I was very eager to try Paper Moon in Lebanon especially after trying this popular trattoria in Milan and falling in love with it there. Of course, I wrote about it and wanted everyone to try it while in Milan. Unfortunately my first experience was not a good one. All views I heard about Paper Moon Beirut were negative ...after my visit I understood why!
So it was Valentines and there was a special evening planned which no one told us about when we called to book. There was a set menu printed in Italian, which was hard for everyone to understand. It included choices I would not normally go for. The staff didn’t help much. Untrained, they offered no support and no alternatives to what we may have. And yes, I should mention that the loud music is far from what I expected to hear tonight.
I found myself in a place that was very different from the cozy and homey little Italian trattoria in Milano. Paper Moon in Lebanon is a huge restaurant, set in an old Lebanese home and filled with expensive materials making it lose its original cachet and feel. In grey colors, the place boasts a high ceiling, which sadly adds to the sounds and noise.
As you walk in, you find a pizza oven and bar on the left, and then you can choose to sit in one of the two dining rooms where the floors are wood parquet and the walls are covered with photos printed in black and white.
It was not the best first impression... We were not allowed to order anything other than the set menu since the restaurant was maximizing on profit for the night. The waiters were chitchatting and talking with each other while following no set rules of service… and a lot of other annoying issues…
Anyway, I took a deep breath and tried to enjoy my chaotic and noisy dinner. We had to drink still water as we were not offered anything else. The glasses were not even refilled until I discovered that we could order soft drinks at a price of course.
On the menu: (as much as I could translate)
- Spinach salad
- Mozzarella caprese
- Risotto (I was not sure which kind)
- Pappardelle Paper Moon
- Salmon (probably grilled)
- Chicken and spinach roulade
- St Valentine cake
- Their choice of wine in a carafe with no name mentioned. Drink blindly!
The set menu was for $130/couple (inclusive or exclusive of tax, I was not sure)
And the bad experiences continued:
- Years are not written on the wine list. It seems years are not important. You really don't want to hear the excuse!
- We ordered a 2011 Promis Gaya but received a 2014 instead. We ended up with another suggestion, a Lacoste-Borie 2012. And this at an Italian restaurant...
- A breadbasket? What for! Anyway we received it after the starters were served. Bread not even fresh.
- Olive oil? It was served only when we asked and I don’t even want to go into the details of the bottle. It reminded me of my neighbor’s old kitchen olive oil bottle. I expected some more finesse! Anyway, "Finesse" is not a word they focus on around here.
- Mozzarella burrata and tomatoes: thinly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella served on a round plate. It was flavorless; needed oil, pepper, salt and some balsamic vinegar.
- The spinach salad on the other hand with its mozzarella balls was definitely better. Fresh mushrooms, pecan nuts, fresh spinach leaves with balsamic vinaigrette.
- Risotto: an odd sort of al dente, undercooked and chewy, a bizarre texture which lacked taste and was devoid of the rich Italian flavors that come to mind when you think of risotto. A cocktail of various overcooked seafood that all tasted the same, and served with sauce and rice that was unpleasant to eat. I couldn't finish my plate.
Pappardelle Paper Moon: nothing to write home about. The pasta was well cooked, the sauce provided the needed flavor but the plate was a bit too salty for my taste. It was not the presentation I had expected from Paper Moon, not the smoothness and juiciness the sauce should have... mass catering style wedding food!
- Chicken rolls stuffed with spinach and melted cheese, served on a bed of sauce and mashed potatoes on the side. Average food usually served during large events and in mass quantities. Had a bite and it ended there.
My mum's salmon was literally flavorless! Well-cooked salmon and nothing else. She looks at me and says: "Did you feel anything?"... All I did was smile!
The meat: diet food! Tender, oily, good quality meat with grilled vegetables on the side. Zero effort was put into this plate in order for it to look palatable or even taste like a plate prepared in-house.
My plates were returned almost full to the kitchen and no one bothered asking why.
I'm sorry to say it is as it is but this was not at all what I expected from Paper Moon; mass production conference food I really never imagined eating at Milan's favorite trattoria.
Dessert: it's a heart-shaped cake, a dessert you expect on Valentines but honestly not at Paper Moon. A cake from the bread supplier "Prunelle", at a franchised Italian restaurant! Anyway, the cake is tastier than anything else I had! Soft, moist, balanced and meticulously prepared. Thank you Prunelle.
- Staff need to be more attentive and learn the art of finesse suiting a restaurant of this caliber.
- Below average food; at least on a Valentines event.
- It was hot. The air conditioning unit was turned off for some reason.
- Dim and unpleasant lighting.
- Doing an event was the worst of ideas, I hope it won't be repeated ever again.
- Premium quality ingredients but unfortunately all plates lacked flavor and life; that extra mile was missing at every instance.
- When plates are returned almost entirely uneaten to the kitchen, you would expect someone to ask for the reason.
I'll be back, I'll surely be back, and soon to experience the real menu and real feel of what Paper Moon should really be before giving the restaurant my final judgment.