You know what makes any cocktail lounge automatically better in my opinion? Throw some hummus on it. AB Lounge just opened in the lower level of Lebanese restaurant Al Bustan on East 53rd street, and I am quite impressed so far. Considering I have been there twice this past week, I'd say I'm a pretty good judge. Their refreshing cocktails are great, and the Lebanese bar fare is delicious, albeit a bit heavy. Carbo-loading during happy hour? There are certainly worse things.
The interior of the lounge is not very big, which is nice because it has that cozy, modern-Euro vibe with low white leather stools and dark wood tables adorned with candles and peanuts. Yes, candles and peanuts. Why not?
I was feeling a bit under the weather last night, so per Elie's recommendation (the very friendly bartender and one of many Elie's in the establishment), I tried the Ginger Cucumber cocktail. His and my reasoning was that ginger is good for you when you're sick. Score. I was also at AB Lounge two nights ago for my best friend Nick's birthday, and Elie had me sip cognac with lemon and honey in it. How nice is that? I told him I was sick and he made a drink to cure me. While it may not have cured me, it certainly was strong enough to numb my throat and make me forget that I was sick. Win-win.
Moving on to the food. Hummus is one of my favorite things to eat in the world. I eat it every day (not kidding), so I know good hummus when I taste it, and AB Lounge has GOOD hummus; there was also a spicy hummus that was delicious. Their falafel is nothing short of scrumptious either - it's smashed chickpeas with cumin and coriander, rolled into balls then deep fried. Some places bake their falafel, but I think everything is better when you fry it, like many of the other offerings on AB's menu, like the Rakakat Jibeh (fried phillo "cigars" stuffed with feta cheese), and the traditional Kibbeh (fried ovals of ground beef and cracked wheat stuffed with lamb, onion and pine nuts). Kibbeh is one of the most popular dishes in Lebanon supposedly, but it's a little too heavy for me. I really liked the Fatayer though, which I believe is baked, not fried (even though it has the word "fat" in it). It's similar to a Greek spinach pie, but instead of feta cheese, there's walnuts, and instead of phillo dough, it's pastry dough. In short, it's heavier.
AB Lounge looks promising, the only downside for me is the drink prices: $12 each. Even though the drinks are strong and quite delicious (def try the Ginger Cucumber and Al Bustan's Garden), I think that's a bit pricey for the area. If they institute a happy hour special though, they'll be in business. Half-off apps or something would be good enough for me – ample food always justifies hefty drink prices in my head.