It’s true, over the past couple of years Beirut has been flooded with French Bistros, but the same doesn’t apply to authentic French restaurants serving gourmet French cuisine. In fact it may come as a surprise to know that there are a very few restaurants in Lebanon that specialize in serving French chic food, not the usual suspects that we see on almost every menu today and that’s what the renowned La Petite Maison Beirut brings to the table.
I reviewed La Petite Maison Dubai back in March 2013 and mentioned rumors of it’s opening in Beirut, and not long after that it did at Le Vendôme Beirut, one of my favorite hotels in Lebanon. For those not familiar, this top-notch spot started off at Old Nice in France and has a very popular branch in London. The place embodies the gastronomic spirit of the Côte d’Azur and neighboring Liguria.
Most of us associate French cuisine with dense/creamy/ buttery food, a meal that sits heavy on the belly, but you’ll be more than happy to know that conception is a far cry from the culinary concept La Petite Maison (LPM) is all about. LPM’s entire menu contains very little if not any cream and instead a vast selection of healthy Provençal flavorsome ingredients inspired by fresh and seasonal local produces.
After a busy work week my man and I made our way down for an extended intimate dinner to de-stress at LPM. The décor is the envy of many newcomers looking to emulate its effortlessly sophisticated setting with its open-plan kitchen, banquettes and round tables. And of course their signature olive oil, tomato and lemon trio that sit on each table.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, we’re big fans of trying out new signature cocktails, especially when introduced to new flavors tastefully mixed to perfection by tier-one Mixologists. And so the feast kicked off with LPM’s own quirky take on the classic Bloody Mary and crowd-pleaser, the famous Tomatini, made with cherry tomatoes; a perfect balance of vodka and spices. My man had the Le Mans a superb champagne based cocktail with lemon juice. We also tried the Spring Tea, Twinkle and Manhattan Plum ( my personal favorite) all of which I highly recommend you experience.
The tables at LPM are designed for sharing, so if you really want to take the full tour I suggest you share as many appetizers as you can before you get to the mains. The starter list is immense and it was very hard make a decision so we may have slightly over-indulged although we had no regrets whatsoever.
Let me start by gushing over the splendid Grilled Aubergine with Mozzarella, Prawns and Pesto. I’ve never before had this magical combination of gentle flavors with prawns but I can attest that it was absolutely heavenly. A must-try.
Next up were the warm prawns with olive oil and though I always order this dish I can’t begin to describe how succulent the pink large juicy tiger prawns were, split right in the middle with just the right crispness on the outside and seamlessly soft texture inside with a burst of flavors in every bite.
We also had the uber fresh Yellowtail Tuna Carpaccio , made exclusively for LPM Beirut, garnished with pickled pepper and aubergine.
And the Fried Calamari, a bowl of hot curls of crisped squid with one of the best batters I’ve tried in a very long time and a vigorous taste of spice. At first I was a little disappointed when I noticed it didn’t come with a dip but as I took in each piece I understood it would be a scandal to cover up those salacious flavors.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the light and refreshing thinly stripped Marinated Salmon with Pink Peppercorn.
Sharing also applies to the mains. We had the Canard a L’Orange, slow cooked Duck Legs with a tangy orange glaze. I tend to like my duck confit style but this one was wonderfully seared and the sweetness combined with the tender meat that immediately fell from the bone made me fall for this classic festive dish.
But the Grilled Rib Eye Steak made quite the impression, a glorious chunk of simply seasoned tender marble beef sliced into strips to expose its rosy interiors and paired with a strong mustard sauce and a relish dip.
For sides we had the Baked Gratinated Potatoes, which were an absolute delight and of course fries, thick, spiced identical fresh cut fries that provided the much needed carb compliment to go with the meats.
The desserts were a masterclass. I discovered my now all-time favorite dessert , not that my list was lacking or anything. The fresh berry Panna Cotta. No this is not your average Panna Cota, trust me. This one’s adapted to Lebanon by using our traditional Laban (yogurt) instead and let’s just say this is the only part of the meal where you will not want to share. Each spoonful will be followed by some gushing sounds you didn’t know you could make, so you can imagine how we weren’t all that discreet.
We also tried refreshing the Passion Fruit and Mango Posset, a superb fragrant grouping of chilled zesty posset with warm fruits that work so well together with just the balance of savory and sweet.
La Petite Maison Beirut does not kid when it dubs itself “Tous célèbres ici !”
It translates into “Everyone is Famous here” and that’s just a prelude to the VIP treatment you will receive. Friendly, knowledgeable and attentive, are just three of a list of many adjectives I can use to rate the service we experienced.
I know I’ll be back to La Petite Maison Beirut for casual business lunches, dinner and drinks with friends or even a reason to celebrate. A three-course dinner and drinks for two will average up to $90-$120 per person.
Verdict: Hands down, the chicest French Food and Restaurant in town with the best Panna Cotta in the region.
Rumour Has It: It may be opening its doors in Istanbul soon and I look forward to reviewing it there as well!