Just back from a trip that included several days in and around Beirut with many memorable meals and enjoyable wines. Restaurants ranged from a casual breakfast with artful coffee at Cafe Diem (Achrafieh, Petro Trad Street, Sodeco, N* 8 Building; cafediem.fr), typical Mezze (Kahwet Leila in the Gemmayze neighborhood), Armenian at well-known Mayrig (282 Pasteur Street; mayrigbeirut.com) and seafood salads St. Elmo’s Brasserie on Zaitunay Bay.
The highlight meal was at L’Humeur du Chef (in the Achrafiyeh neighborhood on Mar Mkhael St., [Azirian Bldg., Ground Floor; phone 01565495] no website). A set menu ($60 per person, plus wine) featured endive salad, crevettes grilles (very large and tender grilled shrimp), Bar Gros Sel (sea bass, encased in a crust of sea salt and roasted) and, for dessert, delicious, rich brownies that tasted homemade. The affable chef and his staff made the small, contemporary restaurant feel welcoming and homey. He poured a bottle of 2004 Chateau Khoury, Symphonie, (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah) that has aged well in the bottle.
Speaking of wine, we did manage to visit a couple of wineries in the beautiful Bekaa Valley. Chateau Kasara is a relatively large, long established winery that, unlike most, was open on Sunday. Another, Cave Kourunm, was technically not open but we were given a tour and tasting in spite of it being Sunday.
Lastly, we visited Byblos, perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world (8,000 to 10,000 years). Bab El Mina is a lovely restaurant overlooking the marina and Mediterranean Sea. The grilled octopus was excellent and went well with 2011 Chateau Musar Cuvée (cinsault, carignan, cabernet and syrah).