Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A visit to Ameer's Mediterranean Grill

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 9:36 AM

"No, but we've got a woman in the kitchen, if you'd like to go back there and watch her."

That was the quite wry owner of Ameer's Mediterranean Grill when I asked him last Friday if the restaurant featured belly dancers. His answer was a relief. Typically, I find the dancing annoying. I find it even more annoying when two of my friends get up and dance with them, as they did at Nicola's a few months back. You haven't lived 'til you see belly line dancing.

Ameer's really isn't that kind of place. It's as absent decor as you can get. You order at a harshly lit counter and take a seat at tables straight out of a cheap diner. It almost makes you yearn for the cozy ambiance of the spam-purveying Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ joint with the twinkling lights next door.

But the food redeems everything. First of all, you can fully trust the Israeli owner. When we were going dumbly back-and-forth about what to have on our Super Sampler plate, he interrupted. "Don't even try. I will decide." Everything on the plate was first-rate but two dishes were of the quality that sticks in your memory. First was the falafel, obviously made when ordered: crispy orbs of green, velvety chickpeas and fava beans (I'm guessing). Second was the hummus. I usually find hummus meh. Ameer's is inexplicably deep in flavor and creamy enough to swirl your finger in.

Of entrees on the table, I thought the best was the beef and lamb shawarma sliced off the traditional vertical spit. I'm always nervous about ordering this. More than a few times, I've ordered shawarma and been presented something like gyro, which is usually made with ground meat and is way too greasy for my taste and digestion. But this was classic shawarma. Get it.

I was also pleased with the lamb shank (above, right) I ordered. Or I should say the lamb shank the owner ordered. I was equivocating over the shank, the cornish hen, and kabobs. "Lamb shank!" he insisted. He did not, however, tell me that it was going to be kind of skinny. I don't like delicious and skinny.

There's much more to try here, including fresh desserts scented with rose water. And that perfumy sweetness does bring up my only complaint here: too much onion now and then.

All meat here is halal-certifed, by the way.

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