I don’t usually wait so impatiently for a restaurant to open, but that was the case with Paname. The reason for this impatience: Chef Youssef Akiki. For me, Burgundy’s chef is one of the best, if not the best chef in Lebanon. When I saw the opening announcement, my heart skipped a beat. I had to reserve. Finally, I was walking around in the pleasant Saifi environment with this Almost French restaurant as my destination. When we arrived, we were greeted with people casually sitting outside and a very friendly staff. We were led to our table and given our menus. I scrutinized all of the listed items and wanted to taste as much of the variety provided as I could. We ordered the Seared Bluefin Tuna Ceviche and Scottish Salmon Carpaccio as starters. For mains, we ordered the Spaghetti with Speck, the Wagyu Beef Burger, and the Grilled Plaice. We wanted to order the Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin but it was unavailable. The first items that were placed on our table were a basket of bread, and the wines we had asked for. Then, it really began. The appetizers arrived. The presentation was beautiful; it was reminiscent of Burgundy’s finesse. Both the salmon and the tuna were delicious. The seasoning was well-balanced and the combination of flavors all coming together in one bite was delightful. I loved how the mango tidbits complemented the tuna perfectly. We proceeded with our main dishes soon after. The spaghetti was cooked just right and the sauce was light and creamy. As for the burger, the doneness of the meat rendered it juicy and succulent, making it stand out despite its simple flavor profile. The fish was also extremely tender and moist, and the other components on the plate along with the dressing enhanced the taste even further. When it was time for dessert, the waiter informed us that they would be complimentary. They even refused to charge us for an additional dessert we wanted to pay for. We had the Strawberry Panna Cotta, the Tiramisu, and the Chocolate Mousse. The sauce smothering the cream in the panna cotta was fresh and intense, and the Tiramisu was rich and tasty. Honestly, I preferred both to the mousse dessert, although it was still really good as well. All in all, the service was great and I enjoyed my meal from beginning to end. My taste buds were left widely awakened and longing for more of those creations with flavorful ingredients, especially those fishy appetizers that will keep me coming back for more.
Sapa – Sodeco
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.