January 13, 2014 Lebanon Middle East

Epicery: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and a Headache!

Comes the rainy season, mushrooms start to pop up. And Epicery is yet another one of those shrooms that have popped in Mar Mikhael. It's not a black truffle nor a chantrelle rather a Mycena. They sure look cute at first, but boy do they give you a headache once you take them.
Epicery is a resto/pub/bistro/cantina/bar that has recently opened on one of Mar Mikhael's parallel streets. The name is an evident derivation from the French word "épicerie". The official tag line that follow is "food, drinks and spices".
At first glance, Epicery is located on the ground floor of an old building (50's or 60's) with primarily a spacious unfurnished terrace that looks like it has potential for being a laid back spot in the summer. You open the door and it is like you are taken back instantly to the cantina or recreation hall of your elementary school... You're sucked into another dimension of pure noise. Yellow and white neon tube lighting, bare walls, bare floors, wooden chairs and tables and not one single element to absorb the noise in order to help with the acoustics. All that was missing was a bunch of kids running around with a "picon sandwich" at hand to make this a genuine school experience. Having been seated, let's order. I check the menu out. It has the usual starters, salads, mains and dessert sections. But, the first thing I notice is that the starters are priced practically the same as the mains. Hmm peculiar but ok fine. The items are your standard variety of burrata, quinoa salad, lamb chops, shrimps in curry, seabass siyyadieh, steak tartare... The twist being the use of a variety of spices to complement the concept. The drinks menu is made up of spice based sections. So you have your rosemary as a main title with a selection of alcoholic drinks based upon this spice. Same goes for ginger, thyme and so on. So on paper the concept is there. How does that translate on my plate? We ordered; the manchego salad, the lamb chops with sesame, the steak tartare, seabass siyyadieh, and a Pittsburgh steak ordered rare.
A bottle of white wine- it came at room temperature so it had to just sit there starring at me while it festered in a bucket of ice water for over 15min before it got to a drinkable stage. Plates arrived on our bare table (no placemat no table napkin); branded crockery with nothing fancy about the food presentation. I was having the lamb chops. Three chops on a bed of purée with randomly sprinkled sesame seeds. First bite in, these are cooked incorrectly bordering on chewy hoping to turn into gum. To top it off they were the blandest thing ever, lacking in basic seasoning or any other spice for that matter. This place is based allegedly on the art of spice usage. Where are my spices? image 3
So I asked the waiter for salt and pepper. He arrives with both. Starts off with the pepper mill and cracks some for me. Then he takes the salt shaker and start to sprinkle over my food!?!!! I kid you not. I was stunned. I asked him to stop and he merely answered I was helping you out! Dude, are you busting my busted chops? Moving along, my friend tells me to try his steak tartare. By the looks of it, a mush of meat (probably mistreated by the usage of a blender) that had been so pumped up with spices (probably my dose and his combined) no wonder why my friend's face was turning into Barney colors.
My other friend who had ordered the "bleu" Pittsburgh steak got it more medium then anything else. As for the sea bass siyyadieh, the fish was uneventful according to my friend. I'm not qualifying the food as hideous. It is edible but pointless and bland. While some of us were still eating the rest were done. So a waiter comes over and starts clearing the table. Well hello there dear Sir; why are u clearing while some of us are still eating!? Don't get me wrong, the waiters all seem like good kids, just absolutely clueless about the F&B world with solemnly the management to blame for their lack of training. As my friend so well put it "on ne s'invente pas restaurateur". Heading out, my head was throbbing and I took out a streusels from my bag just to ease my aching throat from all the yelling we had to do in order to have a conversation while having dinner.
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