Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Exploring Amar’s Traditional Lebanese Dish: Sheikh El Mehchi

Today we’re traveling across the culinary globe to Lebanon with the help of Amar owner Nicolas Kurban. The quaint modern Mediterranean bistro, which opened earlier this year, invites you in to indulge and savor traditional homemade food: the same dishes Kurban’s mom use to make for him to enjoy after school in Lebanon.  

Lebanese food revolves around family and sharing; sitting around the table for endless hours. Thirty-minute dinners don’t exist in this dining tradition. There’s a connection with the food and with everyone else at the table. 

“Food is connected with culture, family and history,” Kurban says. 

After a variety of notable positions in the hospitality industry, including posts with Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Wynn Las Vegas and the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Kurban still had an itch to open his own restaurant. But even before those jet-setting jobs, his passion for food and hospitality blossomed when he was a teenager working in his dad’s restaurant in Lebanon. That experience led him to pursue a hospitality management degree at Ohio State University before moving back to Lebanon to open his own restaurants. 

When COVID hit last year and his Kimpton Hotels job, which required miles of traveling, was suddenly grounded, he decided to take the leap. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” he says. “What I didn’t really know is how much people were going to like it. The cuisine is unique.”

As Boca residents for more than three years, Kurban and his wife Susanna, who is Amar’s culinary director and bakes all of the desserts, searched tirelessly until they found the perfect space directly on the flourishing Atlantic Ave.

“Atlantic Avenue has a huge momentum,” he shares. “There’s so much development. The whole thing is shifting towards that area where I am.” 

While Lebanon’s quintessential fare–think hummus and falafel–is familiar, there are a few items on Amar’s menu that might not be, including sheikh el mehchi. Translating to “the king of stuffing,” the dish features baby eggplant stuffed with minced meat, baked in a tomato and red pepper sauce and served with rice. According to Kurban, a lot of Lebanese restaurants focus on mezes, or shareable tapas plates like tabouleh or kibbeh, because that’s not what Lebanese people eat at home but do enjoy eating when dining out. Instead, for his restaurant Kurban wanted to introduce his patrons to his grandmother and mother’s family recipes, like the sheikh el mehchi. Don’t worry, you’ll still find the creamy hummus on the menu. 

522 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561.865.5653; amardelray.com


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Christie Galeano-DeMott
Christie is a food lover, travel fanatic, bookworm, Francophile, and she believes art in all its forms is good for the soul. When she’s not writing about the incredible dishes, people and places that capture South Florida's culture and vibe, Christie is irresistibly happy in the company of her husband and a glass of red wine.

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