuna tartare is memorable! The beautiful plate comes with a circular portion of diced tuna on a bed of avocado. Burgundy colored, the tuna has a light lemon touch, a bit of ginger and a bit of pepper to tickle your taste buds and a muted sweetness. Ripe avocado makes this plate an even better experience.
- We were even offered a complementary plate of shrimp tartar - also served on a bed of avocado with the same sauce. I'd make sure to order it whenever it's available.
Good food indeed like people claim, fine preparation, premium ingredients and professional service.
Main courses follow:
- Salmon with teriyaki sauce and pilaf rice surpasses the others by far. It's so good! An amazing salmon cooked to perfection with a lightly sweet sauce, juicy inside and crispy outside served with fine rice on the side, cooked al dente. I loved the salmon, loved the rice, loved the broccoli, loved the sauce. Yummy!
- The cep filet uses a very tender meat with a beautifully cooked sauce. A generous and tasty plate.
- Brochettes de Merou in their lemon sauce... tender, juicy, lemony, rich - recommended. Good purée on the side.
- The Stroganoff reminds me of my grandma's. Tender meat, a full bodied sauce, good rice. Bravo chef.
Enjoyed my lunch and would recommend it to my friends.
Lunch is not complete without finishing up with dessert - a mouth watering dessert. An exceptionally tasty Alcazar - a boat shaped tart topped with sliced bananas, banana cream which adds freshness, and glazing adds a touch of sweetness while the mix of walnuts gives it its name. All the ingredients are enhanced by the fresh and crunchy dough. Vanilla ice cream on the side pairs great with it. An excellent dessert I also recommend.
What I'll change or improve:
- The plates should be cleaner, they are splashed with oil and spoiled by waiters' fingerprints. For a "five stars restaurant" this is unacceptable.
- There are too many tables here, waking around is hard. One or two tables should be removed to make it easier to walk and less noisy. I personally couldn't go to the toilets since the table was stuck next to a column.
Lunch was topped off with a selection of mini chocolates and a coffee. $66/person without alcohol.
I'm so happy to have come back to Cocteau. Things have changed, the food has improved and attention is now poured into every detail - confirming this restaurant is one of the country's finest. I heard that the management team has changed... Could this be why there's a positive difference?