Where the producers of “Homeland” never had dinner, but the director of “The Godfather” is certainly present.
When you have the chance visit a restaurant recommended by the Reviewer-in-Chief of Nad’s Reviews (or one of his trusted sources), the least you can do is return the favour and review the place.
I’d been looking for the perfect steakhouse to honor some family members visiting Beirut and until yesterday, I had believed that Phoenicia’s Gaucho was still the place to go. Fortunately I asked Nad’s advice only to learn that the venue was almost out of business and the quality of its food gradually declining. Thus, I was down to two choices: La Parilla (which I already knew) and Cro Magnon in Zaitunay Bay (which is where I ended up booking).
Whatever people may say about Zaitunay Bay, I still think the area is a dream – particularly at night and especially considering what Beirut has become. The tall neon buildings shining above the Côte d’Azur/Riviera that our capital’s bay was always meant to be, makes me wonder how this same city can also witness the occasional car bombings and daily tire burnings just a few miles away. For sure the producers of Homeland season two never had dinner at Zaitunay Bay, or the first two episodes would have looked much sexier.
Back to Cro Magnon where we are welcomed by an overly friendly staff. Looking at the wine list prices, I later understood why they probably felt the pressure to meet their average customer’s expectations. As we take our seats, I notice right away the impressive Francis Ford Coppola wine collection displayed at the entrance; a nice surprise for the cinema/Coppola lover that I am. The man has such great taste, he simply cannot do wrong when it comes to wine.
Right away, our waiter recommends the Coppola wines and I do not hesitate. Although I quite quickly choose the first one on the list – prices for a Coppola bottle range from a fairly reasonable bottle of “Rosso” at $100 to $10,000 (I found the price so high that I forgot that bottle’s name). Please note that I’m inviting eight people, so do the math and you will understand why I’m going for the Rosso. It’s actually very good…a smooth choice, not much else I can say.
Everyone orders a piece of meat – T-bone or Tenderloin, with mashed or baked potatoes and three different sauces, peppercorn, wild mushrooms and béarnaise. I personally go for the Steak Tartare, some French fries and a salad.
The Tartare’s preparation takes some time but it’s worth it – one of the best ones I’ve ever had and this coming from a guy who lived 20 years in France! The Tartare and Coppola’s Rosso are an absolutely perfect combination. The fries on the other hand, are not ideal in my opinion; too thick. The bread isn’t very French either. But the fresh salad with its delicious seasoning make up for it.
All my guests seem equally happy with their plates and we crown the evening with a few shared desserts: a perfect chocolate cake and an equally perfect crème brûlée.
All in all, Cro Magnon is a really great choice – thank you Nad! – and aside from the somewhat slow service, the good but overpriced wine, the fries that could have easily been more interesting, and the obvious need for the place to revise their bread politics, everything else is very close to perfection.