Feeling frozen from a day locked in air-conditioning, we were thrilled to snag one of two tiny outdoor tables at Amali to savor the tolerable evening heat. Tucked steps away from Bloomingdales, on the north side of 60th street, Amali brings something special to the UES. A cozy atmosphere, friendly and attentive service, and killer martinis give distinctive credit to the already phenomenal Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. We had a number of delicious plates at Amali, but what stood out most were the Feta and the Kofte. Oh and the martinis – but, of course, the martinis.
Warm Feta with Caramelized Figs, Chili, Arugula, Walnuts
This dish was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I became hooked on warm and/or flaming cheese when traveling through Greece, but this presentation and flavor fusion was soul-warming. Served in a cast iron skillet, two flat blocks of feta were heated to perfection and topped with perfectly caramelized (and oh so sweet!) halved figs. Arugula, gently tossed in what I assume was a reduction of the fig and balsamic, was placed on top of the hot cheese and smattered with warm walnuts. Every bite lent a different balance to the sheep’s milk base – the perfect sweetness from the fruit, contrasted by the pepper of the arugula and chili.
Also served in a cast iron skillet, these small lamb kofte were perfectly seasoned with cumin, onion and paprika. The sauce in which the meat balls were baked, though, was most delectable. A rather spicy tomato-based sauce sprinkled with chunks of feta and parsley, it was impossible to deny dipping every last bite of pita in the sharply but sweet braising reduction. I would have literally eaten this sauce “off a Turkish towel” as my grandfather might have said.
I can’t finish without noting also the Warm Marinated Olives with Fennel, Rosemary, Chili and Orange Peel. Amali clearly has their olive game down to a science, but I realized at this meal that the presentation of warm olives is a most simple and glorious introduction for the palate.
Lest we forget the martinis…