Amali Restaurant & Bar
Sometimes going to a restaurant without any knowledge or preconceived thoughts of what the place may be like turns out to be something very special. That was the case when we made a last minute visit to Amali. After a holiday party that was lacking in the food department, we were hungry. Having met the chef and owner of Amali at an event a few days prior, we gave them a call to see if it was alright to come in. They graciously invited us, so we jumped in the car and drove right over.
Amali is special in many ways. Let’s start with sustainability, a core value of this restaurant. We have seen and heard many restaurants talk about farm to table, sustainability, etc., but Amali lives it, from the food that they purchase, the wines that they serve and the design of the space. They have made a holistic commitment to the ideal of sustainability which doesn’t end with food and drink, but extends economically by participating with and supporting numerous local charities, organizations and groups that promote environmental respect and biodiversity.
The food at Amali is inspiring. The menu is based on the Mediterranean way of life and emphasizes vegetables, olive oil, cheese, grains, fish and lamb. Put into the caring hands of visionary Chef Nilton Borges, Jr., this cuisine is elevated to a sublime and emotional experience. The Spanish octopus a la plancha was some of the best octopus we have ever tasted, tender with a beautiful char flavor from the plancha, dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette, perfection. The two pastas that we had, the spaghetti with cured San Marzano tomatoes and the squid ink pasta with calamari were both as good as it gets and all of the pasta is crafted in-house. Spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes is something that we all love and is generally very simple in preparation. Chef Junior takes this into another world as he cures the tomatoes in a two-day process that brings out elements of flavor that will change the way you think about tomatoes. The lamb is in a category all to itself and probably the most satisfying and unique example of just how skillful Chef Junior is. The lamb is first braised and then shredded into luxurious strands. It is then reassembled into what you would only consider a to be a block of pure lamb goodness. This block of heaven is then seared and served with an ethereal lamb reduction. We actually had to stop eating it at one point to meditate to regain our composure! This is a dish that you can honestly call a game-changer! Every dish that was presented to us was well crafted, thoughtful and memorable. Chef Juniors flavors are clean, bold and honest.
We also enjoyed some incredible wines that were selected for us by owner James Mallios. You know you are in for a treat when the decanter arrives at the table and you are told that the wine has been opened so it had a chance to breathe. The 2000 vintage Oikonomy Sitia from Greece that we were privileged to experience was over the top. This quite rare wine was a perfect choice to pair with Chef Junior’s cuisine. With a wine list of nearly 400 selections, James has received awards from Wine Spectator (Award for Excellence in 2011 & 2012) and Wine & Spirits Magazine (Top Ten Newcomer, 2012). Not only is James incredibly knowledgeable about his wine, he is a fantastic host and operator that understands what a dining experience is all about.
We really loved Amali. This is the kind of food that you want to eat. Please go and pay Amali a visit and let them know that Men Who Dine sent you!