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Zeralda: French Cuisine in Jounieh
"Bistronomie Francaise" is its tag line - Zeralda is a bistro serving upscale French cuisine. It is nestled in the heart of Jounieh/Sarba. At the entrance of Sarba is an old house where Zeralda welcomes you for dinner every day of the week. Calm and relaxed, decorated with colorful frames and lit with dimmed lights. The restaurant has been open for the last fifteen months or so.
Smoking is allowed inside:
So eat and smell cigarettes burning... try to enjoy your food and leave with your clothes infused with cigarettes smoke. What a shame...
Under a high ceiling located under road level, Zeralda is a small restaurant divided into three spaces: the bar; the main dining space and the inner area under a big chandelier. Dinner starts with a basket of fresh bread and a pot of French butter, the famous Beurre D'Isigny. French music playing in the background, we were approached by the waiter for drinks while the manager or owner I presume approached with the board of choices. The restaurant doesn't have a printed menu, only the board changed on a weekly basis.
The wine list:
Lebanese and French wines, a simple yet rich choice including Atibaya and Ixsir grande reserve, two wines I like.
The first impression:
- They serve Coke not Pepsi.
- Tables have ashtrays... is smoking allowed inside? Come on!!!! A closed space, people eating... this is unacceptable!
- Badoit is the sparkling water.
- Sohat glass water bottles.
- Fine Schott Zwiesel wine glasses.
- The bread is really good!
- Service is a bit brusk and lacking in finesse. Didn't like the attitude and the movement around the tables.
- The napkins are smaller than they should be. A couple centimeters bigger would have made them more pleasant to use.
- The wine glasses should not be filled so high.
- Goat cheese cake with soft and peeled tomatoes served on a bed of pesto sauce. Two layers of sweet tomatoes embracing a heart of cheese chunks. The freshness of the cheese, the sweetness of the tomatoes, a bit of olive oil and an end-note of acidity. This plate comes with toasted bread on the side. Bite into it, a crunch and a fresh spread...
- Smoked salmon, a generous portion served with quarter lemons, sour cream and roquette leaves. Good quality salmon, fatty and oily with a smooth creamy white side and lemony greens. Some capers add finesse to the plate.
Now for the main plates which took forever to be delivered. Meanwhile we had a table of six next to us - I felt as though they were dining with us - youngsters at the bar smoking like chimneys, a waiter that pushed my back every time he wanted to pass... let's eat!
- Cote de veau with grilled mushrooms and potato sticks. No sauce is served with the meat until I asked for one. Mustard arrived late when I had almost finished. With that meat, I expected a special knife. Good quality meat, tender and juicy, lightly red on the inside, very moist mushrooms and good potato fingers. So I ended up eating my meat without sauce.
- Loved the scallops, five of them on a plate with mushrooms and asparagus. Soft like butter, flavorful, lightly salty and feeling fresh.
- The grilled shrimp are simply grilled shrimp.. no sauce and no seasoning served with potato purée on the side. Potato purée is bland, no taste to be found in it.
People weren't only smoking cigarettes but some were puffing cigars in that tight and enclosed space. I wish the law was respected, the fine would have been at least two million Lebanese Liras!
- Disallow smoking inside.
- Train the waiter to pay attention to details.
- The food is good but too simple. Pre-prepared, cans or ready made stuff... more thinking needed!
- Ask about how diners like their meat cooked.
- Remember to serve sauce with the meat.
- Buy meat knives.
- Fix the air conditioning unit: it's hot inside.
- Service is way too slow and inattentive... the empty coke can accompanied us during the entire dinner as well as the empty plates.
- The manager has an attitude issue; let's learn the art of communication.
- It's the era of social media; more light is needed inside for guests to take photos of their food and promote the restaurant - mainly on Instagram.
Desserts followed... fifteen minutes after ordering them.
- A crumble of flaky pastry dough on a bed of pastry cream and raspberries. An interesting kind of eclair prepared their way. A tasty creation.
- Baba au rhum stuffed with raspberry couli, an excess of sweetness, a dry dough but I liked the rhum bottle that comes with it for guests to add at their convenience. There's nothing exceptional about this cake.
Expect to pay $75/person.
Enjoyed the food, not the place, the heat, the smoking and certainly not the service - rough and lacking attention, details are not valued and communication with guests does not exist. A little effort can improve things drastically and take this restaurant to another level. If smoking is banned, I'll be visiting again.