The Hangout: Gemmayze's Best-Kept Secret
It’d been over two years since I’d last visited The Hangout. The casual-chic restaurant, whose name conjures up images of a shack or hole-in-the-wall, is anything but. With sky-high ceilings, Arabesque arches, and royal-red motifs animating the entire space, the century-old home-turned-eatery accommodates guests in its main dining vestibule as well as in the several offshoot private rooms. In the winter, a backyard canopied terrace caters to the cigar-toting crowd, while in the summer, the garden in front lends itself to al fresco dining.
|Crimson red lights up the inside dining area|
We settled into our round table on the porch of the restaurant, peering down into a beautifully-lit garden outfitted with red- and green-upholstered banqueting chairs. The menu boasts a fair variety of salads, appetizers, tartars, mains, and grills, and happily there are quite a few entries that deviate from the standard fare of a French bistro.
|Al fresco dining in the front yard|
A basket of soft, warm bread arrived to our table, accompanied by green olives, olive oil, coarse sea salt flakes, and butter. My God, that bread—three hefty slices of what is perhaps a German “bauernstuten” loaf with the yearned-for crispy crust and a supple crumb to perfectly absorb any spread or dip. I have a mind to know whether the kitchen bakes it on premises, and if not, from which bakery it ushers!
|Starter bread kit|
For appetizers, we ordered the salade chèvre chaud (21,000 LL) and the carpaccio de saumon fumé (24,000 LL). The former boasts three balls of goat cheese dotted with morsels of sun-dried tomatoes and dried figs. Upon heating, they take on a slightly tart flavor competing with the lemony lettuce bed that accompanies them. To strike a balance between sweet, savory, and sour notes, I’d replace the tomatoes rolled in the goat cheese balls with apricot bits, and I’d drizzle the salad with a tangy raspberry vinaigrette.
|Chevre chaud salad|
The smoked salmon is indeed a carpaccio, with fine, thin folds of the cured delicacy garnished with capers and fresh lemon segments. It is absolutely delicious, leaving you wishing the portion were more liberal.
|Carpaccio of smoked salmon|
The real magic lied in the mains. We opted for calamars sur blé vert fumé cuit comme un risotto (46,000 LL), French for green-wheat frikeh with calamari tubes. It is sublime. A hearty, homemade stew that will warm your insides, each bite packs a distinctive smoky flavor that marries well with the smooth flesh of the fruit de mer. A pinch of battered squid tentacles added for décor would have functioned beautifully as one of the main components in the dish, as the contrast they provide to the soupy consistency of the frikeh is impeccable.
|Calamari with frikeh|
The croustillant de voilaille a la moutarde (34,000 LL) features two ample chicken breasts that emerge breaded, baked and basked in a creamy mustard grain sauce. Two sautéed button mushrooms atop a mound of pureed potatoes round off the generously-portioned plate.
|Breaded chicken breast in mustard grain sauce|
Our pain perdu dessert (19,000 LL) was offered on the house and, in the same spirit as the mains, it left little to be desired. A thick square slice of velvety French toast is surrounded by a pool of caramel, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream comes in a separate ramequin. The bread easily yields to every flourish of the fork, and despite its grandeur, we managed to obliterate it in no time.
|Pain perdu with vanilla ice cream|
The Hangout is easily Gemmayze’s best-kept secret. Tucked along a quiet side street off the main Gouraud drag and nestled on a raised ground floor of a residential building, the restaurant is an escape from the city’s din and congestion. Soothing tunes (don’t miss jazz night on Fridays!) and a deep-seated calm invite you to linger, or hang out, for as long as the night is young.
|A snug bar area at The Hangout|
|The temperature-controlled cellar holds over 2,000 bottles of wine|
|View from the wine cellar into the dining vestibule|
Nahr Brahim St.
+1 566 234