A Lebanese Kitchen

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Friday, April 11, 2014

THIS new restaurant has only been open for about three months, but already, the tables laden with mezze and kebabs have been attracting a full house of diners nearly every evening at Beqaa, the latest offering from the Abaca Group.

Beqaa gets its name from a farming valley in Lebanon, known as a food hub with many old recipes and traditional dishes. “Lebanese food is becoming quite a popular cuisine worldwide,” Abaca Group chef Wade Watson observes, so they wanted to offer that to people in Cebu. “It’s a new dining experience. There’s nothing intimidating or pretentious; it’s just tasty, well-prepared food.” He says that while many restaurants offer modernized Lebanese cuisine, their approach to the food at Beqaa is more in the traditional style.

To achieve authentic flavors, the team was trained for two months by Hannah Salem, a Lebanese chef and mother of Beqaa’s restaurant manager, Mark. Service here is easy, but preparation takes a lot of time since everything is made from scratch. Sauces for curries take about four hours, marinades need a minimum of a day to be ready, while yogurt needs 24 to 48 hours to sit, become sour and then strain. But even if it’s time consuming, that’s always been how the Abaca Group likes to do food: No shortcuts, everything freshly prepared. It’s easy to tell with their signature dips that pair nicely with the homemade saj bread: Unlike many restaurants that offer runny or watery dips, the ones here at Beqaa have are full of flavor, having the right consistency and texture without being grainy.


Aside from the dips, there are many other options for vegetarians, and the other half of the menu pleases meat eaters too. The kebabs are well-marinated and charcoal grilled. Priced at P400 to P775, they are portioned for two, or for one very hungry person. Chef Wade says all the kebabs are equally popular among diners, whether it’s chicken, beef or lamb, served with a generous side of thick-cut seasoned fries and tabbouleh.

Beqaa also offers Indian cuisine, paying homage to the historical trade routes between Lebanon and India. Check the menu for items marked with Mughal Cuisine.

To go with these flavorful dips, kebabs and curries are a good selection of wines and, for something more in theme, arak imported from Lebanon. There are different varieties of this aperitif, which is meant to be sipped at before, during and after the meal.

“It’s Lebanese food, but in our style,” says Abaca group owner Jason Hyatt of this latest venture. “Clean and simple. It’s what we do.”

Beqaa: A Lebanese Kitchen is open daily from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. It is located on the second floor of the Design Center, AS Fortuna.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 12, 2014.


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