A Nostalgic Lebanese Menu With Chef Teya of Maison Libanaise
May 06, 2022
Maison Libanaise, Black Sheep’s enviable, dearest “all-day Lebanese canteen,” sources the cultural and culinary makeup of Beirut – the Parisian centre of Middle East culture as critics acclaim – to a fruity and colourful takeaway-diner-roof venue at the heart of Soho.
Black Sheep’s recent import of Lebanese native chef Teya Mikhael to the restaurant group family, governing the operations of the escalators-side kitchen, sees the seasoned and youthful cook flexing her home recipes to curate a highly personal shared mezze experience for guests seeking the true flavours of Lebanon.
Head chef Teya Mikhael of north Lebanon released her curated family-styled menu Souvenir de La Maison (HK$788 per pax), a nostalgic and hearty Lebanese share of traditional mezze platters and dips, on May 1 to diners.
The 13-plate-strong mezze platter boasts of Maison classics, such as peppery pita breads, labneh-base dips, cured and roasts meats paired with vine vegetables, and tangy fruits blended with sour ingredients.
“[This chef menu] was curated to show what a typical Lebanese lunch would look like,” chef Teya told The Beat Asia at a tasting hosted personally. “We gather on Saturdays, Sunday[s] with friends and family and dine on small mezzes with glasses in hand and in the sun.”
Food and drink
With recipes sourced from Teya’s lifelong motherly figures, I was eager to get a taste of her home of Lebanon in my home of Hong Kong. Whilst the menu may look intimidating with 13 plates, dishes are encouraged to be shared on tables of minimum of four.
I began my journey through the mountains of Lebanon with three nutty, thick dips: minced lamb and pine nut mix Hummus Awarma, pomegranate salsa-infused Baba Ganoush, and a beetroot labneh mix Salatit Shmandar, paired with Arabic and Hearth-baked Pita.
The focus on the first three mezze platters, paired with smoky, yeasty pita chips, is an emphasis on chef Teya’s sweet-sour pairing, of which symbolises Maison’s overall fruity and acidic menu: nutty, charred lamb with pureed hummus, bubble-gum tasting pomegranate alongside a tarty eggplant mix, and sour cream paired with earthy, slightly sweet beetroot cuts.
Lebanese food shines with garden-grown vegetables and light carbohydrates paired with meats. Up next, we tried the vinegar-dressed cherry tomato Banadoura and Basal, sumac chicken rolls Musakhan Djej, and Tabboulé, a bulgur-heavy aromatic salad.
The tomato salad remained on our table for a while, acting as a refreshing entrement for heavier meat dishes. The tabboule was prepared with less mint and parsley, as traditions dictate, with pomegranate juice and seeds shining through to transition the dish into a fruitier variant. I was blown away by the sumac chicken rolls which possessed a salty beef flavour with the benefits of a soft chicken bite.
Next, we were served three other plates that challenged our palate with more herb than salt, including fried whitebait with tahini dip Bizre, a roasted cauliflower plate with green shatta called Arnabit Meshwe, and Fattet Batenhen, yoghurt mixed with crushed pita and sauteed eggplant.
I loved the shatta sauce, a creamy herb mix of garlic, mint, parsley, and peppers that offered a pleasant kick and sizzling aftertaste with each cauliflower bite, which would have been slightly better with a greater char. I wish the whitebait were crunchier and had a stronger spice added to the flavouring.
Ending our fruity meal with our 12th and 13th plate, I dug into two colourful plates: Labneh Makdous, preserved eggplant and yoghurt with walnuts, and Ras Asfour, diced beef stewed with pomegranate molasses
I was surprised with the beefy umami and tarty pomegranate juice combination in the ras asfour that painted my tongue with alternating salty and sweet. The jus left from cooking was the right sweet-sour level that forced salivation and raised my serotonin levels, refusing to have the dish taken away until it was licked clean.
Only five months into her journey with Black Sheep in Hong Kong, chef Teya imports a homey feel with a veritable and authentic Lebanese meal, lengthy in time and plentiful in options. The mezze platters cater to both the vegetarian and meat-eater so as not to discriminate the strictest of veggie eaters at Maison Libanaise. Aromatic garlic, sumac, and mint elevate dishes with a tingly punch to the nostrils, leaving an impression after each bite.
Pairing each dish with a cute sip of Grande Reserve Red, picked and bottled in north Lebanon and boasting hints of blackcurrant, dirt, and forest wood, each of the 13 mezzes challenged my perception of Lebanese food as a cuisine daring to blend sweet fruits and earthy spices to create contrasting flavours that are no two of the same. The price point for the shared meal is appropriate for what is offered, and I will be back for more!
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