The Sweet Boutique That Will Whisk You Away
When Salem Akiki first invited me to come explore his new pastry shop Whisk in Naccache, I did what all modern-day stalkers and sleuths do: I jumped onto his Instagram page and carefully combed through photo after photo of edible artwork.
A stunning charlotte aux fruits rouges crowned with raspberries and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. A block of chocolate with crushed almonds peeking through the surface, topped with clouds of piped latte-tinged cream and coffee beans. A veritable mountain of cream puffs decorated with candied chestnuts and meringue in what is surely the artist’s take on Mont Blanc.
Studying these photos in complete awe, I was reminded of Cyril Lignac, France’s cherished patissier and TV celebrity chef whose sweet renderings are breathtaking and, as my last trip to Paris confirmed, worth their weight in gold.
So on a calm Saturday afternoon, I paid a visit to Whisk, which beautifully channels sunlight and minimalist décor in true Parisian spirit to display its jewels. A young, enthusiastic assistant named Marc greeted me as my gaze darted impetuously to the glass display.
|Elaborate French pastry displayed at Whisk|
(notice how traditional eclairs are an afterthought)
Mere minutes later, I was tucking into a Religieuse, gilded with a crisp craquelin coat and topped with fresh crème Chantilly nesting a trio of berries. Euphoria.
A slice of rich flourless chocolate cake – moeulleux au chocolat to the initiated – had me imploring for a bottle of water, which Cynthia, the pastry chef’s sister and unintended right hand, happily supplied. Cynthia, infected by Salem’s unrequited love for making pastry, finds herself spending more time in the atelier in Adonis than on her master’s thesis in banking and finance.
|A rich, moist moelleux au chocolat|
Things took a dive for the serious when I sampled the Opera, totally reimagined by Salem to resemble a balance beam of chocolate topped with a winding figure s of cream. The coffee beans cradled therein are in fact dark chocolate.
|Opera cake redefined (even the coffee beans are handmade chocolate!)|
Salem then came through the door with boxes of cakes freshly emerged from the kitchen. A visionary man of merely 31 years of age (yes, only 31!), Salem spent little time discussing his accolades, much to my displeasure, and instead diverted to amusing my palate.
|Pastry Chef Salem Akiki slicing into a layered red velvet cake |
(charlotte aux fruits rouges in the foreground)
It was a lesson for my taste buds, as they struggled to decipher familiar aromas and tastes in unfamiliar textures and presentations. A velvety red ball caching a core of raspberry gelée inside a layer of white chocolate and cream cheese turned out to be baked cheesecake, chucking the trite graham cracker base for a more mature mélange of oats.
|Balled up baked cheesecake|
A sky-high charlotte bordered by homemade savoiardi, or ladyfingers, gave way to layers of sponge cake, a whipped fruit mousse, cream, and fresh fruit.
Coarse truffles hinting at Cointreau were anything but chalky, making consuming just one a feat in itself.
|Truffles kissed with Cointreau|
I took home what might be the least sinful of Salem’s creations, and those are buttery, crisp chocolate chip biscuits ideally paired with a cup of tea or a strong dark roast. You can also buy chocolate bark studded with hazelnuts if your sweets preference is more purist than fanciful.
|Chocolate bark with crushed hazelnuts|
Individual pastries sell for 4,000 – 6,000 LBP, and full-size cakes should be ordered in advance. But a selection of Salem’s inimitable designs are always available in-shop for drop-by customers.
If you’re a sweet tooth, make it a point to visit Whisk. What you’ll find here is a fresh new breakthrough in pastry-making for Lebanon, thanks to Salem.
Naccache 76 456 333
Adonis 76 456 356