Secteur Gourmet: Beirut's Ultimate Gastropub Is Thriving
If any venue in Beirut can be credited with tackling the gastropub challenge, replete with its haute cuisine and exceptional libations, it’s Secteur. The dimly-lit space perches on the first floor of a corner residential edifice in Mar Mikhael. Inside, a brass counter top reflects an illuminated back bar, behind which expert mixologists Elie and Raed work their liquid craft with unrivalled finesse.
In one of the side rooms, a massive table cradling a curious bed of pooled candles seats diners in a more private setting. There’s even a convenient smoke room to accommodate puffers and keep the bar area’s air quality haze-free.
Nearly a year ago, Secteur unveiled its newly-renovated interior, with an inspiring food and drinks menu to boot. Renowned British Chef Ed Dutton of London’s Pieds Nus had been commissioned to consult on the fare, which featured such delicacies as veal eel tartar, curried frog legs, and truffle mushroom croquettes.
|Lychee Royal: Prosecco, passion fruit purée, fresh lychee, and orange juice|
Top dining spots in the capital couldn’t hold a flame to the nosh on offer, but the gastropub concept didn’t quite mesh with Lebanon’s economically distressed F&B scene. A retreat to the familiar, and humbler, was essential, so Secteur stripped down all the frills and deferred majesty for sunnier days.
Well, majesty is back, and it’s taken on the form of Secteur Gourmet every Wednesday night beginning at 8:30 p.m. The pub, in a decidedly impressive move, has teamed up with Chef Hadi Hazim of Fusion Cult to bring delicious cuisine from around the world onto the plates of epicure patrons. And they couldn’t be wiser for it.
Last Wednesday found us gazing in amazement at a parade of Peruvian specialties issuing forth from the kitchen. Chef Hadi has unmistakable flair when it comes to marrying sweet and savory, as we’d been privileged to first discover at our home several months ago during a Bibayti experience.
The night started with a halved baked banana lined with sour cream and accompanied by a smooth salsa verde.
|Oven-baked banana with sour cream and salsa verde|
Within minutes, a zingy quinoa salad tossed with pecan, pepito seeds, pomegranate and dried cranberries emerged drizzled in grapefruit juice and crowned with pulpous chunks of persimmon. Finally, a well-placed quinoa number, as quinoa originates from Peru!
|Quinoa with persimmon and pomegranate|
Here’s where things got magnificent. A slightly sour ceviche merged delicately poached seabass with lettuce, sweet potato coins, and finely sliced cherry tomatoes.
Thereafter, a towering tartare dubbed “Causa” and resembling a multi-layer dip piled potato and yucca purée, tuna and salmon tartar, avocado, and blue corn tortilla chips. A solitary quail’s egg nestled close to the action.
|Causa: salmon and tuna tartare with potato and yucca purée|
Our minds were reeling with delight when the main arrived. Lomo saltado was a nod to beautifully seasoned beef tenderloin strips prepared in stir-fry fashion with plantain chips. A solitary scoop of sour cream tempered the spices.
|Lomo saltado, a beef tenderloin stir-fry with plantain chips|
Chef Hadi outdid himself with the final sweet fix. A thick and chunky dulche de leche dip dusted with sea salt—think salted caramel—came accompanied by fresh-baked butter biscuits. Comfort food rethought into a rather jazzy presentation—absolutely superb.
|Dulce de leche dip with butter biscuits|
Every element of the night was impeccably executed, from the delectable spread Hadi concocted, to the Peruvian-inspired cocktails Elie and Raed masterminded, to the South American beats spun by DJ Ziad Nawfal, and above all the smart crowd the evening drew out.
With a new theme at every séance, including Honduran, Indian and Spanish gone before, this is one weekly ritual I can wrap my head (and paunch) around.
01-575675 & 70-422444
Secteur Gourmand, every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., for LBP 60,000 (USD 40)