My first taste of Peruvian cuisine was at Sapa in Beirut, Lebanon. The restaurant has a cozy ambiance and the trees add a nice touch of greenery. The waiter who was responsible for our table was the right amount of friendly and professional. I ordered a fruity cocktail which was really delicious. For starters, we went with the cheese rolls and the mango salmon ceviche; it was appreciated that the ceviche was placed on ice. For a person that has lived in Africa for 10 years, I am picky about the taste of mangoes. The mango slices were very similar to the ones I used to eat there and I loved the flavor. Something interesting I liked in the ceviche dish as well is the addition of crunch supplied by the corn nuts. Now for the mains, I found their burger dry; the patty desperately needed juiciness and it cried out to be placed in a softer bun. The other main platter was better; a traditional Peruvian dish called Aji de Gallina had a pleasing interplay of ingredients. We could not leave the premises having not tried the Pisco and so decided to do that in their Pisco chocolate fondant, which arrived with a sizzling hot bubbly sauce. Another sweet treat we tried was the creme brulee with yuzu, which was torched on our table. We were live witnesses of the sugar coating being altered to become its superior form: caramel. After all the drama of our scorching alcoholic-infused desserts, we called it a night.
Another take on the ile flottante and gazpacho; this time together in one meal. A Parisian restaurant next to the Eiffel Tower, Cafe Constant is on the Michelin Guide and is owned by French chef Christian Constant. If you have read my previous blog posts, you might already know by now that I love this red soup and that sweet softness. The former was cool and refreshing, while the latter was good but not one of the best I have had; the salted was better than the caramel in this case. However, I really loved the batter-fried vegetables. They made vegetables more exciting for me (although granted, less healthy); I was surprised that it even made them stand out among the other dishes which are among my favorites.
Salzburg is a charming place. It is big enough to be called a city, yet it is small enough to be cozy and familiar. There are two things of great importance to this special city; Sound of Music filming location spots, and of course Mozart being born there. It is said that this musical genius used to frequent this cafe which is now known as Cafe Tomaselli. Imagine deciding not to go there; even if it might be a tourist trap, one still has to try what is apparently the “oldest still operated cafe” in the whole of Austria. So, we chose to sit on the balcony of this cafe which is a part of history; twice. The waiters were very friendly and we enjoyed the food, especially the sweet drinks and cakes. For me personally, the cakes were reminiscent of my trip to Lake Bled in Slovenia, where they have something very similar to this cream cake called “Kremsnita” and it is also delicious.
The location of El 300 Del Born and how that impacts its cuisine is what makes this restaurant stand out. It is located in El Born Centre Cultural which is physically a part of history. Situated in the Born historical market structure, El 300 Del Born is a few steps away from an archeological site that lies in the center of the indoor area. The dishes on the menu have been inspired by this historical setting to a great extent. I liked this iron building with its high ceilings; this made the restaurant seem very spacious. The food was good and so was the service. All in all, a pleasant restaurant with a meaningful concept.
We waited in line for The Insolito but it was worth it. The climb to the top was in an archaic elevator with lovely wallpaper and a wooden door. The restaurant is situated on a rooftop overlooking Lisbon. The waiters are friendly and the service is great. The ambiance is relaxed and one feels comfortable. The food was flavorful; the sauces were delicious. For desserts, we ordered three, two of which came with the pairing of alcoholic drinks which was interesting. Also, one with a coconut flavored theme came with a “singing coconut”; a hollow coconut was filled with a speaker (don’t worry when you’ve had your laugh and you’re done being amused by the music accompanying your dessert, you can turn it off). I really enjoyed the whole dinner and would go again if I happen to go to Lisbon.
Remaining in the world of tapas, Cerveceria Catalana is a prime example of that. Honestly, I disliked the ambiance; it was too crowded and noisy for me. Even the service was too fast-paced and the waiters looked as if they were contestants running in a marathon. I felt pressured to eat quickly as if I had to race them to the finish line. The food was okay but nothing was spectacular. They have an interesting item on the menu; chocolate with olive oil, so we ordered that at the end. I thought the merge of the chocolate with the oil was heavy and unpleasant. I guess they were trying to mix savory with sweet, but little did they know that nothing beats Salted Caramel.
Another restaurant in Barcelona, Balthazar has a dimly lit yet spacious interior. We found this place as we were wandering in the city; unlike most restaurants we go to we had not researched it beforehand. The food we ordered fed our hunger in a satisfactory manner. I remember I really liked the sauce that came with the salad. As for the desserts, they were sufficient to fulfill our sugary needs as well, but nothing more noteworthy beyond that.
I enjoy tapas because it is somehow like a set menu in the fact that you try several courses; the anticipation of what the next platter holds is exciting. When we arrived, we were told that since we had no reservation we had to sit at the bar instead of a regular table. It turns out that the bar seating was closer to the source; where all the action happens. I ordered a gazpacho as my drink and it was really flavorful. Embracing the red fruit, commonly known as a vegetable, we then ate the famous simple traditional Spanish dish: tomato bread. One of the tapas had all eyes on me, literally. I loved the breaded shrimps but this was one shrimp tapa I could not bear to maintain eye contact with. Finally, the Crema Catalana was the something sweet I decided to eat; pardon the rhyming. Unfortunately, the sweetness was masked by a sort of mixture of gasoline-like and something burnt taste. This is most probably due to the blow torch used to caramelize the sugar, except that the result was more burnt than caramel; Salted Caramel doesn’t appreciate being burnt.
The more I see my photographs of food I ate in Lisbon, the more I realize how much I enjoyed eating at their restaurants. Tagide Wine and Tapas Bar, the casual counterpart of the more formal Tagide restaurant, has a great comfortable atmosphere. The waiters were friendly, much like all of the Portuguese people, and the food was delicious. I loved the goblet-like cup and the hammered metal bowl. As a dessert option on the menu, they had their special take on a famous traditional Portuguese pastry. Their pastel de nata was served warm and instead of cinnamon just being a topping with powdered sugar, they added a scoop of cinnamon ice cream on the side to further reinforce the taste of the cinnamon. An additional interesting element they had was the wine dispenser. You are provided with a card on which your wine selections and quantity are recorded. If I ever visit Lisboa again, based on my experience with the wine and tapas bar, I would like to try the Tagide restaurant this time.
One restaurant in Lebanon that is worthy of being on the Michelin Guide in my opinion is Burgundy. The ingredients used are of the highest caliber and the chef pays attention to details. The items on the plate are meticulously displayed in an appealing way that makes you not want to touch them. However, then you think of how appetizing they seem and you know you have to have a taste. I have visited Burgundy twice and both times the food was delicious. The in-house smoked salmon appears to be done being smoked right in front of you on the table when the cover is removed and the salmon is revealed under the cloudiness. The salads are filled with flavor and the mashed potato served with the steak is silky smooth. It was the first time I had ever tasted a soft-shell crab and it was an interesting experience for a person with arachnophobia. We had a selection of cheese before the dessert. I am a person that really likes cheese so I enjoyed that platter. I also loved the chutney provided with the cheese; I adore the marriage of taste that cheese and chutney create in my mouth. The desserts were delectable, especially the chocolate souffle. I think molten chocolate is one of the greatest creations ever made. Actually, writing this blog post now makes me want to go to Burgundy again very soon.