Just one day left before the clock strikes into 2012. My friends and I decided to visit Loca Matta, the latest Italian restaurant in town located the up and coming Mar Mikhael area, now known for its elegant restaurants, booming night spots as well as being an artistic hub for many – often referred to as the Soho of Beirut.
Loca Matta fits in just right. It’s a trendy, colorful and special eatery where a 100-year-old huge olive tree welcomes you as you walk down the steps into an old traditional Lebanese house turned into a modern destination with a lot of character.
This Italian spot has been named and decorated after a few friends who have spent their lifetime together in Italy, more specifically the Lombardy region, hence the map as we walk in. They created a permanent club where the members met. The goose across the walls of the restaurant is the club’s mascot. Each goose wears a different outfit expressing each of their symbols and professions.
The very first impression is the welcoming. The owner of the restaurant, Sasha xx welcomed us with a smiling face, uttering nothing but perfect French, leading us to our table. The waiters are joyful, oozing with the right holiday spirits. That is extremely important in my opinion as it eases customers into enjoying an atmosphere in the background with a good dinner. The music is soft and calm, accompanying the beautiful interior smoothly.
At the table, I noticed a small but important detail. The plastic water bottle was wrapped in a white cloth. That’s a very classy token by the owners. Usually in fine restaurants, glass water bottles are served, but since in Lebanon we do not carry a local glass water bottle brand, they discretely wrapped the plastic bottles while serving water. Although we do have Italian brand glass water bottle, Aqua Panna, but Loca Matta opted for the local water, often favored by most customers.
Another small detail I liked as well is their stitched menu. Yes, the menu is not only printed on a couple of papers and put together, but it was stitched together adding a original touch to the simple, detailed and clear Italian and English content.
Let's eat, it's time! There were quite a few special on the menu the night we went, including the 'Vongola' or mussels that have freshly landed into their kitchen. The chef also prepared Risotto Funghi, Ravioli alla Gorgonzola and Truffles Ravioli that night. I had the chance to taste a number of dishes which included: Parmigiana di Melanzane, Risotto alla Milanese, Risotto Funghi, Papardelle al Ragu di Anatra, Ravioli Funghi, Filetto di Manzo Alla Griglia Gorgonzola Esenape, and for desert, Panna Cotta ai Frutti Di Bosco, Tiramisu All'italiana, Petra Cotta al Barolo Con Gelato alla Cannella. The Papardelle with Duck Ragu is a definite success, the risottos are full of taste but I would have preferred them to be a bit more cooked. As for the meat that accompanied the Salmon Nioki was delicious, but the sauce was tiny bit bitter for my taste.
But we didn't know that it was actually Salmon Nioki until we asked, as the taste of oily potatoes and somehow cold ravioli overpowered the chance to taste the real deal.
The best dishes I had were the Ragu and the Risotto alla Milanese. The deserts may lack that certain presentation but the taste definitely compensates for it. It's perfect. I had the chance to taste the complete menu, I advise you to do so as well. A part that interest lots of people is the price. We were nine people… we opened three bottles of French wine, every one of us had a primo platti, a secondi and of course the desert.
All of that for $70 per person. The price is very good in my opinion for what we had and enjoyed. In total I would rate this place as good, giving it a 6.5/10.
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