We’ve lied to you a little bit with that sub heading. While this may well be chicken cooked in a clay pot, the real name of the dish is dajaj mahshi bil fakhara. It’s one of the stars of the menu at new Lebanese restaurant Maison Beirut at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr and the simple description on the menu “whole chicken with vegetables cooked in a clay pot” doesn’t really do justice to the flavours of the dish or the dramatic way it’s served. If seeing things set on fire is your bag, then buckle up.
The restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Saeed Khattab, tells us that cooking chicken this way is a foolproof method for keeping the meat succulent. The porous clay pot allows heat and moisture to circulate during cooking and it’s completely soaked in water before going into the oven. Khattab says because the pot is wet it withholds moisture and nutrients, reducing the need to add more fats for flavour.
As well as chicken, fennel and rosemary go into the pot along with potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. Once all the ingredients are together the pot goes in the oven, but don’t think that’s the end of it. Once it’s almost ready to be devoured, Khattab will bring the dish to your table and finish it in a flurry of flames before carving and serving.
It’s a tremendous touch of theatre at the new restaurant, which has a super-sounding menu full of classics and traditional dishes. But frankly if this one doesn’t excite you, we don’t know what will.
Dhs145. Maison Beirut, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Khor Al Maqta (02 304 8306).