As the buds of spring begin to bloom, Amalia's, the latest addition to the downtown Bend restaurant roster, offers an array of organically focused Mexican cuisine for lunch and dinner. With an emphasis on family-friendly dining by day, and a lounge with DJs spinning on weekend nights, Amalia's seems to have it all together.
Chef Roberto Cardenas is a friendly face constantly abuzz around the restaurant, maintaining a strong presence with guests to ensure satisfaction. He has chosen a fine group of fresh-faced servers to head up the front-of-house operations. The Amalia's menu is comprised of innovative, contemporary Mexican cuisine with lots of flavor, color and variety.
From seafood to pork, chicken, beef and tofu, the seemingly small menu offers a wide range of options for high-quality, predominantly organic Mexican food. Dishes are colorful, seasoned and kind of sexy. The dinner menu appetizers include the Jitomate Relleno, a perfectly prepared vegetarian dish in which ripe red tomatoes are stuffed with sautéed spinach, garlic, pecans and cotija cheese, then baked and served on a plate ringed with bright salsa verde. Dinner entrees include the Relleno de Langosta, a Pasilla pepper stuffed with sautéed lobster, veggies and cilantro with rice and a flavorful pepper-orange sauce.
The lunch menu includes several dinner entrées properly portioned for lunch, daily tamales and their Six Dollar menu that mixes the traditional (quesadilla) with the creative (Mexican club sandwich). The Tacos de Asada were served in delicious house-made corn tortillas, the steak was seasoned perfectly, and the salsa, rice and black beans were well portioned. The Puerco al Pastor, traditionally served with pineapple, was a dish of slow-braised shredded pork with spices of cinnamon, clove and chili. Presented atop a banana leaf, the color was rich and tempting and the aroma alluring, but a few bites revealed only a small amount of meat present within the delicious gravy-like sauce. The Jicama y Naranja salad with grilled shrimp was another disappointment. The salad dressing, which was served on the side, refused to mix with the spinach. No matter how many times the salad was tossed, the dressing fell to the base of the plate in a watery pool.
Amalia's bar features an extensive tequila and margarita list. On a Saturday evening, I chose the Pineapple-Chili margarita, but found it watered down and not at all spicy. My friend's traditional margarita was a little better than mine and best of all were two shots of sipping tequila sent over by a friend. On another occasion, we chose a Re-Fresh cocktail, which stayed true to its name with a blend of tequila, basil, cucumber and lime. For the margarita list and selection of tequilas on hand, the presence of a knowledgeable bartender would have gone a long way. Yet, on each visit, I was impressed by the staff's hospitality and menu knowledge. Dressed professionally, the servers exhibited a sense of urgency and worked as a team, with the exception of a young bus boy who served our chips and salsa on a tray that had almost as much discarded food on it as the bistro apron he was wearing. A quick, once-over by a head-waitperson at the start of the shift might have set this hard-working high-schooler's wardrobe snafu straight.
So as the Norway maples, serviceberry trees and daffodils prepare to flower and summer calendars get filled with concerts and trips, Amalia's has also just arrived, blossoming into its own just in time for spring. With a careful eye on detail - ensuring that food leaving the kitchen and drinks leaving the bar are properly made - Amalia's will be well on its way to establishing itself as a much-needed presence in downtown Bend.
915 NW Wall Street
Lunch and Dinner Daily
DJ Fri. and Sat. Nights