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?
|Smoked salmon with an avocado half and caviar
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 friendly bartender about the overnight marination of the component fruits will confirm this guy knows precisely what he’s doing. I’d recommend a pitcher (30,000 LL), as one glass (10,000 LL) will hardly quench your thirst.
|Red wine sangria
Start with a mixed cheese and charcuterie platter (36,000 LL), because what’s a visit to Spain without the revered Manchego, chorizo, jamón Serrano and lomo Iberico? Accompanied by soft white baguette slices, crunchy gherkins, fresh tomato purée, and quince jam, the mood is beautifully set.
|Cheese and charcuterie platter
Ease into the delicately seasoned delicacy of sobrassada, or ground pork sausage, spread like paste atop a slice of bread and weighed down by a thick chunk of goat cheese log drizzled with honey (14,000 LL). It is generous and delectable.
|Sobrassada and goat cheese log drizzled in honey on wholewheat sliced bread
Seafood lovers will revel in the salpicón de pulpo (14,000 LL), a colorful medley of tender marinated octopus; olives; red, yellow, and green bell peppers; and parsley. The gambas al ajillo (16,000 LL) features ten plump shrimp sizzling in a casserole and borrowing a kick from the trio of parsley, chili and garlic.
|Salpicón de pulpo (octopus salad)
|Gambas al ajillo (garlic and chili shrimps)
A Spanish spread isn’t complete without the famed patatas bravas (12,000 LL), cubed and fried potatoes similar to the Lebanese mezza dish batata 7arra. The only difference is in the dressing, which in the Spanish rendition boasts a creamy garlic aioli with a piquant aftertaste.
The versatility lent by the network of three neighboring restaurants means you can order Prune’s hallmark dessert, pain retrouvé, without a hitch. Two bricks of bread soaked in milk, sugar and cream come huddled around a pool of cloyingly sweet caramel and tempered by frozen vanilla ice cream. Supreme! In the future, however, I’d love to see some traditional Spanish specialties, namely flan, churros, and Tarta di Santiago.
|Pain retrouvé from Prune bistro
Bar Jamón may revolve around the concept of nibbles before dinnertime, but I’d come here to lay out a liberal feast. It’s not every day you stumble upon scrumptious, top-quality edibles in a relaxed bar setting, so why not toast to that with a glass (or two) of sangria!