I neglected to post anything last night because a friend from Jordan surprised us and took us out to dinner. Is there anything better than an unexpected good catch-up while eating some really delicious food? Now, this friend has spent a lot of time in Lebanon and fancies himself a bit of a fish aficionado. As Jordan is a fish wasteland, he craved the local stuff that is abundant here and we made a booking at Al Sultan Brahim, an upscale fish restaurant in downtown Beirut. The enormous and somewhat sterile room is packed with long wooden tables filled by entire families sharing plates of traditional mezze and lots and lots of fish. There is the requisite fresh fish on ice display, where you go, take a look, and decide on what you will tackle and how. They weigh it and then take it to the kitchen to be prepared.
I learned a lot about the little local fish of the Mediterranean and devoured more than I should have of crispy, meaty, fried fish. My favorite was the restaurant’s namesake, the sultan ibrahim (a small red mullet) which you put in your mouth whole, working the flesh from the bones. It’s a delightfully primeval experience. Grilled octopus, giant prawns, sea bream, some ugly eel-like fish I can’t remember the name of right now. The dishes just kept coming, as did the Beirutis, dressed to the nines with blow-outs and jewelry and furs (keep in mind it was in the upper 50s here last night) – the room slowly filling with a white haze of sweet argylle (hubbly bubbly) and cigarette smoke. It made me eager for summer to arrive so we can go to the beach, fill up on fried fish and french fries, bask in the sun with friends!