The Best of Beirut
on Dec 26, 2014 By Danielle Issa
New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and you know what that means: time to bid farewell to 2014 and look forward with renewed earnest to 2015. But before we start making unrealistic resolutions to rein in our diets and before we pin food trends likely to emerge in the coming year, let’s take a look back at the best of Beirut’s newbie restaurants.
Sure, there were many openings—far too many to enumerate—but the ones featured here figure high on our list as the crème de la crème. We hope they stick around well into 2015 and beyond.
Liza, a contemporary Lebanese restaurant catering to gourmands, launched its second branch after its original Parisian outlet here in Beirut. Located in the capital’s stylish Achrafieh quartier, the cuisine affirms the motifs of Liza: light, fresh and a delicate reinterpretation of Lebanese classics. The silky hummus is piped into waves like the sand dunes of an Arabian desert, and the grilled slices of halloum radiate outward from a ball of tomato confit filled with tomato jam. The dessert is the cherry on top, with a selection ranging from sfouf bi laktine and achta with citrus fruits to an endless assortment of ice cream and sorbet.
Photo via Architectur Aldigest
In 2012, Junkyard debuted as a summer-only pop-up concept with a kitchen set in a shipping container and furniture recycled from unwanted goods. This year, Junkyard was revived into a full-fledged venue fashioned from ten 40-foot-long and five 20-foot-long containers. Arranged in the shape of a U with a glass dome enclosing the courtyard, the place can seat up to 700 guests in the summer when the rooftop is open but accommodates 300-400 in the winter. The menu, already in its second edition, boasts a $30 burger crafted from 28-day-aged grass-fed Australian Angus beef that is chargrilled to bring out the best of its sirloin juices.
Armenia Street, Facing the old bus station
If you’re looking for new culinary flair in Mar Mikhael, complete with a warm ambiance, upbeat vibes, and smart service, check out Divvy. Literally meaning “to divide,” Divvy centers on the concept of sharing menu items with your dining partners. The restaurant’s slogan echoes this motif: “The Chinese call it dim sum. The Spanish call it tapas. The Lebanese call it mezza. We call it divvy.” The Brie n’ Blueberry (18,500 LL), one of Divvy’s specialties, features cubes of breaded Brie served alongside a creamy blueberry sauce. For the health-conscious, the marinated teriyaki skewers (24,000 LL) come as a trio, each with three hulking cubes of glazed beef waiting to be basked in the soy bath.
Captain Davis is a burger diner in Sin el Fil borrowing its name from Davis Fletcher of Texas, who is credited with having invented the hamburger in the 1880s. A few words about the diner’s décor: wooden tables, metal colored chairs, a small full-service bar, and cute trinkets all make the venue homey. The Caesar salad bowl (12,500 LL) is a must: Romaine lettuce rubbed in a light mayo-derived dressing, shredded Parmesan, homemade baked croutons and tender marinated grilled chicken strips arranged like a star on top. Feast also on the Sweet Old Classic cheeseburger (14,750 LL), served with paprika-dusted, hand-cut fries and coleslaw.
Habib Hakim Street
Motto in Mar Mikhael serves home-style cuisine and leaves it to its customers to set their own prices. It’s an honor system, perhaps the first of its kind in Lebanon, relying on the judgment of buyers to rate their own customer experience and pay accordingly. The restaurant brings in a host of chefs from migrant communities dwelling in Lebanon. Filipino, Ethiopian, Thai, Indonesian—these are some of the ethnic cuisines that will soon find their way into Lebanese palates and hearts. Beyond the well-known spicy curries and rice of the Far East, the kitchen also crafts less familiar dishes using Southeast Asian vegetables like kangkong, or water spinach.
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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