Off The Record: Amman speakeasy is a true ‘hidden gem’

(Photos: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
Dim lighting, vintage décor, jazz music, and best of all: a “secret” location. Speakeasies carry on their legacy from the times of Prohibition in 1920s USA, when the establishments were frequently found in hidden caverns or gloomy bars that attracted little public attention, allowing the spaces the clandestine ability to serve alcohol in times when it was illegal.اضافة اعلان

The term “speakeasy” is said to have come from the patrons having to whisper, or speak “easy”, when attempting to enter the hidden bars. And though the times have changed, the novelty of whispering a secret password to “get in” has not.

In recent years, legal bars have capitalized on the concept of historic speakeasies, bringing a sense of uniqueness to the dining experience by incorporating a layer of secrecy. Some have entry passwords and others choose unassuming locations, tucked into alleyways or behind plain doorways with no signs.

OTR, or “Off The Record”, which boasts that it is the first authentic speakeasy in Amman, has taken the latter route. There is no valet service, and no sign advertising the bar — one could easily walk by without realizing that a food and drink establishment is just behind one of its unobtrusive walls.

I had heard multiple times about OTR, and that it was located “somewhere” in the Um Uthaina area. This week, I decided to scout out the place for myself. Thankfully, though the restaurant is not recognizable from outside, the location itself is provided on its social media pages.

A trip back in time to 1920s USAs I stepped into OTR, I was greeted with a dimly lit ambiance and a classy vibe. The décor is elegant, and the bar’s display gives the place a vintage umph. Wood, brick, iron, and 1920s lighting fixtures truly hit the speakeasy mark.

The beverage menu features a wide selection of spirits, wines, and house specialty cocktails. I tried the basil mule and the gin bloom, and both beverages were mixed nicely, with a balance of flavors and a hint of sweetness that was not overpowering.

Even the selection of glassware for the cocktails at OTR brought value to the beverage itself — one must truly give credit when the thought of the beverage is not only limited to the cocktail’s ingredients, but also to its vessel.

As for the food, the menu is simple and straightforward: cold appetizers and salads, hot appetizers, and nibbles. The menu has an international influence with seasonal ingredients.

Simply deliciousI ordered the beetroot salad in balsamic vinaigrette, the Tuna tataki, the fish tacos, brisket sliders, and rosemary parmesan fries.

The salad was simple in presentation, the balsamic vinaigrette brought an excellent degree of acid to the beetroots, and the goat cheese complimented the dish with its creaminess— a simple and flavorful dish.

The Tuna tataki, which consists of a slightly seared tuna sliced and served with togarashi spices, was well seasoned, which was my main concern at first since many places forget to season the fish. I would have appreciated it if there was a sauce served with this dish like a light ponzu, or even just soy sauce would have done the trick.

Three mini fish tacos were served after; the fish was fried golden and topped with slaw and a sauce. Flavor-wise, the tacos were light, a little citrusy, and not overbearing. My main comment on this dish is the portion of fish — I would have preferred a bit more.

The brisket sliders were presented on soft brioche buns with pickles and jus. The brisket was very tender, making each bite easy, with lots and lots of flavor, especially with a sprinkle of jus.

I did enjoy that the brisket sliders concept was all about the meat itself instead of hiding the flavor of the brisket under a pile of other ingredients. Even though I was a little skeptical at first, it was not at all disappointing.

The overall experience at OTR was memorable, especially given the quietness of the location, the dimmed, comfortable ambiance, the excellent drinks, and great food. I highly recommend trying Amman’s speakeasy, even for a drink — if you can find it, that is.

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