On our second night at JA Resorts, we had dinner at Phoenicia (JA Beach Hotel).
Headed by celebrity Australian-Lebanese Chef Greg Malouf who is widely credited for being the master of modern Middle Eastern cuisine, the restaurant is named after an ancient Mediterranean civilization which now forms a part of modern-day Lebanon.
Dimly lit and invitingly cozy with its cushioned seats and mirrored décor, the menu here lists a range of Lebanese favorites that have been revamped and skillfully plated to fine-dining status.
We were hosted by a lovely young lady called Jenny who was of great help with our menu selections. For our starters round, she recommended the Spinach B’Stilla, a Moroccan-style filo pastry pie stuffed with spinach, spiced cheese and a runny egg yolk that flows on the plate when you cut into it. Absolutely loved this pie! It is wholesome as it is rustic, and can easily be a complete meal in itself.
We also tried a platter of Hazelnut Falafel, a clever take on a very popular Mediterranean street-food. I would have liked these a little crunchier, and perhaps with some hummus on the side.
For our main-course, Farasha went for the Sheesh Tawook. Beautifully presented with a heirloom-style skewer, these bites of grilled chicken were succulently soft and delightfully flavorsome to boot.
I am a huge fan of kousa (aka Arabic courgettes), so I opted for the Kousa Ablama. This dish features courgettes stuffd with minced meat and served in a minted yoghurt gravy and enhanced with a hint of Aleppo chilli butter. This dish tastes so homely, like a mother would make for a child who has returned home to her loving cooking after many months.
Ending on a sweet note, we had two very delicious desserts.
Farasha had the Fork & Knife Ice-Cream. Have you ever seen chocolate ice-cream this pretty before?! And it matches my Hamsa necklace!
I had the Baklava Ice-Cream Sandwich. Loved the pairing of crunchy sweet filo pastry with the hard coolness of ice-cream, and the sweetness of honey elevated this dessert to another level altogether.
Phoenicia, as exotic as the name of the restaurant itself, was a delightful reintroduction to Mediterranean flavors. Chef Greg Malouf is pure genius, and I will be looking up on his work with more diligence henceforth.