I’m going to cut to the chase as they say. Amal Miami is not just one of the best restaurants in Coconut Grove, I’d say it’s the best and a destination in itself. We’re not talking about splashy decor (though for sure it’s casually elegant and attractive), but rather, wonderful food which is Lebanese with a contemporary take. Everything we had was delicious and artistically presented, plus there are over three dozen Lebanese wines to make for a complete experience. The 180 seat Amal Miami has been open for a little over two months and the word is out. It’s not easy to get a reservation.
You might be wondering, how is this Lebanese food different from other Middle Eastern cuisine you can find in Miami? I posed this question to Chef Wissam Baki who hails from Lebanon. He referenced the many herbs and spices, vegetables, fresh ingredients, and simple flavors.
The menu is divided into dips, starters, salads, hot mezze, skewers, entrees, sides, skewer platters and dessert (a separate menu).
We began with two starters, one of which is uniquely Lebanese. Both were highly touted in online reviews and we could see why. The truffle rakakat is a roll made with phyllo and filled with sweet akawi cheese, honey, and mint then topped with pistachios and purple grapes for a flourish ($14) .
A fave was the oh so lightly fried eggplant and zucchini in large, thin slices arranged over labneh, similar to a dense yogurt laced with savory seasonings, pomegranate seeds and golden raisins ($14). You can dip the vegetables or spread the labneh over the slices. Next up was the Sujuk, small pieces of aged tangy beef sausage garnished with chopped tomato ($16). If you like sausage, this is not to be missed, very satisfying and delicious.
Mr W, the carnivore, opted for the pistachio kabab, a blend of minced beef and lamb off a skewer and in a novel touch, encrusted with pistachios ($30). The meat was flavorful and tender. I couldn’t decide between a crowd favorite, the fried fish, or black cod, but on the suggestion of Kamal, the manager extraordinaire, opted for the cod. And was I happy I did. I put a fork to it and it broke into small pieces it was so fresh. The sauce, made with tahini, cilantro, pine nuts and lemon, perfectly complemented the fish ($42). It was the best cod I’ve ever had. Sides are available ($6-$8) including basmati rice topped with slivered roasted almonds and house made fresh fries spiced with a house blend.
Perfect for a family or small group of friends are their skewer platters with pita, grilled vegetables, home fries plus an assortment of skewers and in the case of the platter for four, tiger shrimps ($68 for two people; $140 for four people).
We ended the meal with what will be one of my best desserts of the year, the date cake. It was a piece of just sweet enough moist cake topped with whipped cream, then a caramel cookie and finally, vanilla ice cream. The mountain of goodness was surrounded by butterscotch sauce ($15). We also enjoyed a traditional Lebanese dessert, the kanafeh, made with semolina dough, pistachios, rose water, and filled with melted cheese, a close second.
Fernando Zamudio, the knowledgeable and delightful master sommelier guided us through the Lebanese wines including the flight of three wines (3 ounces each) for $45. If you want to go for the gold in the category get the delicious Massaya Gold Reserve ($160 a bottle) which happens to be on the wine flight. A glass of wine starts at $13 and bottles at $30.
The décor is stylish and comfortable. Expect natural materials – natural oak wood, bamboo, and rattan with a soft color palette of dusty rose, muted terracotta and pastel blues.Service is friendly and very good. Also, happy to see that there’s background music but at a level that doesn’t conflict with conversation.
Amal is open for dinner seven days a week and brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also on the way is Level 6 by Amal, a 5000 square foot rooftop bar and restaurant with a 360 degree view of Miami and Biscayne bay. It will be their answer to a club like restaurant and I predict it will be a big success. In fact, a prominent Miami Dade political figure came to see it and immediately booked it for his birthday party.
Parking is at an adjacent lot, a flat rate of $12.
Amal is owned and operated by the INK Entertainment Group which also has to its credit Byblos, another fave.
Best restaurants in Coconut Grove: Amal Miami, 3480 Main Highway, Coconut Grove.