A Sublime Wine & Dine Experience at Kempinski Beirut's Rojo Restaurant
I bear good news. The hospitality industry in Lebanon is still alive and well. Very well, in fact, namely at Beirut's premier five-star property Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort. Boasting its own private beach and marina on the Mediterranean, the estate is a little piece of paradise promising seclusion, seduction, and absolute sumptuousness. It definitely delivers on those promises, as our visit last week to its cozy Mediterranean eatery Rojo attested.
|Rojo restaurant at the Kempinski Beirut (photo source: online gallery)|
It was a tempestuous Friday evening and the winds were howling, but we were nestled safely inside at a table for two, eager to embrace the night’s “Wine and Dine by the Sea with Latourba” menu proposition. I knew very little about Latourba, a private Lebanese vineyard located in the West Bekaa in a town called Saghbine. Assuming that we were in for a typical wine and dinner pairing, I was pleasantly surprised to find the owners and founders – Christine and Elias Chehwane – presiding over a casual presentation of the Latourba range. We toasted to the affair with a cuvée speciale named Kristina, eponymous with the founder. The newest addition to Latourba’s gamut, this sparkling brut rosé is light, effervescent, and appetite-stirring.
|Christine Chehwane, co-founder and owner at Latourba winery|
|Elias Chehwane, co-founder and owner at Latourba and husband to Christine|
After tasting a number of other Latourba gems, including Solac and Simil from their young wine range, we floated back to our table and earnestly awaited the parade of gastronomic delights crafted by Chef Georges Mansour. A basket of fresh baked bread elevated by a medley of dips – balsamic vinegar, tapenade, and olive oil – greeted us.
First up, supple seared scallops complemented by cauliflower puree and pineapple yuzu foam, washed down with a dry white Chardonnay 2018. It made for the perfect transition into the meal service, teasing our tummies and boosting expectations for the ensuing courses.
|Seared scallops on cauliflower puree|
We segued to a vol au vent brimming with sautéed mushrooms and duck confit. The succulent red meat struck a good match with the Petit Verdot 2016.
|Vol au vent caching sauteed mushrooms and duck confit|
The plat principal was a rather interesting concoction of two very generous beef medallions, creamy quince puree, and pissaladière, a pizza-like flatbread topped per tradition with caramelized onions, black olives, and anchovies. Rather than relegate this to a side, I would have resolved it into its own course with complementary wine pairing, because it doesn’t quite suit a steak. Latourba’s private selection Litaj 2015, blending Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, took center stage.
|Beef medallions, quince puree, and pissaladière|
Finally, dessert was an alluring assembly of a dense lemon and poppy seed cake, raspberry coulis, parsley-mint crumble, yuzu cream, and cotton candy. Even as I reflect on it now, I wonder how the chef conjured it up, imaginative as it is! Cleanse the palate it does, unequivocally, coupled with Latourba’s sparkling brut Chardonnay.
|Citrus Parfait dessert|
With the trifecta of dinner, wine, and impeccable service led by a young and knowledgeable wait staff, we struggled to remember the last occasion wherein we’d enjoyed ourselves so thoroughly out on the town. Sure, the times have threatened to blot out the pleasure and treasure with which our Mediterranean hospitality has grown synonymous over the decades. But Kempinski Beirut is a firm reminder of the beauty that beckons once we’re ready and able to rekindle our joie de vivre.
Price per person: USD 45 net.
Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort: +961 1 858 000
Rojo restaurant: +961 81 312 004
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