What a time to move to Hong Kong! Chef Teya Mikhael stepped off the plane from Beirut late last year to join the herd at Maison Libanaise, Black Sheep Restaurants’ understated Lebanese canteen, and she was just in time for another slew of restrictions to halt Hong Kong’s dining scene. The lull has given her an opportunity to find her feet, and she’s been waiting for the chance to share her favourite dishes in an extravaganza called Souvenir de la Maison ($788/person).
Even if you think you know Lebanese cuisine, you will likely be surprised. This experience is available now for groups of six or more guests (requiring a pre-order 24 hours in advance) and involves 11 dishes designed for sharing. Most of these dishes are only available for this limited experience.
Before we begin heartlessly ranking each part of this special experience, we need to draw attention to the Maison Libanaise olive oil. We loved it so much we couldn’t leave without asking Chef Teya about it.
“The extra-virgin olive oil is made 100% with Lebanese olives from 600-year-old trees and is manually pressed and bottled in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon. This is a very traditional technique that doesn’t happen in many places, but it perfectly preserves the flavour profile of the olive oil, giving it a smooth and rich flavour with balanced depth.
– Chef Teya
Without further ado, here are the 11 dishes from the Souvenir de la Maison menu:
Bizre, tabboulé and arnabit meshwe
The biggest whitebait we have every seen! The spiced tahini flavours and delightfully poppy coriander seeds on these fish are lovely, but these whole whitebait are too large (and a bit spiky) to eat comfortably, making these big little fishies our least favourite.
10. Arnabit meshwe
Arnabit meshwe is a caramelised half-cauliflower, tanned evenly and covered in lemon tahini, a green shatta (herb sauce) and crunchy almond flakes. It’s only at number 10 because the flavours are on the creamy end of the spectrum, when we were hoping for zesty. You may easily brighten it up with other dishes though, since there will be multiple choices on your table by the time this plate arrives.
This is the southern style of tabbouleh, in which the focus is not parsley. It’s slightly pink and sweet from the pomegranate molasses and wetter and less sharp than the style we are used to. If you’re not a fan of parsley, this is the tabbouleh for you!
Ras asfour, musakhan djej and fattet batenjen
8. Ras asfour
There are only three meat dishes (and one fish) in the 11 courses, and this one is the most meat heavy. The small pieces of tender, marinated beef are topped with pine nuts and sit on a gorgeous, earthy broth that you can mop up with the extra pitta. We actually really liked this dish, but in this line-up, you have to be quite extraordinary to stand out…
7. Banadoura and basal
We loved these juicy cherry tomatoes sprinkled with sumac and served with onion, thyme and lemon zest, showcasing the stunning, hand-pressed olive oil we mentioned above. A simple dish we could eat all day.
6. Musakhan djej
The sumac-sprinkled fried djej are shaped like spring rolls, filled with caramelised onion and chicken and are shatteringly crispy. Textures for the big win here.
5. Fattet batenjen
Super-smoky eggplant is served with yoghurt, tahini and coriander – some of our favourite things put into the same dish. With bursting pomegranate seeds and crispy fried pitta chips throughout, this reminded us of Indian samosa chaat but with added smoky complexity.
Salatit shmandar and preserved eggplant with labneh
4. Salatit shmandar
This dish is predominantly labneh based. It’s deliciously creamy and tangy, crafted in-house with the olive oil made from centuries-old trees. There’s the spice of garlic tempered by sweet roasted beetroot, with crunchy walnuts and herbs building even more flavour.
3. Labneh makdous
The labneh makdous is also labneh based, but it’s quite different from the above dish owing to the amazing preserved eggplant. Oil-cured aubergine is stuffed with walnuts, red pepper, garlic, olive oil and salt and then served together atop the labneh – perfect for scooping up with the house-made pitta. Simply mouth-watering! Pictured above is the slightly creepy-looking preserved eggplant, before it was served with the labneh.
Baba ganoush and hummus awarma
2. Baba ganoush
There’s a reason why this baba ganoush is considered one of the best in Hong Kong. Fresh and bright, the smoky eggplant purée is served with pomegranate salsa and sprinkled with sumac. One of the few dishes on the signature menu that is also available on the standard menu – an anytime must-order.
1. Hummus awarma
In this dish, Maison Libanaise’s hummus is served with tiny pieces of preserved lamb. The meat is deeply umami and melty; this is the kind of dish to make you stop for a moment and just savour. Forward-thinking Chef Teya started the preservation of this lamb not long after she arrived in Hong Kong! After cooking, the lamb is submerged in its own fat, away from the damaging effects of oxygen, for at least four months. Historically, awarma was prepared to preserve lamb before the luxury of refrigeration, but now it’s purely done for the resulting complex flavours.
This extravagant “souvenir” menu at Maison Libanaise showcases unique Lebanese dishes prepared as authentically as you could ever expect. Chef Teya has brought her personal Beirut to Hong Kong, and this experience might be the closest we can get to the “Paris of the Middle East” in the near future. It’s a premium experience, and at $788 per person, it’s not for everyone, but for those who love this cuisine, it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to let your taste buds travel.
Maison Libanaise: Souvenir de la Maison details
Book by email (minimum 6 people; 24-hour advance booking required)
10 Shelley Street, SoHo, Central, 2111 2284
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.