I will admit it?ever since eating at Eros, I have been craving Greek/ Mediterranean/ Lebanese food something fierce. And since I obviously can?t afford to eat at Eros every day, I?ve been forced to find to suitable alternative. This week we decided to try to Al Amir, a restaurant not even two blocks away from our house that boasted large, appetizer styled menus. It’s nothing fancy, just some tables, a bar, big windows that look down on the busy street below, and some strobe lights that made up the dance floor. And apparently, the Lebanese dig their dancing. We started off with drinks, and when I asked for a cider, and waiter looked confused and ran to speak to the bartender. He came back with a glass full of amber liquid that tasted surprisingly alcohol free. So I inquired if the cider had alcohol in it. Again, the waiter ran back to ask the bartender and told me no, it did not have alcohol in it, and he had never heard of cider with alcohol in it. Okay. Well, I noticed they had vodka cruisers on the menu, a brand of fruit flavored vodka drinks, so I asked what flavors were available. This time, instead of just asking the bartender, the waiter brought him back to table, along with EVERY flavor of vodka drink they owned. Sure. Why not?
I only looked slightly like an alcoholic with all that liquor on my table. In the end, I picked a Ruski, a Russian lemon vodka drink. But the funny part was this whole ordeal didn?t annoy me. They weren?t being difficult on purpose. They just didn?t know, and you gotta laugh at that. It helped that my Ruski kicked ass and consequently made me miss my Russian friend Elena in Chicago, as all good vodka drinks do. The restaurant specializes in serving large, multi course meals, so we went for the medium sized meal, mainly because it had falafel in it, and I had a hankering for some. The meal included appetizers, mains, dessert and coffee, and our meal was $28 a person. Pretty affordable for such a big meal, and when you see how much food we got, it was a freaking deal. First came the mezze, the appetizers. There are nine on this one platter, and more than enough for two people. NINE, people. Nine different chances for deliciousness to happen all over my mouth. So excited at this point.
Let?s see if the Ruski affected my memory or not?there was humus, of course, and the smoky eggplant dish baba ganoush, a yogurt dip, a mysterious garlicky dip, marinated artichokes that tasted they like they a head of garlic in them it was so delicious, dolmades, or rice stuffed grape leaves, little ground beef filled pastries, spinach and feta stuffed pastries, and of course, falafel. Wow. And that was just the beginning. The dish that came out next was a Lebanese specialty they like to call over friendly belly dancer. Over friendly belly dancer started out on the ?dance floor?, busting a move to really loud Lebanese music.
Okay. My partner and I tried to enjoy it, but her dancing was quite, um, provocative? It reminded us both of a strip club, which surprisingly doesn?t go that well with falafel. Over friendly belly dancer then started dancing up on people sitting at tables eating. A lot. My partner pointed out in the nicest way possible that she even smelled like stripper. I didn’t ask questions, I simply accepted the information and moved for more falafel.
Next came a huge dish of tabouli, way too much for two people but fresh and light and great with the nine other dishes. It was at this time the O.F. Belly dancer started dancing with a stick. A rather long stick that came perilously close to several diners? heads. Then our mains arrived, a combo platter of three different chargrilled meats; chicken, lamb kebabs and lamb skewers with fries and aioli. They were all great, the kebabs were my favorite, nice and meaty and fun to eat with the remaining dips and tabouli.
It was also at this time that O.F. Belly dancer lady decided to start pressuring diners to dance with her. She went from table to table, dragging unwilling people up from each table to shake her rack at them. By this point, I had to order ?stare at the food! Stare at the food!? I felt like a kid at school who forgot her homework. If I just don?t look, I won?t get called on? I?m not afraid of a little stripper, er, belly dancing, mind you. But it was a long, cold, rainy Friday full of work and school, and I just wanted to eat and disappear. Not get dragged up to shimmy next to some hot belly dancer?s rack. I save that for my Saturday nights. By this point, there was just too much food on the table! Its a sight I’d like to see more often!
We were so full, we could barely make it through the meats. But thankfully, my stomach of steel always saves room for dessert. We ended up with baklava and Turkish Delight, a rose water flavored gummy candy that is SUPER popular in Australia.
I personally find Turkish Delight a little overpowering, but the baklava was moist and sweet. And I could barely move. But the belly dancer started looking our way, so we made a run for it. Thank God for the nice long two block walk home. It helps me keep my girlish figure. All in all, Al Amir was a pretty good place. The food was good?-not amazing, like Eros, but still worth a trip or two. It also seems like the perfect place to bring a group of friends. Cheap menu with tons of food and over friendly belly dancers just waiting to shake their rack at you. Yay. ~LTG