The Secret Star: Burgundy

BY Katrina Kufer / Aug 3 2017 / 23:07 PM

Fine dining at a discreet restaurant that uses just the right dose of innovation to keep it rising to the top

The Secret Star: Burgundy
Images courtesy Burgundy, Beirut

If you arrive before 9.30pm at Burgundy, you may wonder about the brigade of crisply attired servers. But it becomes quickly evident why the very intimate, restrained number of tables necessitates this – the restaurant is about to be full, buzzing with chatter and swiftly passing plates. Chocolate hued, with a curved ceiling adorned by dark sculptural light fixtures guiding your eye towards sleek wood furnishings and a long bar (the only real option for parties of two), this handsome eatery has a hip city vibe while also being timelessly elegant, merging a muted sense of industrialism with the uber-chic. It is as romantic as it is cool, offering visual juxtapositions that appeal as much to those who come for their business lunches as the special occasion diners. It may come at a price, but Burgundy is a finely oiled machine – rarely a moment passes where servers have not thought of your need before you even realised you had it.

A contemporary French bar and restaurant, Burgundy is where Executive Chef Youssef Akiki plays with his ingredients. He regularly ventures off in search of new inspiration, and is soon jetting to Australia to check out their meats, and separately runs Oh Bakehouse that engages with the ever-evolving norm of gluten- and lactose-free carbs. Opting for one of the seasonal tasting menus is an exercise in mutual surprise – how a classical dish can be remade with finesse and experimentation, as much as how your taste buds can be tantalised with even the slightest hints of flavour – especially when paired with the sommelier’s selection. Each edible element on the plate stands strong when tasted individually (which they ought to be), but when paired together, your tongue will know few other joys as exquisite.

The seven courses that arrived at the table were each treated with as much respect as thoughtful enhancement – the smoked eel tartine amuse-bouche arrived atop a large stone, while the semi-smoked salmon with wasabi horseradish puree came in-process – as the glass top was removed, the brief cloud of smokiness evaporated. You know the food is fresh, and if you cannot see it, you taste it. The plating is equally curated – each dish has a delicate garnishing of edible flowers, thin slices of radish or citrus, and the gentlest sprinkling of dill. The ceramics are also not an after-thought, each diverse platter complementing the eye-play of the dishes and serving as much of an artwork as a necessary object – save for the small birds with verjuice and sumac. The plate depicted a photograph of cupped hands, either playful or alarming in relation to the petite poultry about to be consumed.

While Akiki’s birds are a popular choice, the treatment of the seafood is spectacular. The black cod with shiitake and a Japanese-style infusion sauce that is poured into your bowl is a must-try given the careful balance of tanginess that doesn’t overwhelm the integrity of the fish and vegetables. The smoked langoustine with green apple and citrus is brought to your table still cooking, placed onto your plate when prepared just enough to bring out the delicate, sophisticated sweetness of the regionally overlooked crustacean.

Every dish has its own delight to be found. The menu climaxes with the wagyu mb6 beef Tajima, slightly grilled, served with roots and potato puree. The dishes build upon each other and appeal to different senses of smell, taste, texture and visual appeal, with Akiki remarking that he wants to be able to enjoy long meals “without feeling guilty afterwards!” Dessert and coffee follow suit – the coconut sorbet alongside the mango and sable beneath a thin shard of dark chocolate offers a savoury-sweet, decadent-but-still-fruit-oriented finish – if you don’t count the coffee with the crispy-on-the-outside, tender-custardy-inside canelé, as the final bite.

Burgundy, in short, doesn’t need a flashy exterior or campaign – the cuisine, ambiance and experience speaks for itself. But its low-key manner belies an impressive culinary and dining ethos that seems underrated given it outshines many a restaurant in the region. Akiki creates with passion and just enough innovation – encapsulated by a brief anecdote he shares of one of his culinary trips. “In Belgium, I had a live cooking station alongside the DJ – working off each other and together,” he shares with a grin. It is this sense of experimentation, flexibility and assuredness that comes through in his cuisine, incorporating diversity but knowing how to temper it beautifully.

752 Gouraud Street, Saifi Village, Beirut
+961 1999820