Showing posts from December, 2015

Bar Jamón Recreates A Typical Spanish Tapas Scene in Beirut

Generally, when one thinks of a bar in Beirut, one imagines a dimly-lit hole in the wall, hazy with clouds of cigarette smoke, blasting harsh tunes, and packed wall to wall with those god-awful backless barstools that inflict insufferable pain on one’s spine. Furthermore, a bar is no place to seek epicurean indulgence, as food spans the gamut of carrots soaked in lemon juice, tortilla chips and salsa, and maybe, just maybe, a dinky pizzette heated in the microwave.
So where would you find a bar serving freshly-carved pata negra, sheep’s milk Manchego, and smoked salmon with caviar? Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Newly-opened Bar Jamón in Mar Mikhael aspires to pioneer new frontiers in the Lebanese bar scene. Brought to us by the same owner of French bistro Prune and gourmet sandwicherie Acoté, next to which it is nestled, Bar Jamón purports to be a tapas bar serving up a delicious array of bite-sized Spanish specialties.
The slightly-sweet sangria is typical. A quick chat with the frien…

My Grown-Up Christmas Wish

For five years now, I’ve found myself separated by thousands of miles from my family at Christmastime. 2010 marked the last holiday season we were all joined at my childhood home in Southern California, tucking into Mom’s impeccable turkey dinner, unwrapping presents,and spreading sweet warmth and good cheer. One week later, I flew to the Middle East on a special assignment, and since then, Lebanon has become my permanent new home.

The story is not an altogether sad one, as the past Christmases have seen me celebrating with the family of my now-husband. His family has graciously integrated me into their own, and for that I am thankful. 

But I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss standing next to Mom in the kitchen as she prepares the dinner spread. Or hustling to the supermarket with Dad for some last minute shopping. Or nestling between my two brothers on the couch as we watch our favorite Christmas movie, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Christmas just isn’t the same without them.
As I …

Dottore l'Antica: Beirut's Ultimate Italian Trattoria

I’d heard of Dottore almost as soon as it opened its cozy, quaint perch in Hamra nearly two years ago. Diners were raving about its Neapolitan pizza, with its at-once crunchy and soft outer crust, tender dough, and premium toppings.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@Beirutista) may be all too familiar with my worship of masterful pizzas. Meticulously attentive to detail, I admire pizzas that are the product of a vivid imagination, melding a myriad of tastes, flavors, and textures in novel ways to tickle the palate.

Dottore was being heralded as one such purveyor of a pleasurable pizza, and I was more than eager to try it.
Fate finally found us tucked in comfortably at the trattoria-like space, which is longer than it is wide and stacks hundreds of wine bottles precariouslyon their sides along the restaurant walls. The feel is pure unadulterated Italia, from the humble wooden tables and chairs, to the small oval-shaped plates for sharing, to the massive windows that pivot outward …

When A Restaurant Experience Goes Sour: 5 Essentials to Running A Successful Eatery

A few nights ago, we were invited to the opening of a new restaurant in Beirut. The entire experience was a disaster, highlighted by the chef’s constant screaming from the kitchen. Every time a runner swung open the kitchen pass-through to retrieve a prepared dish, cacophonous yelling from inside burst out.
Apart from that, we were nearly 30 invited guests seated along three long tables. For every six guests, one plate would be set down for divvying. Mind you, this wasn’t a Lebanese mezza whose components were readily shareable. These were individual salads meant for one, or sandwiches cut in two.
When we requested a repetition of the seabass tartar, the manager declined, claiming all platters had been carefully portioned in advance and that the kitchen had run out. What a bunch of malarkey! Opening night, and you’re hosting: shouldn’t you err on the safe side?
Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the mains. We were beyond livid (and famished) to bear any more of this debacle. The wors…

6 Things I've Learned from the Blogging Business in Lebanon

I’ve been in the blogging business for three and a half years now. I say business not because it generates a bottom line (it doesn’t), nor because it is my sole occupation (I work full-time in strategy management at a Lebanese Alpha bank).
I say business because between carving out my niche in the blogosphere,attending events, and rubbing elbows with media at social gatherings, it feels like a full-fledged commitment and more.

When I first launched Beirutista, I had no idea where or what it would lead to. I sought a channel wherein I could document my trials and observations in Lebanon, a sort of virtual diary to preserve memories and analyses through the written word.
I also wanted to provide a window through which friends abroad could peer in and see how starkly different my life had become. Beirutista was a tabula rasa, an empty slate I could populate with the fragments of my mind. Where categorization is necessary, it is a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on the gourmet.
I’ve learned…

MJ's Burgers: Cheers to Second Chances

We'd tried MJ's at Souk el Akel months ago and left with poor impressions of the burger. It came charred black, and we kindly requested it to be remade. Half an hour later, we were presented with a different specimen, which, while of more edible doneness, was wholly without seasoning or oomph. I couldn’t understand what the fuss on social media was all about.
The other night, equipped with a Zomato voucher, we resolved to give the joint a second shot, and this time they had home court advantage.
MJ’s is situated on a quiet street in Mar Mikhael parallel to the throbbing Armenia Street. We arrived around 6:45 on a Tuesday evening, pushing past the heavy door to expose a dimly-lit, narrow dining hall with a small counter at the end. 
Immediately you notice a wooden bench running the length of the restaurant and seating about 20 diners. There are two additional benches suited for couples diners, but MJ’s seems to be doing two things here. In maximizing their occupancy, they are in…

A Luxurious Sunday Lunch at Le Gray's Indigo

Sundays are sacred. They were made for family gatherings, sprawling tables of good food, and chill-out vibes. Home embodies this trifecta, but what about those days you crave checking your coat at the door and enjoying the ultimate pampering?
Le Gray’s newly-launched Sunday brunch is in fact a lavish culinary affair that gets everything right, starting with the cocktail trolley featuring made-to-order pick-me-ups. At 82,500 LL (USD 55), it’s admittedly a splurge.

We sat opposite the glass-paneled kitchen with a front-row seat to the cooking marathon. Chefs prepare hot dishes à la minute while also tending to the extensive buffet of sushi, salad items, and hallmarks of the Lebanese cold mezza. 
There are oysters on ice, maki rolls, and endearing goblets of fresh crab or boiled shrimp on beds of avocado mousse. 

There is also baba ghannouj, muhammara, fattoush, tabbouleh and stuffed vine leaves, each presented ceremoniously on a chalkboard.

Assemble your own salad from fresh mini mozzarella …

Women in Leadership: A Conversation With Senior VP Lisa McDowell at The Cheesecake Factory

This is not a review about food. I know Lebanon is squealing with delight at the debut of The Cheesecake Factory on its Mediterranean shores. For months we eagerly eyed the empty space reserved in its name atop Beirut City Centre, but alas, it never came.
Well, the Factory has finally established a perch in Verdun, adjacent to the shopping complex Verdun 730. And it is massive. Dim lights, diner-style seating booths, sports bar, cheesecake counter, and that iconic décor you’d recognize inside any of its venues worldwide.
Monday night, we ascended the red-carpeted stairs from the lobby to the main dining room. A friendly hostess visiting from the Kuwait branch showed us to our booth and within seconds, the Senior Vice President of Global Development joined us.

Lisa McDowell has a 19-year history with the Beverly Hills-born company. In 1996, she left her role at TGI Friday’s to take on the challenges of Director of Training, and as she excelled, she earned promotion after promotion. At h…