Le Gray's Indigo Hits It Out of the Ballpark, Again
When it comes to knocking things out of the ballpark, five-star property Le Gray nestled in the heart of Beirut is unmatched. It’s no surprise I’ve blogged about its prestigious dining venue, Indigo on the Roof, no less than six times over the course of the last three years. Here is an institution that takes gastronomic pleasure rather seriously, which couldn’t be more evident than now, with the introduction of a dozen menu items by the hotel’s newly appointed Executive Chef Nicolas Herbault.
Hired toward the end of last summer, the French culinary master didn’t waste a moment in brandishing his flair at the Sunday lunch buffet, as we noticed several months ago from both the artistic setup and dessert display. The former emphasizes the sheer lavishness of the food spread, while the latter points to the chef’s heritage, with delicious novelties like the Saint Honoré, macarons, and mini moelleux in the mold of Cannelés Bordelais. I remember rejoicing at the mere sight of these beauties. Paris has finally caught up to me here in Beirut, I grinned.
Last Friday, we had the privilege of being the first to sample Chef Herbault’s glamorous dishes, counting a dozen spanning the categories of entrée, plat principal, and dessert. Some are a lesson in art, for which Le Gray is famed in its “food is art” philosophy. Others are a cultural mash-up, like Norwegian salmon gravlax decorated with falafel tots, which really challenged our taste buds. And yet others are an absolute revelation, namely miso cod and scallops on quinoa risotto, urging us to come back promptly as soon as the unforgiving scale allows.
Here is a survey of some of my favorite plates.
La Verger Salad. The menu description calls on “forgotten vegetables,” and in essence, this is a compilation of produce you’d find in your fridge begging to be channeled into something inspirational. Enter this salad, a bed of carrot puree suspending wedges of heirloom tomato, radish halves, and edible flowers. Goes to show that even your 5-a-day can come dressed to the nines!
|Yes, this is a salad!|
Atlantic Lobster Salad. Here’s another celebration of colors. Succulent lobster crowns a delectable nest of celery and apple remoulade massaged in kaffir lime and soy vinaigrette. The contrast of textures and brilliant reworking of celery and apple into a noodle-like composition are mind-blowing.
|Atlantic Lobster Salad.|
Beetroot Cured Salmon Gravlax. Who would ever think to concentrate salmon, quail eggs, and tiny falafel nuggets onto one plate? Chef Herbault has no difficulty thrusting us out of our comfort zones and immersing us in a whole new hybridized world of tastes and flavors.
|Beetroot-cured Salmon Gravlax with Falafel Tots.|
Pan-seared Scallops. Anthony Bourdain heralded them as the “filet mignon of the sea,” and scallops truly form the ultimate fruits de mer. In this dish, they come beautifully marinated and seared, resting in a cradle of quinoa risotto, proof that trendy and traditional can go hand in hand.
Pan-fried Miso Cod Fillet. This dish has all the majestic makings of a Michelin star. Celeriac puree, lemongrass emulsion, a tender hunk of white fish sporting a golden armor…faultless in every respect.
|Miso Cod Fillet with Celeriac Puree.|
Squid-ink Pasta with Seafood. Black-tinted food tends to be off-putting, but the chef cleverly caches thick strands of fresh pasta dyed noir beneath plump scallops, shrimps, calamari and mussels. I’d take this over paella any day of the week. There’s something pleasantly umami about this dish, as it merges seafood with fresh al dente pasta ever so seamlessly.
|Squid-Ink Pasta with Seafood.|
Farm Chicken Breast. Who said a chicken dinner had to be humble? The poultry is presented bone-in, very much akin to confit de canard, flanked by braised red cabbage, fondant potatoes fashioned into cylindrical cups brimming with tomato salsa, and a foamy emulsion.
|Farm Chicken with braised red cabbage.|
Pesto Linguini. Whenever I see or hear the word “pesto,” I melt. But Chef Herbault’s version is not your characteristic jarred blend of basil leaves, olive oil, and pine nuts. In fact, it’s visible that he’s decomposed the “sauce,” if you will, into its constituent elements, and gently massaged it into the linguini. What you taste are distinctly fresh herbs, Pecorino cheese flakes, and sweet, juicy tomatoes.
Dessert Finale. An ethereally light millefeuille framboise piped with clouds of vanilla bean crème Chantilly. A sea urchin-like rendition of Pavlova with meringue kisses and a refreshing nucleus of passion fruit sorbet. An East meets West concoction of kashta ice cream, crushed pistachios, and a baba au rhum lookalike evidencing Oriental flavors of what perhaps might be karabij Hallab. That’s merely confirmation I need to go back to Indigo on the Roof to tantalize my taste buds and educate my gourmet self!
|Millefeuille framboise and macaron|
|Pavlova with a core of passion fruit sorbet|
|Kashta ice cream, crushed pistachios, and what might be a Baba au rhum-inspired Oriental cake|
Whether you have an occasion to toast to or simply want to feel like royalty for the night, Le Gray is your unparalleled destination. With Chef Herbault now at the helm of the culinary operation, this hotel is readily poised to snatch many accolades for its robust inventiveness and excellence in pushing boundaries.
+961 1 972000