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Nicolas Audi: A Cuisine Inspired by the Lebanese Terroirs at Ixsir
After visiting Ixsir for the first time in December and enjoying a fine meal in an amazing location, it was time to go up to the mountains of Basbina where the Ixsir winery is located and experience it again. In the mountains of Batroun, the Ixsir winery has joined forces with Nicolas Audi who is hosting his restaurant, a restaurant inspired by the Lebanese terroir. 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, serving a cuisine 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.
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 to 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 cold mezzes: 12 items
- The hot mezzes: 8 items
- The barbecue section (mashawi): 5 items
The first impression:
- Lebanese means Labneh and Labneh is missing from the menu.
- Hummus, simple, normal hummus is also missing.
- Some plates contain too much garlic that the smell takes over the table and your nostrils.
- Eating directly on the table is not too hygienic; the tables are not even glazed and look dusty. I would suggest a placemat or a tablecloth.
One can’t deny that the food is good, really good:
- Fattouch with crunchy toasted bread topped with sumac. The fattouch has a strong sour feel and a gentle lemon touch mixed around crunchy vegetables. I loved the grilled eggplant they added to it, making it special and unique. Delicious!
- Mouhammara and Kebbe balls: Other than the premium mouhammara and its rich flavors, the kebbe, its chewy envelope, its flavorful heart... That's innovative!
- Rond de pain basterma: A round, thick bread, salted in top and filled with grilled onions, a tomato juicy paste and slices of Basterma. An interesting innovation, but it contains too many onions in my opinion. I loved the salt, which sticks to the lips and leaves a long lasting feeling.
- Moutabbal Raheb: Crushed walnuts, green capsicum, diced tomatoes... All make this plate unique and special. Every ingredient adds a plus to make such a simple plate something extraordinary.
- Kebbet Samak Tajen: An eye candy plate for guaranteed satisfaction. A green kebbe on a bed of Tajen, caramelized onions and pine nuts.
- Arayess facon Fatteh: Laban and pieces of shawarma bread lying beyond. Toasted bread filed with Kafta. Interesting and bizarre at the same time.
- Salad Gudave: A specialty and a salad that's different and tasty, one of the best on the menu: black olives, crunchy walnuts, tomatoes, capsicum and lots of lemon for a sour boost.
- Kebbe Vegetarienne: Look at the rich kebbe and be aware that it doesn't contain meat. A pleasant texture offering a good taste.
- Mousaahet Batenjen: Straight to the point... Slices of grilled eggplant mixed with cooked chickpeas and tomatoes.
- The potato fingers, baked inside out, tender like butter on the inside and crunchy on the outside, they don't seem fried, they’re oil-free and up to the standard of a grand chef.
- The grilled choices: Interesting grilled flavors, a juicy heart and a superb softness. The meat is close to perfect. Three orders, meat, chicken and kebab, all served on a single plate with no decoration of side dish.
A lunch we enjoyed to the last bite, especially when it’s coupled with one of Lebanon’s finest wines: Ixsir.
The vision behind IXSIR is unique: Revealing the best terroirs of Lebanon, some forgotten long since, while respecting sustainable development and integrated viticulture. Ixsir cultivates grapes in areas carefully chosen for their high quality potential, in regions as diverse as Lebanon itself, stretching from Batroun in the North to Jezzine in the South, and nestling beside the most beautiful hillsides of the Bekaa. Winemaking and aging take place in a central winery located on the hills of Batroun, giving birth to unique wines, the perfect marriage between the subtle and the complex.
- The service is professional and every detail is taken care of to perfection.
- The wine glasses are changed depending on the wine chosen
- The plates are beautifully decorated.
- The desserts didn’t impress me. Comparing them to lunch, the desserts need a lot of work.
- It’s my second visit and I believe that I’ve tried all the items on the menu… so now what, what would I eat the third time? The portions are small, making you order more, so after a visit or two the menu would be memorized by heart.
- A touch of sophistication and complication is interesting, but where are the classics? I believe some of the all-time favorite classics should have a place on this menu.
- French! If you don’t read French I’m sorry for you, because you won’t be able to read the menu; the waiter would have to choose for you.
- None of the food is described; they use complicated terminology and give no details so expect to ask your waiter about every single plate.
Weekdays for lunch, or a weekend outing with the family, Ixsir is a place I recommend you try. With an average bill of $40/person in a marvelous setup, serving tasty food, plan your next visit up the mountain of Batroun where a land of wonders awaits.