Page 50 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine VII

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I chose the za’atar crusted rack of lamb – another house speciality – and it turned
out to be a revelation. The meat on the two exquisite chops was beautifully tender,
and the za’atar crust that lay on top of it was simply exceptional. For those of you
who aren’t familiar with za’atar, it is a blend of spices drawn fromherb families such
as basil, thyme, and oregano. While it’s often used in Arabic cuisine to impart its
masterful blend of subtle flavours, I have to say that this was among the best
examples of it that I have ever tasted. My lamb came accompanied with slices of
luxurious black truffle, a helping of rich tomato jam, and – best of all – a portion of
delicious potato slices.
It wasn’t just the style and technique of the cooking here that wowed us, though.
What was so great about all the dishes we tried was that they struck exactly the right
balance of texture and flavour. It’s easy to understand why Chef Nidal has had such
a decorated professional career. He clearly has a passion to work with the best, be
the best, and serve the best. Chef Nidal, we were realising, takes old traditional
culinary favourites on a new journey, where the ingredients are respected and given
centre stage.
Our dishes were downright superb, and looking at the others on the menu we could
see a host of evidence for Chef Nidal’s vibrant culinary imagination. As on all
journeys, there are new encounters to be had here at Li Beirut: traditional Lebanese
herbs, spices and tastes meet new world diver scallops, yabbies and mango. Veal,
lamb and seafood dishes are strongly featured – as you may have guessed from our
choices. To accompany our meals, we were able to choose from a superb range of
non-alcoholic drinks.
Opulent desserts
Our meal so far had been magnificent – but we still hadn’t tried the desserts. We
shared honey fudge and a layered spice cake. The honey fudge was incredibly rich
and perfectly sweet: caramel cylinders and an indulgent cream knefe. Best of all, the
dish came with truffles scented with rosewater, and some first-class vanilla-flavoured
ice cream. The spice cake, too, was exceptional. To my mind, they had hit on exactly
the right delicate blend of flavours, combined within an exquisitely soft and light
texture. All in all, the perfect way to end our meal.
Refined luxury
These culinary riches are presented in an ambience of refined luxury, whose design
hints at drama and flair. The interior of Li Beirut complements the cuisine perfectly
for an evening of gastronomic seduction. As well as the fantastic indoor tables,
outdoor terraced seating under starlit skies is also available – a truly atmospheric
setting to enjoy one’s meal.
We had eaten as much as we could at Li Beirut, and we left more convinced than
ever that Chef Nidal was a master of his art: a perfectionist who strives for the very
best each day of his life. He is both a scholar, with a wealth of culinary expertise at
his fingertips, and an intrepid explorer, charting new gastronomic waters each day.
We were sad to leave Li Beirut, but our sadness was tinged with the pleasure that
came from knowing that we would soon be returning.