Lebanese cuisine is without a doubt one of the most easily recognized and beloved food around the world. Highly diverse Mezza options, exceptionally healthy ingredients and cooking methods, as well as the fact that the food is always made to share are some of the reasons you’ll find a Lebanese restaurant in almost every corner of the world.
The popularity of Lebanese food means that a lot of the dishes your Tetas prepare for you when you visit them on weekends are being rethought and re-imagined by culinary experts everywhere. I was lucky enough to be one of the people selected to enjoy a special take on Mezza by Lebanese-Australian Michelin-starred Chef Greg Maalouf at Liza, called “The Art of Mezza.”
Maalouf was invited to share his mouth-watering take on Lebanese and Middle Eastern Mezza via the ChefXchange platform that allows you to bring a renowned chef into your homes or private functions.
Organic Salmon “Kebbe Nayye”
Sultans eggplant delight, brick wafers
Chicken and date fatayer, house pickles.
Halloumy fritters in saffron-yeast batter with honey
Quail in pistachios, sumac, sesame crumbs
Pickled, smoked ox tongue, carrot labneh, spinach
Golden spiced fried whitebait, feta mayonnaise
Zahra Cauliflower, sesame sauce, parmesan cumin wafers
Gulf prawns stone roasted, chermoula, pomegranade mayonnaise
Shiraz salad with homemade chanklishe and violas
Wild sea bass tarator style, coriander, walnuts, chili
Lamb shoulder, baharat spicers, parcins freekeh
Chocolate Muhallabiyye with Arabic coffee granita
Knife and fork ice cream with rose water and fig caramel
My Favorite Items
The Chicken and date Fatayer packed quite the punch. The combination of marinated chicken and dates proved to be quite satisfying on the tastebuds, although, I must admit, I mistook the pickles for cucumbers and I hate pickles, so that threw me off a little bit. Otherwise, this dish was quite good!
The Halloumy fritters in saffron-yeast batter with honey were awesome. You could really taste the honey infused into the unique texture of halloumy amplified with saffron-yeast batter. The fritters were yet another dish with an unconventional mixture of flavors that did not disappoint at all.
The Organic Salmon Kibbe Nayye was one of the dishes I was most excited about. I sometimes worry about raw meat in a dish, especially kibbe nayye, but having salmon instead of beef was reassuring, for me at least. The salmon kibbe nayye was great, just like a good kibbe nayye dish should be, although if I hadn’t known it was salmon, I’m not sure I would have noticed the switch in ingredients!
I also enjoyed the Lentil Tabbouleh and I’m glad he chose lentil over quinoa. Quinoa’s become too much of a cliche in dishes it doesn’t belong in, and I feel lentils stay truer to the Lebanese-ness of tabbouleh. As for the the pickled smoked ox tongue with carrot labneh and spinach, I had mixed feelings about it to be honest. The carrot Labneh and spinach were exciting to try, but I didn’t enjoy the taste of the pickled, smoked ox tongue.
Golden spiced fried whitebait, is what most of us call “Bizri”, the small fried fish we eat whole. The cool twist in this dish was the sublime feta mayonnaise dip which was perfect with the spiced, deep-fried fish.
Another dish I loved was the Shiraz salad with homemade Chanklishe cheese and violas. Perhaps it was because I already am a huge fan of Chanklishe, especially the kind usually served at Liza.
I got to also try a little bit of the wild sea bass tarator style with coriander, walnuts and chili. The lamb shoulder with baharat spicers and parcins freekeh too. Both dishes were delicious, but I didn’t feel the “wow” factor I got from other items on the menu, especially ones with mixtures and ingredients that we’re not normally used to.
When it was time for dessert, I barely had any room left for the selection presented, however, I did taste the Chocolate muhallabiyye with arabic coffee granita and I must say, it was sublime! I wish I could’ve tasted the knife and fork ice cream with rose water and fig caramel, it looked and sounded extremely interesting, but, I couldn’t manage a single extra bite after the huge feast of reimagined Mezza.
All in All
What I loved most about Chef Greg Maalouf’s culinary masterpieces is the unexpected mixture of ingredients and elements most of us would never think of mixing. Growing up eating different kinds of Mezza in different parts of Lebanon and the Middle East means it’s hard to surprise my tastebuds, but the dinner at Liza with a Michelin-starred Lebanese chef did just that!
The venue was perfect as well: a beautifully restored 19th century Lebanese mansion in the heart of Beirut to enjoy an array of dishes that stay true to the country’s rich cultural heritage, while adding a twist our ancestors hadn’t thought of.
If you’d like to know more about Greg Maalouf, check out his website [here]. If you want to get your very own chef for your specially prepared dishes, check out ChefXchange’s website [here]. If you’re ever in the mood for Lebanese fusion cuisine, check out [Liza] if you still haven’t!
PS: Thank you R for helping out with the text!