Food at Expo 2020: chef Athanasios Kargatzidis brings Baron Beirut to Dubai

Cauliflower has never seemed more appealing than it is on the eclectic chef's menu

Roasted head of cauliflower served in spiced butter, yoghurt tahini tartare, walnuts and pomegranate, at Baron. Photo: Gates Hospitality
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From Michelin-starred names and celebrity chefs to experimental cooks and local restaurateurs, Expo 2020 Dubai is a culinary hub like no other.

In this series, we profile the chefs invited to be a part of the world's fair and gain a preview of the menu they’ve put together for discerning diners.

The restaurant

Hailing from Beirut’s fashionable Mar Mikhael neighbourhood, Baron is known for its focus on fresh produce, innovative dishes and sauces, and sharing-style plates. At Expo, chef-patron Athanasios Kargatzidis’s licensed restaurant is located at Al Wasl Plaza, with the dome serving as its backdrop.

“Baron is a reflection of my experiences in running kitchens around the globe,” says Kargatzidis, who is also the founder of Tasty Kitchens Hospitality Group. “It’s a place I want to be, with music, architecture and the food of the area I’m in at the moment.”

The menu

Baron Beirut relies on farmers’ markets, Tripoli fishing boats and Bekaa Valley fields for its ingredients, and it brings much of this home-made touch to Dubai, too.

The standout dish, reveals chef Kargatzidis, is the whole roast head of cauliflower served in spiced butter, yoghurt tahini tartare, walnuts and pomegranate, best enjoyed with a group of friends.

Another recommendation is the restaurant’s date dish, with medjool dates filled with soujouk and wrapped in veal breast, then baked in a Josper charcoal oven with tomato chutney.

“I also love the kale salad, which is a play on my time in Beirut and a cross between a tabbouleh and fattoush,” says the chef. “For desserts, try my Yaya, which is a play my mother does on a baba, but Greek-style.”

Elsewhere on the menu are innovative flavour combinations such as asparagus with strained yoghurt, soya-tahini, pine nuts, fried egg and pepper-butter; halloumi with pistachio butter, herbs and hot sauce; monkfish with charcoal, miso butter, shoyu-spring onion, lime and furikake potato puree.

The chef has also put together a festive menu, which will be served at the Expo between Sunday, December 5 and Wednesday, January 5, and includes raclette with king mushroom, veal breast and shaved truffle; confit duck with parsnip puree; and gingerbread with meringue and “served with a hammer”.

Prices range from Dh40 to Dh85 for appetisers and Dh115 to Dh425 (for the bone-in Wagyu) for main dishes. Desserts are from Dh50 to Dh95. The restaurant also serves a selection of tea, coffee and kombucha.

The chef

Kargatzidis may have been born in Kavala, Greece, and raised in Regina in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, but he says family trips to the Middle East and Europe roused his interest in culinary heritage.

“After a couple of years at university, I wanted to use my hands to create, and I decided to move to Vancouver and study at Dubrulle culinary institute where I was able to receive a degree in pastry, culinary, management and bread,” says Kargatzidis.

The chef describes his style as eclectic fusion, and says his favourite ingredients, cooking techniques and even cuisine of choice is “of the time and place” – and indeed he has tried his hand successfully at Japanese, Middle Eastern-style barbecue and baking, as well as serving reimagined Mediterranean classics at Baron.

Next on the cards for Kargatzidis is a seaside eatery in Lisbon, Portugal.

Updated: November 25, 2021, 5:57 AM