You know what never happens on the Upper East Side? Aside from women aging gracefully? Walking into a restaurant that's playing Lykke Li. But that's what happened when we first walked into Amali. Let's just say we got excited.
You've probably heard us gripe about the lack of anything decent in this area, especially considering how much everything costs - I'm waiting on some stocks to mature just so I can have dinner at Daniel again. Amali isn't much cheaper, but it's solid. Welcome to the neighborhood.
The idea at Amali is farm-to-table Mediterranean cuisine, which probably doesn't tell you much, unless you're a big fan of olives from upstate New York. What we can tell you is that the food is both interesting and delicious, which makes Amali stand out from the rest of the overpriced stalwarts of the Upper East Side. Add that up with a friendly staff and the aforementioned music selections, and you've got yourself a place we remain very high on, even after several years.
Some tips - go heavy on the vegetables section of the menu, and order something you might not usually go for. Translation...skip the fish this time. You might as well get some excitement for your money.
A tasty piece of bread with soft ricotta and some sliced fresh chiles for a little kick. This won't blow your mind, but it also won't make you angry. Proceed as you see fit.
This starter is a plate of sliced beets with a slightly salty cheese and some pistachios. We loved it, but we loved it because the flavors were soft, but still tasty. If you like beets, get it.
I'm a sucker for simple pasta, and this spaghetti with San Marzano tomato and little else was delicious. The problem is, there isn't much of it, and it's an $18 plate of food, which made me feel poor and small. I can't figure for the life of me what makes this costs so much.
As mentioned, the vegetables section of Amali's menu is where you need to get down, and this squash is the place to start. Some ricotta, some sage, and some aged balsamic make this the plate to order (assuming you aren't reading this in March).
You know what makes a plate of mushrooms taste really good? A poached egg. Let's do this.
This plate to me was what makes Amali a good restaurant. It's not easy to make eggplant exciting, and it often ends up slimy. This is a delicious presentation of four or five rolled pieces of eggplant with a "chili honey vinaigrette" and toasted sesame seeds. Amazing.
Amali boasts that they bring in whole lambs from some nearby lamb haven and butcher them in house. You should see various cuts of the little guys on the menu from time to time, and on our second visit, a loin was available. We went for it, and ended up happy we did. The meat was incredibly tender and it was served with a delicious crunchy puffed farro. It's an expensive plate ($39), but such is life in the East 60's.