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CORDON-COURTINE Culinary critiques

Your guide to Lebanon’s dining scene: Cordon Courtine returns

After a four-year hiatus, marred by a series of crises, it disappeared from our pages and online platform. But now, the hiatus is over. Our esteemed culinary critic, Cordon Courtine, is back in action, ready to praise and critique Lebanon’s restaurants once again.

Your guide to Lebanon’s dining scene: Cordon Courtine returns

Illustration of food on a table, by Jaimee Haddad/L'Orient Today

Between 2017 and 2019, almost every journalist at L’Orient-Le Jour was asked the same question: « Who on earth is Cordon Courtine ? » Met with the journalists’ baffled responses (« I swear, I have no clue ! »), the inquirer remained unconvinced.

 Yet, within an editorial office teeming with gossip, anecdotes, and divulged secrets — common attributes of any journalistic newsroom — the enigma of Cordon Courtine, L’Orient-Le Jour’s culinary critic, has endured unscathed. A miracle.

Today, the entire editorial team is diligently ensuring this miracle continues. And now our discerning, yet equitable food critic, has resumed duty.

We’re particularly delighted by resurgence of Cordon Courtine, especially considering the significant transformations Lebanon has gone though since the column’s suspension while the country’s economy was in freefall in 2019.

« In 2019, restaurant owners were grappling with immense challenges, and they truly deserve commendation for persevering through adversity. It was important for us to offer our support, » remarks our critic.

Now that the restaurant industry has rebounded, with bills edging closer to pre-crisis levels while a significant portion of the population grapples with severe impoverishment, we thought it was important to return Cordon Courtine to his important food critiquing, empowering him to enlighten and advocate for diners.

« This is especially true considering the entirely illogical and frequently unjustified price hikes we’ve witnessed this year, » he said.

In essence, Cordon Courtine is resolute in his mission to assist you in discovering the most cost-effective dining establishments across the country.

« Mediocrity has regrettably become all too common in our country, » said Cordon Courtine. « But the true issue lies in the fact that for many consumers, it’s no longer perceived as an issue — they simply accept it. »

« Conversely, certain chefs mistakenly perceive themselves as culinary royalty solely because their customers seem satisfied, » he added.

Anonymity in return for honest feedback

Between 2017 and 2019, a few restaurant owners complained about Cordon Courtine’s reviews, feeling they weren’t getting enough praise. But many others appreciated the professional work.

« This gastronomic critique section is yet another commendable initiative, particularly because it’s conducted by a professional under a pseudonym, thereby circumventing biased receptions and ‘special journalistic criticism’ meals,’ » one restaurant owner said.

According to both L’Orient Today and the critic, using a pseudonym is essential for staying anonymous and providing honest reviews.

Some interpret this anonymity as a sign of fear.

« He lacks the bravery to reveal himself, » one reader commented. Cordon Courtine responded, « My identity remains undisclosed to prevent receiving invitations or bribes, which are customary in this industry, where restaurants hope for favorable reviews in the media and on social platforms. »

« By not accepting invitations, the experience remains genuine and reflects what customers and readers can expect from a restaurant, » he added.

At least three visits

Another condition stipulated by Cordon Courtine is that a restaurant cannot be evaluated based solely on one visit and one meal.

« Each review is the culmination of an average of three visits, ensuring that I don’t happen to catch the chef on a bad day, » the critic explains.

 These three visits allow him to form a comprehensive opinion about the ambiance, decor, service, prices, and, naturally, the quality of the cuisine.

Cordon Courtine, both a gourmet and a gourmand, takes a comprehensive approach: while he may not sample every item on the menu, by the conclusion of his three visits, he will have tasted nearly all the offerings available, including starters, main courses, and desserts.

Extensive experience in the restaurant business

Incidentally, during the initial run of his column between 2017 and 2019, some readers had raised questions about the true gastronomic expertise of our critic. 

Over the years, Cordon Courtine has journeyed from Paris to Chicago, with stops in Brussels, Lisbon, Amsterdam, London, Dubai, Miami, Malibu, Los Angeles, New York, and beyond. Along the way, he has indulged in the offerings of renowned restaurants, many of which boast Michelin stars.

« Exploring top-tier dining establishments over the years has allowed me to refine my palate, » he said. « Sampling the finest dishes, encountering both exceptional and lackluster experiences, has contributed to bolstering my culinary knowledge and my ability to offer constructive criticism. »

What further solidifies his credibility is Cordon Courtine’s background as a chef, coupled with his extensive knowledge of business management.

To top it off, the critic has collaborated with some of Lebanon’s premier chefs for over two decades.

Not only does he possess a deep understanding of the industry, but he also knows it inside and out.

Constructive criticism

Cordon Courtine understands the weight of criticism, recognizing its significant impact.

« I approach my articles with integrity, » he says. « Every word I choose is carefully considered to maintain objectivity and avoid personal bias. »

So, what exactly does he evaluate ?

Restaurants, visited multiple times, are scrutinized based on their service, quality of ingredients, preparation and presentation of dishes, and even ambiance factors like music selection.

From table setting to flavor nuances, from dish presentation to background music —every detail that can distinguish between a memorable dining experience and a mediocre one is assessed by our critic’s keen senses.

« The purpose of this endeavor isn’t to simply critique restaurants, but to enlighten consumers, » he said. « My goal isn’t to ‘bash’ establishments, but rather to spotlight deserving ones. »

« There are hidden gems in Beirut and throughout the country — places that may not be in the limelight but certainly warrant attention, » Cordon Courtine added.

See you on April 27. Here’s to a delightful culinary journey.

Between 2017 and 2019, almost every journalist at L’Orient-Le Jour was asked the same question: « Who on earth is Cordon Courtine ? » Met with the journalists’ baffled responses (« I swear, I have no clue ! »), the inquirer remained unconvinced. Yet, within an editorial office teeming with gossip, anecdotes, and divulged secrets — common attributes of any journalistic newsroom —...