Mezze style dining from Black Sheep Restaurants
There aren’t many quality, Lebanese restaurants here in Hong Kong, so I was excited to try out Maison Libanaise, Black Sheep Restaurants latest offering along the Soho escalator. Taking over the space of the former Life Cafe, Maison Libanaise had big boots to fill and I was intrigued to see how they would put their own stamp on this much-loved, busy spot.
Find more restaurants in Soho in our Directory here.
Maison Libanaise is inspired by 1960s Beirut – think bright, warm colours and hints of Middle Eastern architecture and design. The ground floor is dedicated to take-away only, and features a different menu (although with similar dishes and ingredients) to the restaurant. With a constant queue outside the door, it seems that the take-away at Maison Libanaise is already a hit with Soho-dwellers… one of our Sassy girls is a big fan of the chicken salad.
Upstairs you’ll find the restaurant, which is still relaxed and welcoming. The soft lighting and intimate feel makes this the perfect place for a cosy dinner date or a catch up with a friend, and you won’t be able to resist trying one of the specially imported Lebanese wines which line the walls. The roof is used as a dining space, and on a balmy summer’s eve it would be the ideal spot for a casual glass of vino and some of the delicious dips.
On to arguably the most important part of any restaurant – the food. I’m personally a huge fan of Lebanese and Mediterranean style-cuisine… hummus, baba ganoush and haloumi cheese all score pretty highly on my list of favourite nibbles. You’ll be pleased to know that Maison Libanaise has all these favourites and more, with a variety of bright, fresh and flavourful dishes designed to be shared.
We began of course with some homemade Pita Bread ($28) and the dips: Hummus bi Tahini, Baba Ganoush and La Maison Labneh – house spiced yoghurt with za’tar ($48 each). Each one was creamy, fresh and absolutely addictive, although it is hard to get these well-known dips wrong (blended up eggplant = delish). Apart from the pita, we could also choose from a big bowl of colourful Market Vegetables ($88) to go with our dips, the sweet little tomatoes and crunchy carrots going down well as a light alternative to the pita.
Next up was the Tabouleh ($88), which was stuffed with herbs and made for a refreshing palate cleanser. We also sampled the Homemade Pickles ($38), but as a pickle fan I wouldn’t rush back for these.
A must-order however, is the Pan-Fried Haloumi ($98), which is honey-glazed and comes with a date and Byzantine dressing. For me, this was haloumi done right – slightly crispy on the outside, not rubbery at all (as haloumi can sometimes be) and the perfect balance between the salty cheese and the sweet date and honey. I greedily only wished that there was more in one serving, it was that good!
Eggplant is one of my favourite veggies, so I was keen to try the Eggplant Fatoush ($98). The roasted eggplant comes with sweet onion, blossom roasted tomato and za’tar croutons with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds – a playful mix of textures and colour. The smoky flavour from the roasted eggplant combined with the pop of sweetness from the pomegranate seeds, the caramelised taste of the onion and the contrast of the fresh mint makes this an interesting and wholesome veggie dish that I would order again.
The vegetarian delights didn’t end there as we went on to try the Roasted Cauliflower with spicy harissa, zhoug, lemon and dry lime ($88). The bold presentation matches the strong flavours, which some may find a little overpowering – but personally I really enjoy the heat from the spices and how hearty and filling they had made a simple cauliflower.
For those craving meat, the much talked about Shish Taouk ($118) or Chicken Skewers will sate your desire. I was a little apprehensive about trying these, as a few friends who had tried them when the restaurant first opened said that they were dry. But this was not the case for me! The chicken was perfectly tender and juicy, flavoured with saffron, chilli and mint. Hopefully these are as a good when you order them as when I did, because they were simply delicious.
We also tried the Pulled Lamb Shoulder ($198) with goats cheese, fried basturma and a soft herb salad, which wasn’t as melt-in-you-mouth as I was expecting – I would order two rounds of the chicken skewers instead. To accompany our meal we also sampled the Rice Pilaf ($68) and the Almond Falafel ($98). The falafel was surprisingly moist and would be great if you wanted a small dish with a glass of wine on the roof.
Maison Libanaise, 10 Shelley Street, Soho, Hong Kong, 2111 2284, www.maisonlibanaise.com.hk