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The initially style of grape leaves lands gentle and lemony on the tongue and quickly begs for additional. Topped with pomegranate seeds and stuffed with rice, parsley and tomatoes, it’s the two singing with flavour and seductively simple—the kind of amazing dish fantastic for a very hot summertime afternoon in Halifax. It’s the 1st issue chef Georges Elias presents a customer to his Reduce H2o Avenue cafe on a Thursday early morning, just before the lunch crowd filters in.
“I just really like how people today respond,” he suggests, speaking with The Coast.
Two weeks into his restaurant’s opening, the 35-12 months-aged Lebanese-born chef behind Au Liban (1460 Reduce Drinking water Avenue, in the previous Hermitage making) cannot end grinning. Evaluations have been fantastic. The kitchen is humming, the solar is shining and his front-of-house staff members are previously fielding reservations for the restaurant’s initially day of lunch service.
“I’m just thrilled,” Elias says, seated at a desk in the restaurant’s high-ceilinged dining area. “We want to introduce serious, authentic Lebanese foodstuff [to Halifax]. And that’s what we’re executing.”
A lifelong enthusiasm for cooking
Elias arrived in Halifax from Lebanon six several years in the past. He’d slice his chef’s enamel in kitchens in Dubai, Iraq and all throughout his residence state. But his culinary education begun a lot before, and with distinctive surroundings: At his mother’s stovetop in the Mediterranean seaside metropolis of Batroun. She would set a chair for him beside the stove when she cooked baba ghanoush or kibbeh.
“I’d stand up in that chair and begin inquiring thoughts, mixing the onions, whichever she’s incorporating,” he states. “To this working day, I’m even now inquiring my mom thoughts about cooking. She’s my idol.”
Despite his adore for Lebanese delicacies, Elias’s culinary ventures in Halifax started elsewhere: He expended his 1st 5 decades in Halifax operating as head chef at La Piazza Ristorante, a sunny-patioed Chebucto Road favorite identified for wood-fired pizzas and weekend brunch. The proprietor (and now small business spouse at Au Liban), Abboud “Albert” Zhouri, picked him up from the airport.
“I’d under no circumstances satisfied him just before,” Elias says, with a chuckle. “I’m shut mates with his nephew again home. He told me, ‘My uncle would like a chef at his Italian cafe.’ I’m like, ‘OK, I would enjoy to go.’”
The two bonded. In those 5 many years, Zhouri and Elias hosted Lebanese-themed dinners and dreamt of opening a cafe that would highlight the finest of their dwelling delicacies. But the location required to be proper. Eventually, the corner whole lot that Hermitage experienced occupied at Decreased H2o and Bishop streets considering that 2020 turned accessible. Elias was currently smitten with the area. They pounced on the opening.
“I just appreciate this position. It’s so cozy,” he claims. “It’s a big location. I like the high ceilings it tends to make you come to feel far more comfortable… I enjoy the notion of the open kitchen area that we have, simply because you can see men and women, how they’re reacting to whatever they are ingesting.
“Whenever you come to our cafe, I want you to really feel like you’re home—eating property cooking, but an higher scale.”
Menu features mezze plates, elevated Lebanese cuisine
The grape leaves are just the smallest element of what Elias has envisioned for the menu. Hand-whipped hummus, baba ghanoush, and muhammara—think a pink pepper dip that’s sweet, nutty and zesty all at once—feature prominently in Au Liban’s shared plates, along with heartier offerings like marinated beef skewers with grilled serrano peppers and biwaz (parsley and onion salad), charbroiled shish tawook with grilled tomato and potatoes, and a grilled octopus dish that delivers a grin to Elias’s face when he’s requested to explain it.
“Everyone’s utilized to taking in octopus [that’s] a little bit rubbery, chewy,” he tells The Coastline. Not at Au Liban, Elias guarantees. “Ours is tender and comfortable. We set a good deal of cinnamon sticks and bay leaves in it, black pepper, clean lemon quarters, just to give it added flavour [as it boils]. Right after that, we char broil it with a very little little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. That is it.”
For Elias, far too, Halifax has come to be property. He retailers for blended greens at the Halifax Brewery Marketplace. Usually takes comfort in the sea, and the fog, and the breeze of Haligonians and holidaymakers alike who occur in off the waterfront. And he would like to make them pleased.
“This metropolis is growing so speedy,” he suggests. “I know a ton of eating places, they are performing to get Michelin stars. I adore just how a lot they are getting the cafe company to diverse levels.”
Au Liban is open seven times a 7 days, from 11am to 11pm.