A Restaurant Destined for a Michelin Star...Here in Lebanon!
If there’s any restaurant in Beirut that could become a serious candidate for the elusive Michelin star, it’s unequivocally Harry’s Bar. The storied Italian dining spot, located next to Burgundy in Saifi Village, has been open for six months now, and since day one, young Executive Chef Andrea Gurzi from Calabria, Italy, has been wowing Beirut with his masterful edible creations.
|Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and animated by a bouquet of lettuce with Parmesan shavings. |
The orange and green globules are tomato cream and mixed-herb pesto, respectively.
|A bisected burrata atop a meaty bed of bread crumbs moistened with tomatoes.|
The green line running through the plate isn't your cliched pesto--let your taste buds do the probing!
I’m not the only one who thinks so highly of his work. Gurzi and his partner chef Nicolas Ardu, also a native Italian, competed in Horeca’s “Live Meat Cooking Competition” against prominent kitchens like The Four Seasons, Phoenicia Hotel, Le Royal, and Radisson Blu. Their steak and vegetable platter, evoking an aesthetic architectural structure, earned them top honors for both taste and presentation.
|The dish that trumped all others at the Horeca 2015 "Live Meat Cooking" competition|
Gurzi is decidedly avant garde for Lebanon, where the palate for Italian cuisine is sadly limited to the likes of mozzarella di bufala adorned with a few sprigs of basil, an al dente penne arrabbiata, or a thin-crust Neapolitan pizza with a dash of rubbish synthetic truffle oil. Many Lebanese diners think those are the traditional dishes underlying Italian cooking, but Gurzi would have you believe otherwise. He frowns with displeasure at what passes as “authentic” Italian food in Lebanon and how menus are uninventive from one establishment to the next.
|Perfectly poached lobster swimming in a pool of tomato gazpacho|
|Fresh homemade ravioli stuffed with real crab meat and asparagus all in a lobster bisque|
He and the other Italian staff members at Harry’s Bar—the brilliant sommelier Roberto Galli (who hails from Michelin-starred restaurant Kai in Mayfair, London), two assistant chefs, and a few of the floor hosts—have been combing the Italian restaurant landscape in Lebanon to get an impression of what’s being served. They praise Margherita for its genuine pizzas crafted in the Naples fashion. But that’s it. That’s where the buck stops. Everything else is meh. Good, perhaps, but wholly uninspiring.
|Neither firm nor mushy asparagus risotto with swirls of Pecorino cream|
Folks, I cannot urge you vehemently enough to visit Harry’s Bar and treat yourself to a truly unrivaled experience. Your taste buds will be at a loss as to what precisely they’re being tantalized with, and there will be a compelling mismatch between what you behold and what you savor. Go with an open mind, with no expectations, and with a desire to try something refreshingly new and novel.
|Sicilian-style quid stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs |
atop a ratatouille of vegetables in a sweet, tangy sauce
Sip on a glass of Bellini--renowned for having been born at Harry’s Bar--which muddles peach purée with Prosecco. Nibble on aged Parmigiana-Reggiano and enjoy the spiced roasted almond halves as you prepare for the feast of flavors destined for your table. Allow Sommelier Roberto enlighten your palate and recommend a vintage or two to accompany your meal. And for heaven's sake, don’t order the quinoa salad, a concession placed on the menu solely to appease adamant Lebanese diners who didn't see their banal favorites. Save that for Lina's.
|Clockwise from top: |
local green olives stuffed with almonds, spiced almond halves, and roasted hazelnuts
Harry’s Bar is a journey to the heart of original Italian cuisine at its very finest. Without an ounce of reservation, I recommend it as the top Italian fine dining institution in Lebanon.
|Duo chocolate mousse with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and tart raspberries|
|Fresh forest berries and chunky mango sorbet resting atop braised pineapple with its juices|
Gratitude is due unto Chef Andrea and his team for the mind-blowing meal they prepared, as well as to Sommelier Roberto for his choice selection of wine at every course. A warm thanks also goes to restaurant owner Mr. Sami Hawa and manager Mr. Jamil Jurdak for making our visit as pleasant as possible.
Follow me on Instagram at @beirutista for more drool-worthy photos!
Saifi Village, Beirut
01 99 66 00