When Byblos opened on Miami Beach in 2015, it brought something to town that we sorely lacked: a good Lebanese spot that didn’t look like it used to be a laundromat. Byblos puts out dishes that remind us why Middle Eastern food is so revered and does so in a glamorous space.
Now, Byblos has a sister restaurant, Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic. As in, we’re all hoping it’s as good as Byblos.
Amal is certainly attractive and aims high at elevating a cuisine that deserves it.
Toronto-based Ink Entertainment is behind both restaurants as well as a place north of the border, which is also called Amal. The formula at all three places is simple: serve up flavorful Middle Eastern dishes in spots that are simply stunning to behold.
At Amal in Coconut Grove, the designers took inspiration from Lebanon’s shoreline to create a nearly entirely white and terracotta space, with servers dressed in matching white shirts and beige aprons. Couches and large armchairs with oversized cushions are scattered around tables under light fixtures that look like portobellos the size of beach umbrellas. Patterned throw pillows and the green of plants put here and there add a bit of color. During the day, floor-to-ceiling windows blanket the place with sunlight and provide views over to the Barnacle Historic State Park. With 180 seats, it’s already a massive restaurant—but wait, but a 5,000-square-foot rooftop deck with views out to the bay will also be added.
The chef here is Wissam Baki, who left Lebanon to work for LPM in Dubai and then stopped off in Canada for two years before heading to Miami. He spent time in the kitchens of Estiatorio Milos and Jaya at the Setai before landing a head chef job at Astra in Wynwood. His dishes at Amal are, as they’ll tell you at the restaurant, meant to share. As you probably guessed, that means small, even entrees, like the five grilled tiger shrimps that come alone on a pool of spiced tomato emulsion. The largest of the plates are down at the end of the menu, where skewer platters for two or four arrive with pita, grilled veggies, fries and kebabs of steak, shrimp, or a meatball skewer of pistachio, lamb and beef. The platters are more of a jumble of things than a plated dish, one of the few exceptions to a place where what arrives at the table looks as pretty as the space.
Like Byblos before it, Amal is certainly attractive and aims high at elevating a cuisine that deserves it. Just maybe, it’s what you hoped it would be.