Smoked Meat in Lebanon?

There’s an unmistakable buzz around the newest grub hub and café in Mar Mikhael, acoté, perhaps so named because it is à coté de, or beside, sister bistro Prune. Anyone who’s dined at Prune and experienced their sensational French fare would understandably have high expectations of any related restaurant. Owner Samer Maroun is fussy about good food made from high-quality ingredients, and it shows in the gourmet sandwiches on offer at acoté.

A few weeks ago, four of us visited the trendy café which accommodates both indoor and outdoor seating. We sat at the long high table and ordered a selection of sandwiches to share. What’s refreshing about acoté is that their sandwiches can be found nowhere else in Lebanon. They are adaptations of famous international sammies imported from Montreal, Maine, Tunisia, Italy and other far reaches of the globe.

The King Crab (30,000LL) features fresh king crab and avocado mash between two slices of pain de campagne. In a word, it is excellent. It lacks nothing and is elegant in its simplicity. 


King Crab



Fans of lobster will dote on the Maine Lobster Roll (32,000LL), with its soft buttered bun, springy chunks of lobster meat dressed in light mayonnaise, and a few leaves of parsley and lettuce. Perhaps less calorific than its New England counterpart, it is another winner.

Lobster Roll



The slow-braised lamb sandwich (20,000LL) is essentially a round loaf of soft ciabatta stuffed with gigot d’agneau in a strong curry sauce. The meat melts on your tongue, but I would dial down the heat on the curry—it overpowers the subtle flavors of the lamb. 


I've heard so much about Montreal-style smoked meat—and how sadly it is nonexistent in Lebanon—that it was all I could do to contain my excitement when the sandwich descended upon our table. Dubbed the “Reuben” (24,000LL), it has six thin layers of pink pastrami meat, a slaw of sauerkraut, and mustard mayo slathered on the countryside sliced bread it sits in.


The "Reuben"



Two of the diners in our group—my husband included—attended university in Montreal and there became diehard fans of the authentic smoked meat sandwich. The real deal comprises tens of layers of seasoned smoked meat inside rye bread spread with mustard. And that’s it. No slaw. No mayo. No nothing. A giant pickled cucumber usually accompanies it to help wash down its meaty textures.

While acoté's sandwich is certainly tasty, it bears little resemblance to its Montreal origins. The coleslaw should come on the side, and the meat stack could use an amp-up in flavor and height.


We ordered a few sides of truffle fries with parmesan (12,000LL), but I found them to be too dry, slender and hard to swallow. 


Truffle fries with Parmesan



Contrarily, the goat cheese and figs salad (19,000LL) is phenomenal, with generous chunks of crumbled chèvre tossed with rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, and walnuts.

Goat cheese and figs salad



If dessert is in the cards, the pancakes (14,000LL) are fluffy and come five layered in a ceramic casserole. The maple syrup and fresh berry coulis don’t penetrate past the exposed pancake, unfortunately, so perhaps you might ask for the jug of syrup to even things out.

Pancakes with fresh berries, coulis, and maple syrup



On the whole, I admire acoté for introducing new flavors and savors to the Beirut dining scene. Since they’re still in the soft opening phase, I’m sure they’ll iron out a few kinks before carving out the final menu. 

Comments

  1. I can't wait to try the Lobster Rolls!!! Is it just me or have places that make Lobster Roll been popping up everywhere recently..

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    Replies
    1. You're definitely right about that--they've been cropping up all over town. I see that brgr.co now serves it, and Meat the Fish makes a special roll-form too. If you visit acote, try that and the king crab sandwich. Those two are my favorites.

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