Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rafidi Dazzles Beirut with "Albi" Preview Benefit

Albi, to open in DC in this fall, practices in Lebanon

man with a beard in black shirt and red apron
Chef Michael Lee Rafidi
Beirut is known for it's prolific night life, but what they may not have expected last Monday night was an American chef from Washington, DC boldly taking over a small local French restaurant with five courses of reimagined Levantine cuisine.

Michael Rafidi was on a research tour of Lebanon in preparation for opening his own first restaurant "Albi" later this year in the American capital city, and he decided to assemble a team of both local and DC talent to orchestrate a pop-up benefit dinner at Bergerac to benefit Al Majal - a local organization which works to better the lives of special needs adults.

Guests were treated to first course cherry tomato salad with charred wild cucumbers, fromage blanc, and fermented chile vinaigrette - accented with freshly foraged nasturtium flowers - to open the evening, along with Lebanese "Baal" white wine. Next was the arrival of steak tartare with crispy Compté and egg yolk custard as well as harissa-spiced bone marrow with beef cheek jam for the table. Local artisan bakery Roger Le Boulanger prepared fresh "mother dough" bread to pair.

chef preparing food in kitchen
Chef Rafidi preparing the giant marrow bones

Third course was a grilled loup de mer (European sea bass) with chermoula bouillon and spring pea fricassee with charred leeks, served with a French Cote de Provence rose. Following was a honey-lacquered quail with sour cherry and foie gras with black walnut preserve and lentils. Chef Rafidi brought a bit of home for dessert, making a strawberry buttermilk shortcake with candied orange and sumac whipped chantilly cream, paired with Michter's Sour Mash American whiskey and oat-crust "Crack Pie" with brown sugar custard and Lebanese "meghli" rice pudding.

loaves of bread at bakery
"Mother Dough" freshly baked bread

two chefs plating dinners in restaurant kitchen
As guests arrive, chefs prepare the salad course

restaurant full of diners
A jovial full house for Bergerac on a Monday night for the affair!