How pretty is this?I remarked to my sister, when I walked into Amal, a Modern Lebanese restaurant in Coconut Grove.
Walking into this space was like a breath of fresh air, with its high, lofty ceilings, neutral hues, wicker furniture, blue velvet chairs and white washed terra cotta pots filled with greenery. The graduated wicker lights lent a tropical air; the large, glass windows welcomed the outside into this oasis in the middle of Main Highway.
My sister had already gotten menu recommendations from a manager passing through, but our server was more than happy to offer ideas as well. The menu is divided into: Dips, Salads, Hot Mezze, Skewer Platters, Wraps, Entrees and Sides.
But first, drinks.
I ordered the Magenta, which seemed similar to my new favorite drink, the French 75. It has gin, lemon and ginger juice, lavender syrup, butterfly pea powder (which gives it its lovely hue), bitters and sparkling water. It came garnished with an orange marigold flower and was as visually stunning as it was refreshing- tart and sweet all at once.
My sister got the Secret Garden, served over ice in a tall tumbler, garnished with mint. It had vodka, Cointreau, lime, pomegranate and cucumber juice and rose water. Luckily, the rose water wasn’t overpowering and the cucumber juice gave it a clean, herbaceous flavor. When a server knocked it over while cleaning our table, they quickly supplied a new one.
We ordered the Sampler Trio, with a choice of three dips. We got the Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and Fire Roasted Red Peppers with spices and walnuts. The trio was beautifully plated, garnished with chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, microgreens, a skinny red pepper and walnut half. It arrived in a metal bowl, full of fluffy white pita bread and sliced pita in a brown bag.
It was all delicious. The Hummus was paler, denser and creamier than typical, grocery store hummus. The Red Pepper Spread had an interesting mix of flavors, with some texture, due to the walnuts. My favorite was the smoky Baba Ganoush, with the unexpected pop of sweet/tart from the pomegranate seeds.
The Hot Mezze we ordered (recommended by our server and the manager) was Truffle Rakakat. These cigar-shaped, filo dough delights arrived stacked up and served with roasted red grapes, still on the stem. The interior was filled with melty mozzarella, goat cheese and truffle. These crispy bundles were drizzled with honey and the ends studded with green, chopped pistachios. Our server suggested taking a bite of them with the grapes, for the best explosion of flavor.
They were delicious, the crunchy filo contrasting with creamy interior. The truffle taste was quite pronounced, but when paired with the other elements, worked perfectly. I offered to split the last one with my sister, but she declined.
“My stomach is telling me to stop eating,” she said.
“Mine is too, but I’m ignoring it.” I said and devoured the last one. After this lovely variety of appetizers and our drinks, we were both full.
Amal seems like a locals place where “ladies who lunch” frequent, with many beautifully dressed women, visiting other tables, air kissing and offering cheery greetings. As we finished the rest of the replaced drink (we split it) and sat there enjoying the lovely, relaxing atmosphere, we were ladies who lunch as well.
Amal means Hope in Lebanese and I certainly hope I return in the near future.
When I do, I’d like to try the Roasted Cauliflower (it went past our table several times and looked amazing!), the Garlic Labneh, the Lamb Chops and perhaps a Salad or Skewer. I also wouldn’t resist getting the Truffle Rakakat (their most popular dish) again.
3480 Main Highway
Coconut Grove, Miami 33133
Reservations made through Open Table.