Alb Amman: Passion for food re-ignited

Alb Amman :
Passion for food re-ignited
Alb Amman, located in the First Circle area of Jabal Amman, serves Levantine cuisine with a philosophical twist. (Photos: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
This week, as I reconnected with a friend who shared in my culinary journey from the beginning, our conversation — one only two chefs could have — was filled with passionate discussions of cooking techniques and gastronomic pairings. And what better place to discuss the world of food than a true culinary establishment, with highly trained chefs exploring Jordan’s traditions and evolution through creative gastronomy? For this unique experience, we went to Alb Amman restaurant, located in Philosophy hotel at First Circle in Jabal Amman.اضافة اعلان

“Levantine cuisine with a philosophical twist”, states the restaurant’s social media page. I knew immediately that, as a chef, I would either love it or hate it.

The restaurant has modern, leather-accented décor, with a show kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work and a sweeping view of old downtown Amman. Somehow, I had a sense of time standing still, observing the people and the traffic go by as we sat in an up-scale restaurant infused with Levantine aromas, traditional and new.

.True culinary talent.
The menu is a testament to true culinary talent; the dishes have clearly been tested and honed through trial and error to execute out-of-the-box concepts that still manage to fit into the Amman landscape.

Salads, cold appetizers, hot appetizers, entrees, and desserts were listed across the pages, where Levantine cuisine was heavily featured — yet with intriguing twists.

We ordered the jameed Caesar salad, braised red cabbage with chimichurri sauce, black garlic falafel, Armenian sujuk flatbread, the beef Filet, and Alb Amman’s take on kunafa for dessert.

While Caesar salad is not a dish I would generally select, I knew I had to try this one. The jameed addition to dressing was extremely creative. The portion was excellent, and the taste and texture were still light, even with the Jameed dressing. The croutons were homemade, and crunchy enough — but not dry.

Now if I were heading in that direction, I would go all the way. To incorporate all the elements of Mansaf into this salad in a unique way, I would add green onions to the salad either in the dressing or on top and substitute the croutons with fried shraak bread that is cut into thin strips. Nevertheless, as-is, the dish is still an appealing appetizer.

.Crunch and char.
Moving on to the black garlic falafel, it was crispy and served on top of a garlic aioli that was not overwhelming, but complemented the crunchy chickpea main in a very balanced way. The texture was a bit denser than normal falafel, yet they had a depth of flavor that was an interesting contrast to the lightness of typical falafel. I would have added more sauce for dipping the falafel.

The charred red cabbage with chimichurri sauce was also an interesting twist on the appetizer side. The cabbage was braised and then charred. I enjoyed the contrast between the sourness of the chimichurri and the sweetness of the cabbage, but a little more char on the cabbage would add a welcome bitter kick to complement the dish even further.

The flatbread came next, topped with Armenian sujuk, tomato sauce, and cheese. While the flavor was good, perhaps the dough was a little too thick for a flatbread.

While munching on the four appetizers, we had the chance to speak to sous chef Sultan Dimes about the dishes the inspiration behind them. It was beautiful to see passionate, local talent with a flair for culinary creation working in Amman. During the discussion, he said that his favorite dish was the beef filet, the entrée we had ordered.

The beef filet was wrapped in vine leaves and served with buttermilk, sauce, roasted potatoes, shallots, and chive oil. I was a bit skeptical about the enrobing of vine leaves until the plate arrived at the table.

If I could describe the presentation in one word, it would be seductive. I never thought of adding buttermilk as a sauce for steak, nor of wrapping steak with vine leaves. The sourness of the leaves and the buttermilk complemented the rich meat in a unique way. The chive oil elevated the dish, and the roasted potatoes and shallots were exquisitely cooked and seasoned. Little salt flakes on the steak would be my only addition to this dish. Otherwise, it was spot-on.

We finished with a dessert that went straight to the heart: A twist on kunafa, with a whipped cheese and cream mixture topped with fried kunafa dough, transforming the traditional dessert into a pudding-like delicacy. I rarely use this word, but this dish was legendary.

The plating, the dishes used, the ambiance, and the experience at Alb Amman were truly memorable. I enjoyed every aspect of this creative and relatively small menu, which even reignited my own culinary passion.

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