Achrafieh "Café" Survives The Test of Time

If you’ve ever lived in Paris, you understand the dynamics of a café trottoir. Chairs are turned to face the sidewalk, lending a front row seat to the pedestrian action mere centimeters away. Service is prompt and mechanical. In fact, with your order you receive the tab, which you’re expected to settle immediately. Thereafter, no one can lay a finger on you. Idle as long and as pensively as you wish, free of reproach.

éCafé Sursock, nestled in the affluent Achrafieh neighborhood after which it is named, has little in common with its Parisian counterparts. In lieu of a trottoir is a greenhouse-like porch, alive with potted plants and verdure to render the perfect brunch hangout. 

Pedestrian action? Well, maybe the odd poodle tethered to its domestic help, who are not uncommon in the area. Service is attentive, but far from mechanical, flowing as smoothly and silkily as a fine glass of Blanc de Blancs poured from the eatery’s bar.

The only overlap, it seems, is the idling bit, because éCafé by its very nature encourages it. Inside, plush sofas line the walls of the charming little bistro, which is divided into two dining areas. Comfy upholstered chairs, sufficient space between tables, and vibrant artwork affixed to the walls paint an inviting aura, one where you wouldn’t mind clocking in a couple hours or so.

Warm shades of red and violet paint an atmosphere of welcome

Perhaps the real eye candy are the artfully presented dishes, demonstrative of Chef Hicham Badran’s emphasis on seasonality:

An edamame salad – a welcome departure from the ubiquitous rehashed bowl of the salted furry pods – tossed with pomegranate seeds, grapefruit and orange wedges, and ripe avocado in a citrusy yuzu dressing.

Edamame salad with fresh citrus wedges and avocado

A bed of bitingly crispy French lettuce and julienned green apple flanked by half a dozen goat cheese canapés.

Goat cheese salad with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. A classic!

Bouquets of Prosciutto di Parma con melone, or Parma ham wrapped unsuspectingly with slivers of melon.

Prosciutto di Parma con melone, or Parma ham with melon

Fresh tuna and salmon tartares heaped up on discs of avocado mash and bridged by a solitary breadstick.

Tuna and salmon tartares on a bed of avocado mash 

Colors of spring and summer beckon with allure, building anticipation for what dessert will bring. But first, the risotto and mains.

A dense, creamy concoction owing its smoky flavor to the Italian cheese Scamorza, éCafé's risotto emerges in a shallow cast-iron pot to help keep it warm. The Parmesan crisp is a sophisticated touch, garnished with delicate slices of lime. 

Risotto al limone con Scamorza

The mi-cuit pavé de saumon ensures the flesh of the fish remains tender, flaky, and moist. It borrows a kick from a slightly sweet teriyaki sauce that also dresses ribbons of carrot and zucchini.

Pavé de saumon dressed with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds

The poulet-frites is exactly that: half a grilled chicken swarmed by thin-cut fries, à la façon steak-frites. A pitcher of grain mustard sauce gives it a boost, though I’d have added a simple side salad to jazz up the dish.

Desserts are delectable, starting with indigo-hued lavender crème brûlée. The essential crystallized surface gives way to a sleek cream beneath, whose lavender flavor is subtle so as not to overwhelm.

Lavender crème brûlée

A giant pistachio macaron sandwiches vanilla ice cream swirled with a streak of raspberry in an ode to summer.

An oversize pistachio macaron sandwiching vanilla-raspberry ice cream

For a truly saccharin fix, try the Pavlova assembled from clouds of meringue topped with a rich berry coulis.

Pavlova with berry coulis

Chocoholics will relish the fondant as it gushes forth liquid chocolate best tempered with a spoon of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream, fudge sauce, and berry coulis

The ultimate measure of a restaurant’s worth is its ability to stay afloat, and éCafé has definitely withstood the test of time. While F&B outlets in the nearby vicinity have fallen prey to the vicissitudes of consumer behavior, éCafé marches on unfazed, just as the archetypical Parisian pedestrian.

éCafé Sursock


Popular posts from this blog

A Crowning Iftar Experience at the Crowne Plaza Beirut

What’s New In & Around Beirut

Tantalizing Treats from the Coast to the Mountains