Variety is the spice of life so I headed off to Restaurant Lyr for something to eat other than pizza and pasta. Walking through these doors is like travelling straight to the heart of Beirut with a rich setting of ornaments and gold-trimmed lounge furniture in the entrance which leads to elegantly set tables along a perimeter of padded seating. Splashes of abstract wall art meet an oriental painting with traces of red which ignite the candle light dancing to the tune of Arab drum beats.
Like a princess visiting a foreign land, I was greeted by the king of the kitchen, head chef Berhof Shahem, who enjoyed time in Johannesburg before moving to Dubai and settling down here in Milan. He explained that Restaurant Lyr has already enjoyed 6 successful years of tantalising Milanese taste buds but that it took a bit of time for Italians to learn the culture of how Lebanese food should be eaten; using the fingers to break pita bread for scooping up hummus. A short excursion to the lower level revealed a large space which can be hired out for private events. A lifted floor at the centre doubles up as a dance area that can be more intimate when the veil curtains are closed.
The menu offers a few set courses and a range of à la carte options for hot and cold starters, main meals, desserts and drinks, with concise explanations of each dish in English too so you won’t accidentally order lamb when you actually wanted chicken… I was glad to hear that all the meat is halaal and even happier to see that the prices are incredibly affordable. Considering the lavish decor, I honestly expected it be a costly affair.
I could’ve have chatted to Berhof all night but he had guests to prepare for, and besides, all the talk about food was making my tummy rumble. He pointed to the empty tables and urged me to choose a seat while I was still spoiled with choice. I had arrived early but he guaranteed that come 9pm, all the tables would be occupied – and he was right! A chicken dish, ‘Fatte Pollo’, with pine nuts, pieces of toasted pita, chickpeas and a yoghurt topping seemed like a good choice. The chef gave two approving thumbs up and so my feast began…
A starter of crispy pita triangles with a yoghurt and garlic sauce in one bowl and an olive oil, lemon and sesame seed sauce in the other.
My main meal ‘Fatte Apollo’ was huge! (I did finish it though). The pieces of chicken were really tender and I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of flavours although the chef did scold me for not eating it directly out the bowl it was served in.
Dessert was left up to the chef who decided on traditional Baklaw but it was not the syrupy pastry and pecan nut dessert I expected. Cake-textured squares, containing pieces of coconut, arrived on a plate accompanied by ‘Mouhalabieh’ a cream and rose water ‘jelly’ covered in pistachios. Surprisingly, it was light and just the right amount of sweetness to put the cherry on top of this dining experience.
Compliments to the chef and the owner of Restaurant Lyr, Rabih El Monla
Address: Corso Sempione, 48
Tram: 1, 19
Train: S3 – Domodossola
(New location from Dec 2013: Piazza San Marco, 6, Brera)