At a midsummer picnic in a lovely garden in Harlem, I had the pleasure to meet Lil Nickelson and listen to her engaging commentary on her neighborhood. Somehow I persuaded her to share one of her top restaurant picks with Girl Around Town. Enjoy. And try not to drool on your keyboard.
Brenda is one of my life long sister friends that I met in undergraduate school at Adelphi University in a year that Brenda would prefer I not mention, so I won’t. We used to eat dinner together every night back then; this dinner at Amali’s has turned into our only chance to get together the entire summer. We talk on the phone on a regular basis, but it’s not the same as when we get together.
We chatted about what’s been happening since we last spoke as we sipped on our drinks. Once the food started arriving dish by dish, it, how good it tasted became the main focus of our conversation. We spoke of which taste buds were being triggered as we savored our meal, vowing to return as we were leaving. That’s a sure sign of a great place to eat that I want to share with you…
James Mallios and his partners have created Amali as a relaxing atmosphere with a rustic décor that creates a “lived in” feel, making you comfortable right away.
Executive Chef Nilton Borges, Jr. (“Junior”), a humble Afro-Brazilian man, is a 31-year-old chef who in 10 years in this country has learned to speak English and cook like a dream. He’s worked in several Michelin-rated restaurants and attained his culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute.
Junior personally selects food from the markets (Fulton Fish or Union Square). The restaurant also partners with a local Montauk fisherman. Individual steers sourced from local farms are butchered in house.
The seasonal menu changes weekly, based on offerings from the markets and suppliers, and lists the main ingredients without a description of how the dish is prepared. Quelle surprise!
We sipped on peach white wine sangria, savored bread with oil and dug into some appetizers; spicy meatballs and polenta with micro greens topped with red and yellow cherry tomatoes dressed with a light vinaigrette that didn’t to make the mini polenta cakes soggy. The meatballs had just the right amount of heat, and the cherry tomatoes were at their peak, bursting with flavor with every bite.
Our linguine was prepared with the exact ingredients listed covered with a light and creamy sauce; smoky salt from bacon and sweet corn competing with the lump crabmeat for our taste buds’ attention.
The boneless lamb loin was seared to medium rare perfection with toasted pine nuts, those delicious cherry tomatoes, white and green asparagus tips, and micro greens with warm balsamic vinaigrette.
Oh, by the way: Dessert? House-made blueberry and cantaloupe sorbet. Smooth, not overly sweet and a perfect ending to a great meal. Chef Junior sent out rosemary shortbread cookies straight from the oven and the scent of rosemary engulfed my mouth as the taste of butter, sea salt, and sweet tantalized my taste buds.
115 E. 60th Street (bw Lex & Park)
NY, NY 10065
Let’s be honest: Even if you’re stuffed like a turkey after Thursday, we’re sure you’ll find room for a meal at Amali. Fall’s menu features braised meats, stews inspired by one-pot meals (a Brazilian custom), ragus and roasted vegetables.
YUM! Thank you, Miss Lil.