Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Angry Monkey is flying high

A night out at The Angry Monkey
It is difficult to refuse an invitation by my friend Mohammad Hijazi (@mhijazi). So I set off to the latest nightspot in Beirut’s Gemmayzeh for the opening night of The Angry Monkey last Wednesday (August 31).

It’s always exciting to head to Gemmayzeh, the district nestled between Downtown Beirut and Ashrafieh and renowned for its bars, pubs, cafés and restaurants. The last time I headed there was for a salsa night last November. 

Gemmayzeh’s main street, Rue Gouraud, has the highest concentration of night venues lining the narrow alleyways, to the dismay of residents who often complain about the noise of both revelers and cars that pack the streets every night. Makdessi Street, parallel to Hamra Street in West Beirut, is catching up and striving to rival Gemmayzeh.

It's at the entrance to The Alleyway in Gemmayzeh
The Angry Monkey is towards the end of Rue Gouraud and part of The Alleyway, an arcade grouping several food, drink and shopping outlets. 

My friend Maggie drove me there. On the way, we were worrying about handing over the car for valet parking, which has a sullied reputation in Beirut. But finding a parking spot at 10 p.m. in Gemmayzeh is almost impossible.

The place was packed to the brim
The place was already packed to the brim when we arrived, as were most of the pubs and restaurants we passed by while driving down the street.

Our host, Hijazi, had a table at the back, next to the entrance. We had a good view of the stage where Lebanese rock band JLP was already performing to great cheers from the crowd.

Mohammad, Joseph, Sara and Michel
Patrick, Sara and Roy
A jovial group joined Maggie, Hijazi and me. And, once more, it was good to meet virtual Twitter friends. With Sara Bitar, Joseph Maalouf, Michel Richa, Patrick Abdel Sater and Roy Jibrin, we were guests of Ziad Kamel, who is The Angry Monkey owner and The Alleyway CEO.

Lori, Gino, Ziad and Hijazi
Accompanied by Lori Kharpoutlian, the king of Beirut nightlife and club reviews Gino Raidy joined us in next to no time. With Gino there, I won’t even try to review The Angry Monkey!

Sara and Michel show off the Beef Short Ribs
What I can say though is that we got a royal treatment. Everyone else probably felt the same. With such a big crowd on opening night, orders were arriving in the blink of an eye. Amiable staff kept clearing empty bottles and glasses and replacing ashtrays in a flash. The food we tried -- Monkey Burgers, Stacked Shrimp and Beef Short Ribs --  was excellent. Ziad did not stop welcoming and mingling with revelers that night, most of whom – I am certain – will become The Angry Monkey’s habitués.

Lebanese rock band JLP performing at The Angry Monkey
JLP, the five-member acoustic band performing live on the night, play the best in rock, pop, alternative and oldies among others. They got the cheery crowd going early on and it was not long before we were all swinging to our favorite tunes and calling out requests.

The rock band consists of Boudy Boustany (vocals), Ramzi Ramman (guitar and vocals), Ghassan Bouz (percussion), Ziad Ramman (percussion), and Joe Mokbel (bass). They are regulars around Beirut and you can also catch them at Railway 1891 (pub/resto), Dany's, Boston Hamra Bar & Grill.

Maggie and Hijazi
We sang with them, swayed and clapped. It was difficult to speak much, but we had some excellent strawberry Margaritas and then someone had the bright idea of ordering shots, blackjack shots! Need I say more…?

Although I missed recording the shots, you can join us at The Angry Monkey in photos. An enchanting evening that will indeed be encored.

Related post: Salsa in Beirut, 11 November 2010