I have a Lebanese friend who is passionate about food and when I went to Beirut he absolutely insisted on arranging all our food stops while we toured Lebanon. One place which brings a huge smile to my face was literally a hole in the wall on our way to Baalbek. All it served was Manaeesh. A thin dough sprinkled with fresh thyme and sesame seeds known as Zaatar. This is a staple in the Middle East but this particular one made to order in this tiny nondescript place was mind blowing. Sprinkled with fresh mint with a side plate of tomatoes drenched in homemade olive oil. That’s what good food is about. Its not about pretension .
Great food doesn’t need a Michelin star but it so happens that Chef and owner Bernard Levy has a coveted one star. We didn’t know that when we booked. Its in Wihr Au Val by a cross road. We wanted to book at the Bistro but it was closed on Sunday and fortunately we managed to get a table at the restaurant. We weren’t sure what to expect buts a lovely house with a winding pathway to the restaurant. Surrounded at the back by some woods.
It had a lovely warm cosy feel inside and young staff that were super friendly. It was obviously very popular with the locals as we saw a lot of engagement with Martine ,Bernard’s wife who ran front of house. Its informally elegant is the best way to describe it with two rooms divided by an open archway with the beams showing. We were offered the house speciality which is Alsace cremant, a type of sparkling white wine popular in the region and a wood gruff syrup. It was earthy Smokey and I immediately told Richard ‘ I want to buy that syrup’. Alas its home made from wood gruff in their local forest.
Sometimes when you are in top notch restaurants you can feel overwhelmed but here you felt welcome. The focus was on your enjoyment and food. Nothing was too much of a bother.
I loved the wines I tasted so I asked if they could write the names and towards the end of the meal someone had done a beautiful handwritten list decorated. I was really touched.
We started with an amuse bouche and as I don’t eat cheese they made something different for me . A small plate with really delicate wild dried boar and radishes in pastis which were divine. The plates that everything was served on was pretty and unique a sort of light grey textured mix. I wasn’t going to eat the bread bur Richard said it was too delicious to miss out on so I tried it and wow.
This is food with care and passion. This isn’t about the chefs cleverness, although it was clever cooking its about your enjoyment. I of course started with eth Foie gras while Richard had snails in a parsley broth . Both were delicious. The region is famous for pigeon so I ordered their squab which is a pigeon that has never flown. This was accompanied by a cabbage roulade and a ball of deep fried pigeon leg that was beyond divine. This is cooking at its best from the heart.
Bernard who hails from Brittany has his fish flown weekly by his fishmonger so its super super fresh. Richard had the Brill with artichokes that was very good.
I ordered their soufflé for desert. Sublime . My heartbeat and I stuffed as we were argued about sharing it .
Everything about this place is lovely from the service to the food to the ambience. It’s a happy unpretentious place that I hope I will visit many many times in the future.