Here's Our Tip: Rush to Amalfi Before Everyone Finds Out About It
"Rush" is the key word right now when it comes to Amalfi, the new Mediterranean restaurant with entrees prepared by Chef Giancarlo Ferrara. Rush to get to it because while there's usually not a large wait for a table, that will change. Once you do get to Amalfi, do not be in a rush to leave. Although the service is attentive and courses arrive in a timely fashion, the food is stuff to be painstakingly savored. Barrel your way through your courses and you'll miss out on the nuances latent in the flavor architecture of each dish.
On a chilly night early in the week, Amalfi's dimly it dining room was buzzing with energy. My dining companions and I began with a starter of Scottish salmon cured in sugar, lemon, orange, and sea salt, whose warm citrus notes and strong briny notes were well complemented by a base salad of julienned zucchini and carrots in orange-infused olive oil. Fragrant herb cream cheese lay within the rolls of salmon. This dish is technically a special, though I hope it becomes a permanent fixture on the menu.
The second course, as its name predicted, was a mouthful. Polipo arrostiti con scarola al capperi offered layers of spices, textures, plants, and proteins that gave rise to one of the most unusual mollusk dishes I have ever encountered. Resting on a bed of sauteed escarole were strips of roasted octopus infused with a pairing of garlic and rosemary.
Butternut squash ravioli with lobster.
Pasta lovers will be more than satisfied with the butternut squash ravioli made in house and dressed with lobster morsels and black truffle cream. The squash, egg, carbohydrates, and cream gave the dish a robust sweetness tempered by intermittent bursts of savory from the fungi and buttery lobster.
Risotto with giant prawns.
The zucchini risotto buttressed by over-size prawns whose fire-engine red heads (still on) added a burst of color. Such an entree, while satisfying, could easily be written of as a one-note wonder if not for the Chef's use of fennel pollen adding its licorice flavor.
A succulent fracosta, rib eye marinated with rosemary, garlic and grain mustard provided an earthy, robust finale that almost made me throw down my napkin, except....
...then the torta caprese with pistachio ice cream in porto reduction arrived, paired along side a glass of sweet Ramandolo and a slice of tiramisu crowned with amoretto cookies and toasted almonds and black truffle gelato. Both were delicate in flavor. Portions, thankfully, were modest and perfect for sharing, though admittedly there was some monopolization of the black truffle gelato by an unnamed party. Next time, we'll remedy this situation by taking a pint to go.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.