The New Face and Tastes of La Parrilla Restaurant
Change can be risky. Especially when it defies the age-old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I never knew La Parrilla in its heyday. An Argentinean steakhouse tucked along narrow Mar Maroun Street parallel to Gemmayze’s Gouraud, La Parrilla was renowned for its churrasco-style grills. Since it opened in 2007, it attracted Lebanon’s seasoned carnivores and gourmands, and for good reason. The meat was flown in from Argentina; the décor was wooden and cozy, evocative of a ranch in Latin America; and the live music every evening was animated by tango melodies.
Seven years later, La Parrilla has undergone a transformation, a notable one to boot. The overhaul has spared no detail—everything, from décor, to music, to menu, to lighting, to cutlery and even the plates have been redesigned, redefined, and totally spun on their heads.
I had the rare privilege of being invited to the launch of the new La Parrilla a few days ago over lunch. Mireille Hayek, the entrepreneur and restaurant guru behind La Parrilla (as well as the opulent Em Sherif in Monot and Yasmina in Sofil), welcomed us to the new, smooth vibes and white interior that now exemplify the venue. Ceiling mirrors and a sunroof splash the place with abundant sunlight, while a white piano-DJ system-in-one captivates its audience as it belts out lounge-loving tunes. Waiters and busboys bustled about with alacrity and an aim to please, and please they did.
The menu is decidedly more varied. We were treated to a 10-course tasting menu opening with a warmed tomato-zucchini gazpacho dusted with dried mint leaves. With our palates stroked, out came a spring salad dressed with citrus vinaigrette and decorated with fresh raspberries. Then a cold lentil salad emboldened by slices of cooked soujouk. Even a taste of Japan in the form of paper-thin salmon bundling white rice and diced veggies and accompanied by pickled bean sprouts and wakame.
A parade of warm dishes then emerged. Al dente penne pasta mixed with the pulp of eggplant, basil, and slices of Parmesan. Risotto featuring tender asparagus and eggplant in cream. Gnocchi in a similar aged-cheese sauce.
We were nearly stuffed by the time the steak filet ushered out of the kitchen. Perhaps the most succulent piece of beef I have tasted in Beirut, it was cooked medium as requested and literally gave at every gentle swipe of the knife. The plate was piping hot, and I could hear the meat still cooking as it sizzled delightfully near a mountain of diced, pan-fried mushrooms. Sautéed green beans, mashed potatoes, and fries a tad too salty for my taste rounded up the main.
Few guests had space for dessert, but I couldn’t resist. The mango sorbet was rich in fresh mango bits, and the strawberry coulis too was an ode to the sweet, ripe red fruit. Palate properly cleansed, I could now relish the forêt noir, a decadent hybrid between German black forest cake and a chocolate fondant. Chocolate worshipers will adore it. But it was the pain perdu that took the cake—and stole my heart—with its soft, egg-y core and crunchy, caramelized crust. It definitely tops my list of Beirut’s best.
It seems La Parrilla’s new focus is the business lunch, and thus we see a broad variety in the dishes on offer, particularly light, refreshing fare for those who must shuffle back to work once the meal finishes. The ambiance, too, is suitable for executives looking to talk business in a sun-filled setting with swanky white and gold hues.
Yes, La Parrilla still grills steaks, and damn good ones too, but guests should be prepared to embrace a new international menu whose emphasis is no longer on a specialized style of cooking meat. Oh, and beware the antlers on the walls—they’re ubiquitous.
Mar Maroun Street
01-58 58 85
Mar Maroun Street
01-58 58 85