Bar Tartine Ups The Bar For Restaurants Near and Far
Bar Tartine in Mar Mikhael’s popular foodie lair La Cour Saint Michel has been around for a year now. The adjacent Tartine Bakery produces fresh bread and pastries for guests to buy on the go as well as for those dining in the restaurant.
Two weeks ago, Bar Tartine (brought to us by the same folks behind Zaatar W Zeit) launched its second outlet in ABC Achrafieh on the ground level (L0) next to Mall Square, Vero Moda, and Jack Jones. The space is, believe it or not, ideal for a resto-café. There is a fenced-in island where guests can sit in the mall atrium, in addition to seating inside the restaurant proper, where the bar and kitchen bustle with activity. The ambiance is relaxed—neither chatty nor lonesome—and the service is impeccable, with wait staff at your beck and call, hovering without being doting.
We were invited for dinner there last night, and having never had the chance to sample the original Bar Tartine, our anticipation was through the roof. By the end of the evening, we were rendered speechless. The details are in the pictures. Allow me to grace them with a few adulatory words.
There's something about the spinach and artichoke dip that immediately distinguishes it from any others I’ve sampled before. The spinach is so fresh there’s still a slight crisp to it, even after having been steamed then baked with copious amounts of parmesan and mozzarella. Thin slices of toasted baguette bread make the perfect scoopers.
Countryside quiche encloses dense chevre chaud, black olives and roasted cherry tomatoes. The crust, baked to a golden hue, folds gently but does not crumble. We were also treated to a classic quiche Lorraine, aromatic with lardons and crème fraiche and oozing like liquid satin.
Ricotta croquettes, seasoned with thyme and accompanied by a pool of marinara sauce, were rich and authentic—a far cry from those found in your grocer’s frozen aisle.
The menu name "Smoked Salmon Edamame" doesn’t do this salad justice, as it is brimming with treasures like boiled quail egg, soft-ripened avocado, baby potato, spring onions, and sprigs of dill, all on a bed of French lettuce. The lemon-oil dressing delivers a euphoric zing.
One of my favorite dishes, the Summer Shrimp Avocado salad is a colorful bouquet of avocado, sun-dried tomato, shavings of artichoke heart, marinated shrimp (again, not your store-bought variety), and fresh kumquat cut so finely into slivers, its sweetness is unassuming. Cider vinaigrette binds all ingredients into a savory medley.
A bed of rocca cradles a generous portion of grilled chicken, grilled asparagus, sun-dried tomato, and skinned orange wedges, all tossed in sesame seeds and an Asian-inspired dressing. Light and uplifting, this salad would delight the weight-conscious.
This meat-lovers' pizza is a visual masterpiece, shaped into a rectangular slab and served on a wooden breadboard. It is liberal on sausage and chorizo, and the crust is crafted from sourdough flour imported from France.
No words can accurately capture how delicious the beef burger is. Every component of this pièce de résistance is flawless: a melt-in-your-mouth beef patty, melted Provolone, caramelized onions, red-ripe tomato, spring lettuce, and a house-signature bun soft to the touch and yielding to every bite. Poppy and sunflower seeds crown it on top.
The grilled chicken burger is another winner: a thick breast slathered in spicy Cajun sauce, topped with tomato, onion and lettuce. A small bowl of sliced jalapeno pepper empowers the diner to jazz up the burger to his liking. A quick word on the fries: thick, steak-fries-style spears of spud come tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. Not a film of oil or grease lingers on your fingers. The coleslaw is exceptional, getting a lift from fresh white rings of onion and diced beets.
An inimitably thick, tender, and marinated half-chicken are wonderfully complemented by an herby lemon-mayo-mustard dip, grilled carrot and zucchini, and lamelles of fried potato. In a word, this dish is incredible.
The desserts are fashioned in the spirit of a classic café francais. Fresh strawberries nestled in luscious crème patissière are bound by a delicate golden shell and powdered with confectioner’s sugar. A dark chocolate ganache inside a chocolate sablet is adorned with hazelnut. A chocolate-caramel tart laced with banana flavor melts into a pool of caramel with every flourish of the fork. An intensely moist fondant chocolate is dusted with sugar and marries fabulously with the strawberries borrowed from the tartes aux fraises.
By evening’s end, we had only passionate, sincere praise for the parade of food that had ushered out of Bar Tartine’s kitchen for our indulgence. Everything was spot-on: temperature, taste, freshness, quality, presentation, and pleasurability. Bar Tartine transcends all expectation, setting the bar quite high for eating establishments in Beirut and beyond.