La Crêperie: Striving to Meet Impossibly High Expectations
It’d been shuttered for so long, I honestly doubted it would ever reopen. Perched on a hilly slope overlooking Jounieh Bay, its mansion-like façade and vast interior spoke of an era when ceilings were sky-high, chambers spacious as studios, and architecture unmistakably Ottoman.
It was the site of our first date, back on that fateful June night, when not a cloud had obstructed the panoramic view below and above—we could see Our Lady of Lebanon smiling down upon us from the heights of Harissa. Slightly nervous and heart aflutter, I suggested we order the house’s namesake specialties and then scale up the mountain for a saj mankouche. And so we did.
Within weeks, the restaurant closed its doors to business, and rumor had it a total facelift was in order. A year passed, then two. By the third, I was confident that the owners had given up on the property, diverting their efforts to more lucrative venues.
Four long years later, La Crêperie invited sunlight to percolate once more through its glass windows. The space is admittedly beautiful, featuring an L-shaped walkway lined with towering bushes leading to the restaurant entrance and expansive outdoor terrace. Inside, there are themed dining rooms awash with white décor and preserved butterflies, as well as a crepe station where seasoned crêpiers tend to their craft. A marble-slab island suggests that a spread of brunch is lay here sumptuously each weekend.
Last week, we were invited to dinner at La Crêperie and led to a decidedly wintry wing of the restaurant. The essential chimney, mounted deer busts, dim lighting, and cozy seating make this the choice ambiance for a chilly night’s feast. But on that hot summer night throbbing with heat, humidity, and haze in the wake of the dust storm, we were happy to sit in the indoor sanctuary.
There’s no arguing that the cocktails at La Crêperie are second to none—after all, this is Sky Management, and they know a thing or two about mixing drinks. Greeted with liberal Moscow Mules in whisky glasses and my new favorite sangria this neck of the woods, we sat down to a nicely-dressed, candlelit table. The green olives, cubes of butter, and bread rolls—both white and whole-grain—soon landed, followed by an array of delectable starters.
|Sangria garnished with passion fruit halves and diced apples|
A supple purse of burrata came crowned with firm tomato wedges and a drizzle of pesto.
|Burrata with tomatoes, fresh basil and pesto|
Four semi-crisp stalks of asparagus accompanied a spring salad with Parmesan shavings and balsamic panache.
The salmon tartare resembled a petri dish composed of diced raw salmon, avocado, and cucumber, enjoying a subtle lift from coriander, chives, ginger, capers, and lemon juice.
The foies de volaille were doused in Porto wine, crème fraiche, and caramelized onions, and were a welcome departure from the Lebanese variety steeped in pomegranate molasses.
Next up were the galettes. Here’s where a bit of modification could easily catapult these to best in their category. Sure, they're generously loaded--Emmental, ham off the bone, mushrooms, fried eggs--but they lack a certain oomph. Nothing that a dash of seasoning couldn’t solve, and the butter could be dialed down. I'd tap into the traditional recipe for galettes, which calls for buckwheat flour. The complex flavors of buckwheat contrast wonderfully with savory fillings.
|Crepe Maison: cheese, ham and mushrooms|
As a main, the 200-g. prime cut of Angus filet was cooked to medium-well and sided by sautéed mushrooms, French green beans, and russet potatoes. Some herbs would have done the bland spud well. The peppercorn sauce for the beef was excessively piquant for my liking, so I opted for grain mustard.
|Filet de boeuf|
La Crêperie hits high notes in the dessert department, with a dense baked cheesecake decked with fresh forest berries. The millefeuille featured both crème chantilly and crème patissière, swapping conventional phyllo for a crispy, airy shell. The chocolate tart veered on chalky and would have paired well with forest berries and several dollops of vanilla bean ice cream rather than just one.
|Baked cheesecake with forest berries and coulis|
|Chocolate tart in a chocolate shortbread|
Of the two sweet crêpes served that evening, the chocolate-banana shined thanks to its use of bitter dark chocolate, and a decent dose at that. The restaurant’s eponymous crêpe (“La Crêperie”) is a mushy bed of apple and banana purée tinged with Grand Marnier and served flambé. I’d rework it to incorporate crushed graham crackers (or digestives), banana coins, rhum, and crème chantilly, chucking the apple compote altogether.
There's been heated debate in the blogosphere about the value afforded by La Crêperie as well as the unremarkable taste of the cuisine. In scanning the menu prices posted on Zomato, nothing seems outrageously expensive, and I’d venture to say that prices are correct for the chic genre of dining outlet that La Crêperie falls under.
Further, to claim that the food is merely satisfactory is unfair, but I suppose that’s what four years of closure does to you—expectations rise impossibly high, and had even a Michelin-starred chef commanded the kitchen, customer bickering would have still reigned.
There’s certainly some room to polish their food offering, but La Crêperie has succeeded to rekindle and restore a landmark institution to its throne in the Kaslik cliffs. Personally, I’m rather glad we can relive our first date again and again.
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