LE PHENICIA : MODERN LEBANESE CUISINE IN ANTIBES

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Ethnic restaurants are usually located near the train stations of the city they’re situated in. Those higher in quality can usually be found deeper in the city. Le Phenicia is one of them. It has manage to come to the middle of the city and near the sea in a rich area such as Antibes though it offers Lebanese cuisine.

Antibes is a serene, rich town. You can’t find the ill-mannered skyscrapers of Monaco, the pebbled beaches of Nice or the noisy tourists of Cannes here. It has public sandy beaches and cute beach restaurants. The old city and its market, Marché Provençal are places to see. Antibes and its vicinity became the paradise of rich Europeans in the 19th century.  When you board the number 2 bus and head out of town, you will arrive at the area that hosts their mansions in 5-10 minutes. These mansions exchanged hands in time and are now owned not by the British but Arabs and Russians.

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The inner part of the town has welcomed artists. Authors Graham Greene and Nikos Kazantzakis- the author of Zorba The Greek and painter Marc Chagall are just some of these artists. The most famous one is undoubtedly Pablo Picasso. The master came here in 1946. He loved Chateau Grimaldi and asked for a studio inside the mansion. Of course the municipality agreed; they gave him a studio and he lived happily here for a year. Chateau Grimaldi was later on turned into the Picasso Museum, a hot touristic spot in town.

There are many restaurants of all shapes and sizes in and around Antibes. Since Antibes is a Mediterranean town, most of them sell seafood.

Le Phenicia is an exception is this regard. It’s located at the heart of the town, just steps away from the sea. Drinking wine on the terrace and trying examples from Middle Eastern cuisine is a great getaway for those tired of eating fish. Items on the menu are popular Middle Eastern dishes: Hummus, Tabule, Moussakka, Kebbe, Kafta, Chich Taouk…

One of the things I don’t understand is why many restaurants prefer to describe themselves as a modern version of a particular cuisine. Le Phenicia describes itself as modern Lebanese cuisine. I don’t understand why they feel the need to do that!

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What is so wrong with traditional cuisine that they have to identify themselves as modern ?

If it is to keep up with culinary habits, then whose? Americans Europeans, Asians all have different culinary traditions. When an ethnic cuisine is modernized, whose culinary traditions are taken into account or is this so called modernization just a publicity tool?

What is the length of this modernization process? When today’s modern will be seen as classic in 10 years, does the modernization continue?

I thought about these at Le Phenicia. Among the things I had, musakka was served cold. However, this dish is served hot in Turkey and Greece. I couldn’t figure out if modernization meant serving the dish cold instead of hot but I didn’t like it. On the other hand, Tabule was both tasty and healthy. Kafta was nothing more than Adana meatballs with raw minced meat. It was a little sour. I believe that one shouldn’t eat dishes made with raw minced meat where the climate is hot and bacteria grow quickly. I think the most serious mistake the restaurant made was bringing appetizers with main courses when people wanted to enjoy the view. Doesn’t this mean eat up and leave?

Or is this a characteristic of modern Lebanese cuisine?

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