Amal for Lunch (Toronto)

Perched over Bloor Street, Amal’s dining room is an oasis of calm with coastal tones and lattice walls coaxing me to stay for a leisurely lunch. Indeed, if the timing allowed, I could lounge there for an entire afternoon - with no pressure to order and eat quickly, Amal gives you the luxury of time to relax and enjoy.

Everyone seems to start with a cold mezze sampler platter ($27), three large mounds of prettily adorned dips where we opted for baba ghanoush, garlic labneh, and the lesser-known muhammara. The later is a zesty concoction made from a base of fire-roasted red peppers spiked with spices and diced walnuts that creates a bit of texture.

The muhammara a stark contrast against the cool and creamy labneh where toum (a garlic sauce) and mint tones down the acidity of the yoghurt while giving it an extra boost of flavour. Still, I enjoyed the more traditional baba ghanoush the most where the roasted eggplant with thick and pronounced, just lightly seasoned with lemon and tahini.

While their skewer platter arrives with a thick hummus, I found the garlic labneh went perfectly with the chicken tawok ($22 for full platter, pictured in the post is an extra skewer added on for a lesser price). The morsels of grilled chicken breast were juicy with a faint herb and garlic finish, but the creamy labneh just gave it an extra burst of flavour, like a milder and creamier tzatziki.

Yet, what made us swoon was the beef tenderloin skewer ($24), the outer cubes cooked a perfect medium rare that seemed to cut like butter.  They were great on their own, with a sprinkle of the chopped grilled onions and parsley, or even with a smear of baba ghanoush. The kitchen should consider leaving space between the cubes of beef as I did find the inner cubes too rare, likely since they had less contact with the grill.

With a choice of rice or fries, our waiter smartly suggested the spuds since they’d be easier to share. The potato wedges were wonderfully hot and crispy but could use a bit more seasoning. Luckily, we had plenty of dip remaining to dunk the fries into.

I have a feeling that the front-of-the-house and kitchen are in close communications, customizing the experience to the diners. The pace of our meal was timed perfectly, with the main hitting the table just as we had slowed on the mezze and was focused more on wine and conversation instead. Beside us, a group of business diners, who were eating more ferociously, saw the procession of dishes speed up. At Amal, the diners seem to dictate the pace of the meal, which is merely a mark of great hospitality. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 131 Bloor Street West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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