While I only got to dine at one restaurant in Amman, I’m so glad it was Alee.
The most recent season of Top Chef, one of my favorite cooking competitions, was different than previous seasons as it was called Top Chef: World All-Stars where the cast were former contestants from several international editions of the show. Chef Ali Ghzawi was the winner of Top Chef Middle East in 2019 and came in fourth in the World All-Stars season. He’s a Jordanian chef and his restaurant is currently ranked 41 on the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants which is pretty cool (not to be confused with The World’s 50 Best Restaurants). Alee serves modern Levantine cuisine with a playful twist and the restaurant overlooks the city of Amman with an epic panoramic view.
One thing to note is the Alee doesn’t have a website, very strange given it’s 2023 so reservations can only be made via phone. The menu was divided into small bites, appetizers (ranging in size), main dishes and sides, and desserts. Once reviewing the menu, both Tommaso and I had a lot of questions for our server as we didn’t know half the words written on the menu. Luckily, he was very patient and explained numerous dishes to us.
This was the only small bite that we ordered and this tiny morsel was packed with flavor. On top of the crispy cracker there was a spread made from fermented bell pepper topped with sujuk (spicy fermented sausage made from ground beef) and pomegranate. It was slightly spicy, sweet, and a great bite to start off the meal.
We overhead the table next to us raving about this cauliflower dish so we decided to give it a shot and I’m so glad we did as it was one of our favorite dishes of the night. Who knew a vegetarian dish could be so tasty? While the roasted cauliflower was the star, all the components from the silky cauliflower purée, to the raw sweet diced apples and juicy pomegranate, and the herbaceous greens on top made for a really layered dish.
This was another fun dish with various textures of potato, a take on a traditional dish called batata harra (spiced potato). The creamy potato purée had bits of some sort of caramelized beef topped with shredded crispy potato strands with a Middle Eastern hot sauce (shatta) made from fermented chilis (green or red) around the perimeter of the plate.
These fritters were swimming in a luscious sauce made from Kashkaval, a type of cow’s milk cheese with a mild tangy and nutty flavor.
This was our least favorite dish of the night. While the veal was nicely cooked, very tender and not overcooked, the pomegranate glaze was lacking in intense flavor. I was expecting a sticky sweet glaze but this was anything but that.
Another delicious appetizer and the only seafood dish we tried was the shrimp in a tomato sauce with lavash crisps. I can’t recall the dollops of green sauce but I remember enjoying the dish overall.
This was a beautiful take on a traditional flatbread known as sfeeha or sfiha with minced meat. Their version had a mixture of ground beef with tahini and pomegranate molasses in a buttery soft dough served with whipped labneh (a type of yogurt) and a charred vegetable salsa.
For our main dish, we went with the braised lamb shank which was unctuous and decadent. Our only critique was that we wanted more of that savory lemon crumble topping.
I can’t recall every component of this dessert but the chocolate base was like a mousse topped with a silky ice cream.
I really enjoyed their interpretation of a dessert called basbousa, a syrup soaked semolina cake that can be flavored with orange blossom or rose water. Qamardeen is an apricot fruit leather and I remember tasting apricot but can’t pinpoint exactly which component had it.
The food at Alee was a breath of fresh air where flavor always ranked supreme but they were able to make contemporary dishes that were still reminiscent of traditional dishes. Service and ambience were also great so my rating is an 8/10.