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A special guest Executive Chef, Vinzenz Klimmer, from Almhof Schneider Hotel in Lech, Austria was welcomed at the Eau De Vie of the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut. To celebrate this unique event, an exclusive six-course dinner was prepared for a select few.
I was lucky to have been one of them. After I learned more about the guest Executive Chef, the more I became anticipated to meet him and try his food. Vinzenz Klimmer, grew up in Arlberg, Austria, where, since his since his childhood, learned everything he could about the finest details of cooking. During the winter, he kept himself busy absorbing all he could learn from working with Austrian’s renowned restaurants and hotels. While at summer he spent his time, with his father, at the pastry shop. Although Klimmer laid the foundations of understanding the art of haute cuisine at an early age, he remained eager to learn more by questioning all there is about perfecting his knowhow in cooking. His expertise has taken him to the top hotels and restaurants. And now, the Eau De Vie, at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut, has welcomed a few select guests to enjoy this unique chef’s know how.
Having dinner with Chef Vinzenz Klimmer was a fruitful experience for me. The Head Sommelier at the Phoenicia Inter-continental has selected six different wines to match the sumptuous dinner being prepared. We started by Domaine de Baal 2008, Chardonnay assorted to a cured salmon with cucumber gin and herbs – a special passionate mixture from the chef. The salmon strips are layered one next to the other in a large plate, covered with a green mixture that melts in the mouth just after the sweet crunchy taste of the cucumbers. I really appreciated this plate and the tingling sensation it left in my mouth. Samer, our waiter, was always here, smiling, serving and explaining the details and ingredients of every plate. The story continues with breaded Spinach ravioli centered in the dish accompanied with mushrooms and red beets that generously surround the ravioli. The ravioli cover is very slim and crunchy, to emphasize on the taste of the inner filling: the spinach. Unfortunately, I think it was a bit too oily. I felt the excess oil taste as soon as I took a bite. But on average the good taste covers this detail. The red beets are puréed adding a savory and gentle taste to the complete mixture.
It is now time to taste another wine, so the wine glasses have been carefully changed to welcome the Ksara Chardonnay 2009. A grilled fillet of sea bass with carrots and saffron emulsion transports you in a world of color. It is presented in a shallow plate where the fish is floating in the yellow sauce decorated with red and green touch: Tomato, green leaves and artichokes pieces.
The fish is perfectly cooked, served at good temperature while the emulsion adds a sweet taste to the assortment, which reminds me of a carrot soup that my grandmother used to prepare. A sip of wine afterwards let’s you understand this wise choice. Time passed without us noticing that it was time for what the French call,“Le Trou Normand.” The Norman Hole, in English, is a pause between meal courses where dinners are treated to a glassful of calvados or a sorbet, in order to improve the appetite and make room for the next course. We had a refreshing tomato and strawberry gazpacho with granny smith apples.
It is a sorbet scoop of green apples floating in a red sauce presented in a very funny conical jar deposited in a glass ball. The composition is very tasty, fresh and cool. Wine at this stage is still the same before we moved to the main course. Here comes what we were all waiting for – the main course – the time where we can truly rate our guest chef. It was the braised veal tenderloin and cheeks with celery and broccoli. Broccoli green piece, purée, fried potatoes, the veal and a piece of tenderloin – all mixed in Chateau Ksara wine, Cuvee du 3e Millenaire 2006. The cheeks were very tasty and perfectly cooked. The veal was a bit cold and very well done, I would have preferred it less cooked. The purée is tasty, while the assortment of greens adds a certain charm to it.
To finish our experience, the desert prepared was White Cheese Dumplings and Red plum compote. I would describe the dumplings as something out of this world. Spongy from the outside with a chocolate coulis inside, all marinated in acidulated red plum compote. The mixture of sweet and sour is not my preferred taste especially that the compote is too acid. But the dumplings alone are, again, an amazing discovery. During dinner we enjoyed the soft and lounge music played by DJ Anthony (Undertaker). His fine selection of music kept added a gentle touch to this dinner where connoisseurs ate, chatted, mingled and left smiling.
More from Eau De Vie Entirely redesigned by famed designer Martin Hulbert, the Eau De Vie reveals an exclusive sleek, modern and glamorous concept. To compliment this exquisite setting, Eau De Vie boasts a new wine tasting room holding a timeless selection of the finest wines, as well as a walk in cigar humidor and whisky display with an extensive collection of whiskies and cigars. The perfect combination of delicious cuisine, comfortable interior, and amazing panoramic views, adds an intriguing dimension to a unique experience.