Liza Restaurant, Lebanese Food in Paris

Where does the time go? When people used to say that, I thought they were being overly dramatic. Or worse, meant that I was getting older at a faster clip than I thought. But what I think it means, for all of us, is that life used to roll along at a more leisurely clip, but nowadays, I wake up and find another year has passed.

Last year, which admittedly, was only a few weeks ago, I had dinner at Liza. A modern space in Paris, a few blocks from the stoic bourse (the stock exchange, but which also refers to the sack holding the “family jewels” of a bull), Liza is an outpost of a restaurant in Beirut, a city I’ve been fortunate enough to eat in, which I did like a velociraptor.

Middle Eastern food is something I can eat morning, noon, and night (and if I ever became one of those people that sleepwalks and eats in their sleep, I’d be eating Middle Eastern food in the deepest recesses of the evening), and if you’ve had a Middle Eastern breakfast, you know what I mean. It’s usually a copious spread of just-baked flatbreads, savory spreads, thick, glossy olive oil, cubes of salty cheese, pickled walnuts, olives, eggs, onions, tomatoes, tons of fresh herbs, hot sauce to dab on everything, etc., I’m going to stop, because I’ll run out of bandwidth if I continue to list everything that’s heaped on tables in front of you. And that’s just for breakfast.

I also like the style of eating, which is often called “grazing,” which sounds like a bunch of four-legged animals wandering through a field, taking bites of flowers between the weeds and grass. The way I do it makes you understand why raptors went extinct: I’m dangerous to be around, and if something gets between me and the food, beware of the consequences.

Paris has a number of Middle Eastern restaurants, as well as North African ones, but most couldn’t be described as “upscale.” Like “grazing,” I’m not in love with that word either, but I’d rather be reaching for fattoush (above) or fafalel (below), rather than searching for words.

We were invited to dinner, a Lebanese restaurant recommended to me by a number of readers. Sure, there are plenty of sandwich stands and “snack-style” joints in Paris, but nothing* like Ottolenghi or Honey & Co. in London, Glasserie and Tanoreen in Brooklyn, or La Sheesh in Detroit, which apparently has been reopened by new owners, and was particularly memorable for me because when Alice Medrich found out I was going to Detroit when the original one was open, she insisted that I stop there. Trusting her implicitly, I did so in my rental car, on the way from the airport to a class I was teaching. The smell from the brown paper bag was so excruciating that after a few minutes, I had to pull over to the side of the road and rip into the sack, digging into the food with the small rounds of warm flatbreads they’d given me.

I had some lovely nibbles at the bar of Liza while I waited for Romain, chatting with one of the owners, and sipping a glass of Syrian wine, which we enjoyed with the rest of our meal after being led to our table. I’m happy to just order a whole mess of stuff and graze…um, I mean, taste…a number of different things. We decided on the Menu Dégustation, which came with or without grilled meats. We went with the meats.

Griddled halloumi cheese came with a sticky dab of tomato jam, which got the meal off to a great start.

Hummus came piped and swirled in a bowl…

And we stuck forks into Tabbouleh and Baba Ganoush, and wrapped extra-crisp falafels in flatbreads, surrounded by groups of people from local offices, having a good time, enjoying an after-work dinner together. One of the things that’s often missing in restaurants, Middle Eastern and otherwise, is really good olive oil. You really need to use good olive oil to make food taste good. There is a world of difference and traveling in the Middle East, where it’s plentiful, it’s easy to understand (and taste) how important it is. Yet in other parts of the world, it’s less-available and expensive. I never sure how to get around this, but I think like French bread expert Steven Kaplan brings his own baguettes to restaurants in Paris, I may start bringing my own flask of olive oil.

The mezzes (first courses) well all good, and I would make a meal of just those, but we didn’t love the grillades as much as expected. The skewers of ground lamb and chicken had a bit of an aroma from the gas flame, which likely has to do with extreme restrictions the close-quartered city of Paris may have on wood-fired ovens. Maybe it was that evening and someone had the flame on too high?

Desserts were really great. Normally you need to be a lover of sweets to enjoy the syrupy treats from that part of the world, but even I have my limits; I once saw a woman at a confectionary shop scraping a big, jellied wad of what looked like thickened glucose into a container, for a customer to take home. I didn’t ask what it was, but the clerk gave them a few spoons to use, along with a bag. So I presumed it was some sort of dessert that I wasn’t familiar with.

The desserts at Liza were refined and had just the right balance of sweetness. The assortment of five baklawas included Haytalié, a milky custard with orange flower water and a puddle of orange coulis floating on top, Sfouf, a saffron cake with pumpkin and pistachios, and Kanafeh, threads of dough baked with sweet cheese. It was great to be able to have a little taste of several, which all went well with steaming glasses of mint tea.

When nature called, I took a walk around the restaurant and saw these great movie posters that my Lebanese friend Anissa said were Egyptian, when I sent her a query about them. Some were for films, and the others are for tourism. I don’t speak the same language of these posters, but the food? I definitely get.

Liza Restaurant
14, rue de la Banque (2nd)
Tél: 01 55 35 00 66
Métro: Bourse

[Liza Paris also has a Lebanese Bakery and Sandwich shop at the same address, which is open for lunch Monday through Friday, noon to 3:30pm.]

Related Recipes and Posts

Man’oushe (Lebanese Flatbreads with Za’atar)

Tel Aviv

Haj Kahil

A Visit to a Hummus Factory

Orange Syrup Cake

Maoz Falafel in Paris

How to Eat a Falafel in Lebanon

Saj, Flatbreads and Lebanese Pastries

Hummus with Spiced Lamb

Lebanon

*A recent addition to the Paris restaurant scene is Tavline, whose chefs come from Israel, and I’m looking forward to trying.

 


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29 comments

  • February 10, 2017 5:40pm

    Wow! I now want to move to Paris immediately.

  • Camellia
    February 10, 2017 5:41pm

    Is that bowl of green herbs “charmoulah”? I’m just learning about it recently, looking for recipes. Thanks!

    • February 10, 2017 5:49pm
      David Lebovitz

      I think you’re referring to the tabbouleh, which unlike versions made elsewhere, the Lebanese tabbouleh (which is my favorite) is an abundance of herbs with just a little bit of bulghur. Chermoula is a sauce. (And a very delicious one at that!)

      • johanna
        February 12, 2017 6:14am

        referring to the amazing first photo of tabbouleh-which greens are used? it looks more than parsley….

        • Hala
          February 13, 2017 5:46am

          Mainly parsley (big bunch), a bit of chopped mint, tomato, a bunch of burgul, oil, lemon, salt.

          This is the main tabbouleh, however you can add cucumber (in Beirut they don’t use cucumber but for the North, Tripoli we do). You can chop also raddish, lettuce.. all in small pieces. Sahten :)

          • johanna
            February 15, 2017 10:45pm

            thank you Hala!
            could the long strips of green as it appears in the photo be basil?

        • Hala
          February 20, 2017 7:31am

          Yup I guess they r parsley.. have no idea what kind of parsley they used because they are not supposed to be long strips :). Use parsley and you are fine. Of course nothing is compared to what you cultivate in your own garden… mmm. I think I will end up having tabbouleh for lunch today.

    • June2
      February 10, 2017 11:53pm

      I’m gonna copy this tonight with kale, shallots, tomato and hemp seeds in place bulgar…thx!

  • Bev
    February 10, 2017 5:53pm

    i too am wondering what is that bowl of green spinach-like vegetables in your first picture. It looks like it has pine nuts in it. Looks delicious!

  • Joe
    February 10, 2017 6:15pm

    Liza is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris! Fantastic food and wonderful service. There’s a beautiful wine bar nearby in a gorgeous passageway for a before-dinner drink (or two)– LeGrand Filles et Fils. There’s also a back window view of the inner workings of a bustling eclair factory (beautiful but somehow sad and soulless).

  • TE Williams
    February 10, 2017 6:51pm

    I so enjoy your wonderful email updates and recipes, David. They are my little escape from the sad and dreary political news of this hemisphere.

    The Banana Upside Down Cake was a huge hit with guests a few weekends ago. Please keep inspiring us.Thank you.

  • Joan
    February 10, 2017 7:08pm

    Are you sure it was Syrian wine? Not Lebanese wine (Syrah?) maybe?
    I have heard a lot about Liza, but it seems out of my budget – maybe I’ll try the sandwich bar when I’m in Paris next week (yaaay!) I can translate the film poster titles if you like, hhh!

  • February 10, 2017 8:04pm

    I too could eat middle eastern food morning, noon and night. Anything lemony rings my bell. Looks yum.
    Thanks for letting us know.

  • February 10, 2017 8:38pm

    It all looks deliciously authentic – must expand my cooking horizon.

  • Pauline
    February 10, 2017 9:02pm

    I, too, love your culinary travelogue and recipes. Thank you very much David

  • February 11, 2017 9:23am

    I have eaten Lebanese food in a number of countries (Kenya, India, Dubai, U.S., though not yet in Lebanon though I would love to see it one day), and it is always divine. That’s to say the kind of delicious that makes you close your eyes and thank heaven for being alive.
    You write wonderful restaurant reviews. One of the big papers should hire you.

  • February 11, 2017 10:49am

    I’m from Detroit originally and I always ate at Le Shish every time I went home to visit family. I was shocked when they went out of business but I’m glad to hear someone is trying to bring back the recipes.

  • Will
    February 11, 2017 7:36pm

    Off-topic but very important information! A ‘French-Inspired’ McDonald’s has opened here in Manhattan at 28th and 6th! Somebody pinch me!

  • February 12, 2017 1:50am

    looks wonderful!

  • Rachael
    February 12, 2017 2:04am

    Next time you’re in L.A., you should check out Marouch!

  • Susan
    February 12, 2017 11:52am

    David-do you have any idea how to get the pumpkin into a sfouf recipe? I love pumpkin. Thanks

  • Lily
    February 12, 2017 7:56pm

    I just came back today from Beirut and ate yesterday lunch at Tawlet – it was really a treat.

    There is nothing better than eating Lebanese food in Lebanon!

    Well, next best thing is to eat in Paris when you do not want to fly out. ;-)

  • Patricia
    February 12, 2017 8:31pm

    I love that Lebanese food is available in Paris. As a vegetarian on a budget, being able to get the “sandwich” (falafel rolled up in flatbread with hummus & Lebanese pickles) was a godsend.

  • Oonagh
    February 13, 2017 3:21am

    David, OT with apologies – I made your tarte tatin pour la regime from The Sweet Life in paris for dessert last night, delicious, thank you!
    (And the velociraptor link today made me laugh, thanks!)

  • February 13, 2017 7:51pm

    I’m Persian so after a month-long vacation in Paris, I was finding myself in desperate need of some Middle Eastern food after all the magret and viennoiserie I was stuffing my face in. I dined at a Lebanese restaurant in Paris called La Table Libanaise…I highly recommend it! Had some of the best baklava I’ve ever enjoyed there :)

    • February 13, 2017 8:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for the recommendation. We tried to go there one night, crossing town, only to find a dreaded “Fermeture exceptionelle” (closed for unspecified reason) sign that particular night on the door! : 0

  • ron shapley
    February 14, 2017 3:23pm

    So Dave… you are saying you can’t get “Good” Olive oil in a restaurant ??

  • ebee
    February 14, 2017 5:42pm

    Why is the olive oil we get in the States so often sub-par? What do you use, recommend-carry?

    • February 15, 2017 1:21pm
      David Lebovitz

      One good brand in the U.S. is California Olive Ranch olive oil, and is easy to obtain. There are other good California olive oils but since I don’t know any particular brands. And there are good olive oils from other places available, including (but not limited to), Greece, France, Italy, Tunisia and other places. Check out my post: 8 Tips on Olive Oil for more advice.