Saturday, June 20, 2015

Harry’s Bar, Saifi Village

No other bar in Lebanon—and it might even be the case for the entire world—has a richer history than Harry's Bar in Venice. Giuseppe Cipriani was a poor Italian guy who accumulated experience in the hospitality industry fields and mainly in hotels where he worked as a waiter. The story behind Harry’s Bar was fueled by Cipriani’s taste for adventure, talent, hard work, luck, and even dreams. He jumped from places to places in Europe starting from Verona, his hometown, and then going to Germany, and later on France and Belgium and back to Italy in Palermo and finally in Venice. Harry, an American student who had come to Venice to cure his alcoholism was cut out from his rich aunt without a penny and Cipriani, who was impressed by this fine young man, loaned him 10,000 Lira. After losing hope of ever getting his money back, Harry showed up one day at the Hotel bar and gave the poor barman 4 times the amount of money he had borrowed initially to let him open a bar on the condition he calls it Harry’s Bar. The first Harry’s Bar opened in a 5x9m rent in a warehouse for rope in Venice. At that period of time, post WWI, Venice was popular among the European aristocratic families. Harry’s Bar became a success quickly. 

As I was listening to the waiter talk, my thoughts escaped to a place where only dreams come true. I was suddenly awakened with the smell of the first appetizers that sit on my table. I looked around, and it still felt like I was living part of Cipriani’s dream. Harry’s Bar in the very chic Saifi village is beautifully decorated with an indoor seating divided in a kind of cigar lounge area and the dining tables, which are at a slightly higher level you have to access by a couple of stairs. Without mention to the food menu, I can already recommend Harry’s Bar for a special occasion or just for the occasion to enjoy yourself!

I was invited to celebrate the arrival of the new chef de cuisine, a Michelin star studded chef by the name of Alberico Penati whom was presented to us!

My table shared the following appetizers: a beef carpaccio Venetian style, Tiger prawns with chickpeas and Balsamic dressing, and my two favorites, the Tricolore Burratina on a bed of cherry tomatoes with a light pesto sauce and the sliced veal topped with a creamy tuna sauce.

I then ate a lot of the very refined penne con ossobuco, which is part of the “sexy” shank of veal, and a surprising fresh and creamy risotto with asparagus topped with parmesan shavings.

A bit, then a bit and a bit-non stop.

The choice of my main course was very healthy; I picked the fish filets of Dover sole with lentils and a grilled polenta (cooked and dried Italian cornmeal) triangle. I think a pinch of orange flavor or lime or even a curry-coconut combination can afford to be added in this dish, yet, I appreciated the simplicity of the fish dressing. Some of my friends enjoyed a classic veal Milanese topped with wild rocket, tomato, and sautéed potatoes. 

The dessert was mind blowing; my table was served an assortment of Panna Cotta with wild berries, a traditional baba-piece-of-cake soaked in lemoncello from Sorrento (instead of the mainstream rhum), a very chocolaty chocolate truffle cake, a legit Tiramisu with a strong coffee flavor, flavored granitas on ice, and an eclectic exotic carpaccio of pineapple and wild berries with a mango sorbet. Out of all these lovely sweet treats, I preferred the Panna Cotta and the lemoncello baba!

The night was complete with glasses of Italian white and red wine and a good night sleep! I recommend you to visit Harry’s bar to experience a fine and inventive Italian gourmet cuisine that will be worth the money spent. Inventive, because Harry’s Bar is the place where the Bellini, (a famous cocktail of peach juice mixed with Champagne), and the Beef Carpaccio were first designed among other food creations!

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