In a corner at the end of the charming Mar Mikhael strip, there’s an attractive white façade of a building with nothing but a small indication of what’s inside, a sign displaying the name Fiore and the drawing of a flower (which is its translation in English). This newly opened Mediterranean restaurant is now one of my favorites in town. Want to know why? Read on.
When I first walked in, I was overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of food that filled up the place, and I thought to myself: I am definitely having something from the sea the minute I sit down. After the warm welcome, we were escorted to our table which was one of only a few – just the way I like it. As I looked at the color scheme around me and listened to the relaxing loungy music playing in the background, I was transported to another place. I felt I was at an open-air restaurant overlooking the sea as I listened to the sound of the seagulls and the waves. Mind you, I was still in Beirut . . . and it was still January, where it was raining and freezing outside.
As soon as we sat down, the waiter asked us what we’d like to drink as an aperitif, I chose a delicious Prosecco. As I enjoyed one refreshing sip after the other, I studied the décor around me – and it is certainly one to be admired. The setting is that of an old house – or should I say, a room of an old house – with the charming windows, innovative chandeliers, an overwhelming splash of white color with little essential touches of blue every here and there. It is cozy, fresh and delightful all at once. Little details, like the choice of cutlery, made the place that more appealing to me.
As our table filled up with our friends for the evening, the staff rushed to our side, taking our orders and opening up two delicious bottles of wine – one white and one red. I took a personal liking to the red, Nero d’Avola, which is Sicily’s finest. We started with a welcome platter, scallop in pesto sauce – it was delicious, perfectly cooked; and most importantly, fresh. Continuing dinner with some antipasti of course, the platter contained different types of delicious cheese, bresaola, Serrano ham and eggplant Melanzana. The verdict? Yummy – and it prepared our appetites for what was to come next; the paccheri. This was my favorite dish of the evening. The pasta was perfectly cooked to al dente; the fresh mussels and shrimps, along with the light garlic butter sauce resulted in a harmonious mixture that’s a pure delight to the taste buds. I would have ordered another, but as soon as I laid my eyes on the next platter I couldn’t wait to sink into it. Côte de boeuf, grilled to a perfect succulent medium-rare (just as I love it), maintaining the full flavor of the meat with a side of sautéed haricots verts and a rich potato puree. The dessert was the star of the evening that fascinated us all; the crème brûlée catalana. This is the best dessert I’ve had in years – no exaggeration. The catalane twist made all the difference in the world from your average crème brûlée. Its creamy, rich texture and full flavor lingered on my taste buds long after I had savored my last bite; it will be the reason for my return visit – hopefully I’ll be able to convince the chef to give me the recipe.
Speaking of the chef, JJ Fiore – yes, the venue is named after him – is the man responsible for preparing seriously delicious platters at Da Giovanni several years ago, then at Margarita, then at Aliacci. What do all these places have in common? They are the best Italian eateries in town. Fiore breaks away from being a purely Italian cuisine, and instead introduces the Mediterranean twist in all his platters. I love how chef Fiore combined Italy’s best with Spain’s finest in his cooking – the result is full-flavored sauces, fresh ingredients, appetizing presentation, and simplicity in each dish; dishes that give that “mmmmmmmm” effect. The venue’s success does not only fall on the chef, but on the restaurant’s very helpful and well-trained staff who are truly competent of the menu (which is something I sadly do not witness in many places I have dined at), as well as the partners who are highly-experienced in the industry, in Lebanon and abroad.
I’d say anyone who’s well-traveled and has a refined palate will truly appreciate this place and will not be able to resist advertising it to all their friends the minute they walk out. One may think that such a place would be pricey, since the restaurant scene in Lebanon now needs a high budget of its own each month, but the prices are shockingly affordable, especially if you compare them to the quality of food and to other venues.
Fiore is great for families and groups of friends in the early to mid 20’s and up, granted that you’re a gourmand. It is a place where you can enjoy the cozy ambiance, have a few good laughs in a relaxed environment . . . oh, and enjoy a scrumptious bite or two.
Dress Code is smart casual
Price per Person including drinks is approximately 60 USD
For Reservation: +961 1 444 322
If you have been to Fiore, please leave a comment on the page, letting us know how your experience was and how you think the venue can improve.