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Wine and Twisted Local Specialties: The Lebanese Restaurant at Ixsir
What a place! A soothing ambiance haunts this old Lebanese house where tables have been set under stone arcades, the place exudes calm and serenity… I could finish my days here.
In the mountains of Batroun, the Ixsir winery has joined forces with Nicolas Audi and will be hosting his restaurant for the years to come. In an old Lebanese house dating from the last century, Nicolas Audi and his team have worked on a special Lebanese menu with hints of finesse and touches of sophistication.
They serve lunch every day of the week, except Mondays, and you'll find a cuisine inspired by the Lebanese terroirs, revisited by Nicolas Audi and paired with Ixsir's wines. On weekends, a buffet is prepared for all the family to create some memorable moments.
The name Ixsir derives from “Iksir”, the original Arabic word for “Elixir”, a word which defines the purest form of all substances, a potion that grants eternal youth and love. Ixsir came about from the wish of a group of friends to create a fantastic Lebanese wine. Nestled in the mountains of Batroun, Ixsir occupies a large piece of land and an old house stands out on the highest level.
When you get to the house a large rectangle with stone arcades and thick windows beckons you inside. A breath of freshness and a hint of cold caress your skin as the scent of purity puts a smile on your face. Down below is the winery. It's not like any winery you know, but one that has been designed with Twenty-First Century standards. Here is where the old blends with the new, moving from blocks of white stone to a corridor of concrete, this amazing design will take you to wine heaven.
The restaurant decor:
- An old house offering a real feel of authenticity with stone covering almost all surfaces.
- A floor covered with stone, stone arcades, and marble and wooden tables filling the space.
- Wood and pure elements, wooden chairs painted in blue and covered with red fabric surround them.
- A warm, dimmed lighting soothes the senses.
- On the left is a bar, a mini bar where wines and drinks are prepared.
- Around the space, windows let light inside while offering a view of the vineyards.
- The menus use wooden wine boxes with the Ixsir logo printed on them.
- A calm and serious ambiance… a guaranteed sense of amazement.
Lunch started with a selection of mine en bouche, a very interesting colored cauliflower which I’ve never seen before alongside a violet bell pepper, carrots and celeriac. A catchy first impression!
- The cold mezzes: 12 items
- The hot mezzes: 8 items
- The barbecue section (mashawi): 5 items
Rose wine, Altitude 2014: A pale pink color with a hint of peach. It's intensely aromatic, with lots of floral scents, and a little bubblegum, it's pleasing and rich with red fruits. A fresh wine, delightfully balanced, with a strong red fruit notes. I loved its smoothness and lack of acidity, which makes it a superb wine.
Let’s enjoy some good food:
- Black lentil salad LBP6,000: Well cooked tender lentils with a nice texture, mixed with lemon juice and diced tomatoes for the needed color.
- Salade Gudave LBP6,000: Diced tomatoes, diced green pepper, nuts, parsley. Lovely texture, a sweet aftertaste of rich balsamic vinegar, crunchy bits and are full of enjoyment.
- Stuffed vine leaves with dill LBP9,000: The normal green vine leaves stuffed with an intense lemony filling that offers a fresh, aromatic aftertaste.
- Kebbe samak Tajen LBP10,000: A round kebbe, green in color and filled with Tajen. Smooth, and enjoyably flavorful, cut in quarters like a pizza and ready to be for you to indulge yourself.
- Fattoush LBP8,000: As simple as a salad can be, this one is tasty and fresh. A small portion that's good with a hefty meal. Adored the crunchy toasts topped with sumac.
Altitude White 2014: A pure taste, with strong scents of spring flowers, and touches of passion fruits. It has a rich texture, with a subtle dryness and light acidity. A very impressive, fruity, aromatic and floral wine.
- Calamars Nord LBP7,000: Bravo, bravo... Tender calamari grilled to perfection alongside a selection of the finest fava beans and cherry tomatoes cut in half with mint leaves and sliced olives.
- Kebbe boule Mhammara LBP7,000: A bed of mouhammara with its intense flavor and subtle spiciness, topped with half a dozen round Kebbe, juicy and chewy Kebbe that fit perfectly well with their supportive mix. I loved the small, round shape of the Kebbe and their generous, condensed filling which offers a tasty, peppery feel.
- Moutabbal raheb LBP7,000: That's a favorite. A cold feel, an intense freshness, crunchy nuts, diced capsicum, tomato for the color and a great tasting eggplant purée. I loved that!
- Potato fingers LBP6,000: Fingers of perfectly fried potato, seasoned and ready to be enjoyed with your hands. Crunchy borders, a tender heart, oil-free and juicy... That's finesse redefined.
IXSIR Grande Reserve white 2014: That’s a wine with more finesse and less aroma, one that’s full-bodied and enjoyable with a meal. Lovely, buttery richness fills your nose, with plenty of oak to be felt. Full of citrus core, grapefruit and lime, a juicy touch, with a long lasting background, it might be white, but it's full bodied, with structure and richness.
- Kebbe Vegetarienne LBP6,000: These looked exactly like Kebbe and taste like one, but are made of berghol, mint leaves and nuts in a tomato sauce. Crunchy nuts add an interesting texture, the pomegranate exploding under the teeth adds a subtle sweetness... Very innovative and tasty.
- Arayess facon Fatteh LBP9,000: Three round bread circles filled with Kafta, toasted and floating in laban. An arayess style served warm with cold laban. Interesting.
- Harek Osbao LBP8,000: I loved it! Lentil soup with a strong lemon flavor, topped with crunchy bits of kaak.
- Foul Ana LBP7,000: Fava beans the way Nicolas Audi sees them. Perfectly cooked beans with lemon, diced onions, parsley, diced tomatoes and lots of love. That's foul with a touch of finesse and an overdose of garlic.
Grande Reserve Rouge 2010: That’s a very good wine indeed. Very aromatic, adding a layer of spice and pepper to creamy black fruit. It's rich, textured and full, but the tannins add pull and weight. A serious wine that’s full bodied, rich, non acidic and light at the same time.
- Barbecue meat and chicken LBP24,000: I couldn't taste the chicken as it unfortunately had a strong garlic scent, but the meat was well seasoned and good. It's not super tender like the one at Kababji, but has a good body that's enjoyable to chew. Clean and clear, if I may say.
- Cote de boeuf LBP80,000: That's a premium piece of wonderful, flavorful, aromatic, seasoned and juicy meat! Even when cooked medium, slightly red inside, the meat is super juicy, superbly delicious and well seasoned. I loved it and I believe it's reasonably priced.
Lunch was really good. Lebanese food, mastered with a touch modern, served in small portions and ready to amaze. I was so excited for dessert…
- Karabij pistachio with natef LBP7,000: Generously filled, condensed, very dry and served very cold, with an unpleasantly crunchy envelope and a heavy natef that lacked freshness and any airy feeling. I'll say no.
- Maamoul honey: Yum! Those deserve an article by themselves. An airy, light biscuit filled with authentic honey from the village. Adequately sweet, with powdered sugar and life in every bite. I loved them!
- Sahlab ice cream with halawet el jeben LBP8,000: I've had better. The ice cream could have more flavor and the halawet el jeben is too thick, with an unpleasant texture and lack of sugar syrup.
- Oriental fruit salad in a cup LBP10,000: Fresh fruits with a hint of an oriental touch where pine nuts, dried raisins and dried peach add flavor and texture. This salad lacks the freshness of a simple fruit salad, along with sweetness and smoothness. I believe the salad needs more sweetness and more aroma. Maybe some rose water, or orange blossom water?
- I love the wines, Ixsir is something Lebanon should be proud of
- I enjoyed the food, but believe the portions are a bit small, and you end up trying everything at once… what would I order next time?
- Tourists and half of the Lebanese popultion expect a menu in English
- I didn’t appreciate the desserts all that much, they can be way better
- The ambiance and service is very good: Impressive for a restaurant up the mountain
- Expect to pay an average of $40/person
It’s location is not as far as you may think… It’s really worth going up the hill to Basbina to discover one of Lebanon’s most beautiful wineries and indulge in some special food from Nicolas Audi. I’m going back for more soon.