Tasty tabbouleh and shawarmas (below right) like these are mainstays at Amal’s
Long before the tapas and meze craze, dinner parties at our house often kicked off with Middle Eastern small plates of baba ghanouj, dolmas and hummus, even if the main course was from another ethnicity altogether. At lunchtime gatherings, those dishes were often the entire menu. We love all that stuff, and it’s easy to make. (Well, stuffed grape leaves are time-consuming, so we cheat and buy those in tins.)
Now there’s a new little place on Chestnut Street in New Paltz offering real deal versions, and named to prove it: Amal’s Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine. It’s the latest endeavor of Amal Maseer, an Iraqi woman whose career path winds from teacher and magazine contributor when she lived in Baghdad, to cafe owner and belly-dancing instructor since she settled in New Paltz.
The simple storefront setting has a tile floor, a handful of tables, and a couple of red pleather booths. It looks like a low-key coffee shop, but a camel figure in the window and Maseer’s paintings of Bedouins and Baghdad street scenes are clues that the cooking is of a more exotic nature.
You’ll find all the standards like falafel, kebabs, tabbouleh and shawarmas, along with lesser-known regional specialties such as kooba (dumplings stuffed with ground beef and onions) and muhammara (a red pepper dip with pomegranate molasses, bread crumbs and lemon juice).
Too bad that when we dropped by for some take-out, the cafe was closed. But Quinn at In Good Taste, the excellent wine shop nearby, said he’d recently sampled a shawarma and offered this mini review: “The meat was tender, well-cooked and well-spiced. Overall good stuff.”
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