Restaurants in Lebanon are notoriously short on creativity. Wherever you go, you run into places featuring "international cuisine" (what exactly does that mean?!) serving everything from pizzas, burgers, fajitas, pasta, steaks, and Arabic mezze, to the classic chocolate fondant. I can't tell you how many restaurants fit exactly that profile, and how nervous I get about the operation behind those kitchen doors. The poor chef!

Crave (right off of Monot), while boasting a lengthy menu, has something unique and unifying that other restaurants simply fail to capture--balance. A master in fusion food, Crave serves up food that portrays the perfect harmony between savory and slightly sweet, freshness and quality, presentation and appeal. The first time we tried Crave, we sampled their elegant dessert selection: fruit-filled crepes smothered in Grand Marnier creme anglaise, and a Asmalieh creme brulee, a tantalizing combination of a traditional Arabic pastry with a classic French treat. The marriage was pure bliss, crunchy meets creamy, and it was elevated to heavenly by caramelized bananas and coconut-infused creme. Evoking that harmony were Yin and Yang shaped salt-and-pepper shakers--no detail has been overlooked!

This time, we opted for their salads, and once again, we were knocked off our feet. The bresaola halloumi salad was a light affair of organic greens with orange wedges tucked into them, sinking beneath grilled slices of halloumi cheese and thinly-shaved bresaola. Olive oil was delicately drizzled on top. The exotic shrimps salad is what really did us in, though, with a lively medley of real pineapple and mango chunks, a generous heaping of chilled baby shrimp, arugula, cooked grains of wheat, all tossed lightly in a lime sauce. A phyllo pastry basket, similar to a vol-au-vent, was added as a crispy and golden contrast to the colorful, soothing mess that was the salad.

Most impressive were the large portion sizes of these salads--they were proper meals in their own right, and very fairly priced (at about 20,000LL each). Their presentation was lively; the ingredients, flavorful; and the freshness, unparalleled.

Next time, we'll be tackling Crave's pizza!


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