Under Construction Brings New Flair to Mar Mikhael
I didn't realize how saturated with pubs Mar Mikhael had become until a trek last week through the residential quartier. I remember at first there were a few prominent spots, hipster and boho and almost guaranteed to be crowded: Internazionale, Radio Beirut, Bodo, Chaplin, Lock Stock and Secteur 75 (rebranded to Secteur). Then came the restaurants and gastropubs like The Happy Prince and Sud and, more recently, Toto, Prune, and Divvy.
Now there are dozens of new pubs fighting for their claim to the nighttime beverage scene: Kahwet Ghina, Perk, Hacienda, Anise, Terminal B, Hashtag, Snug, Tezkar Bar, and many, many others, too many to enumerate here, in fact. How will they differentiate themselves one from the other to draw in a full crowd night after night?
|Key-Lime Gimlet with Larios dry gin from Under Construction's Light Menu|
In my opinion, a new bar or resto-pub along Mar Mikhael has it hard, because competition is stiff, rent is high, space is limited, and fresh, out-of-the-box creativity is about as rare as a parking spot on Armenia Street.
But I’m confident I've found it. A resto-pub that boasts a spacious interior with high ceilings where smoking doesn't sully your lungs; excellent, innovative cocktails; deliriously good food; savvy mixologists and bar crew; music you can warm up to that doesn't drown out your conversations; and some pretty wicked architecture to boot.
Welcome to Under Construction, a venue near the end of the Mar Mikhael strip facing the bus lot and sufficiently far from the insufferable throngs of valet vultures that haunt the Manar Station vicinity.
This is a bar that was purportedly put together in one month’s time by the architectural firm L’Art Qui Tecte, which doubles as a partner in the resto-pub. For something that took so little time to fabricate, the motifs and worksite-inspired décor are extremely well hashed-out. A wrecking ball is suspended from the ceiling. There are metal gears hanging above the long bar. Food and drink menus are scrawled on either side of a carbon-fiber board intended to resemble a foreman’s clipboard. CAD sketches adorn the bar tabletop.
How about the cocktails? There are at least a dozen—try the Sour Whisky with egg whites as well as the house specialty Vanilla Passion with fresh passion fruit. Girls will be pleased to see four light cocktail options with calorie counts affixed to their descriptions. The Key-Lime Gimlet (94 kcal) and the London Light (110 kcal) call on fresh citrus and a dash of brown sugar, and they are exquisite.
|London Light also incorporates Larios dry gin|
|A refreshing Aperol Spritz with Prosecco|
You’ll be at a loss for what to order in the edibles category: 14 tapas, 5 salads, 3 sandwiches, 3 mains and 3 desserts. Don’t expect any clichéd pub grub—ain’t no greasy nachos or pasty pizza pies here.
I’m talking Bakalava Enchiladas (13,500 LL) reminiscent of the Moroccan pastilla dish, with its phyllo dough nest, chicken filling, and balsamic reduction as garnish.
The Beef & Griotte (20,500 LL) is another winner, with tender beef tenderloin blanketed in melted Gruyère atop sliced brown countryside bread.
Fans of sliders will adore the Burger Dots (21,000 LL), three hefty bites each slathered with a unique sauce or mash.
The halloumi cubes (15,500 LL) that come breaded in semolina and skewered in trios are divine, but I’d chuck the pesto dip in favor of something more sweet and tangy like apricot jam.
The Fritto Misto platter (16,500 LL) gives a sampling of fried calamari rings, shrimp wrapped in vermicelli, and the lounge's signature "Construction Balls" stuffed with potato, cheese, and spinach and coated with corn flakes.
Be sure to try this city’s newest candidate for best quesadilla (18,000 LL), served here in wrap form. Delicious marinated chunks of chicken breast are bound by creamy guacamole and roasted red bell peppers in grill-kissed tortilla bread, sided by hot, crunchy oregano-dusted French fries and whipped sour cream.
If you’re interested in exploring Mar Mikhael nightlife on a whole new level, then Under Construction is your sure paradise.
Armenia Street, Mar Mikhael