Amal is doing socially distanced indoor dining and delivery, and has a heated second-floor patio for outdoor dining. Tables are held for social distancing, masks are required for anyone not seated, and sanitizer is available throughout the restaurant. Staff members' temperatures are checked regularly and they are instructed to stay home when sick.
Amal translates to hope and this restaurant serves Lebanese cuisine by Beirut-born Executive Chef Rony Ghaleb.
The second-floor restaurant replaces French brunch spot La Société, and is owned by Toronto nightclub king and Lebanese Canadian Charles Khabouth.
Studio Munge is responsible for the 5230-square-foot space's serene blue and white makeover, complete with loungey low couches, lots of fluffy pillows and jaw-dropping hand-painted ceiling tapestry.
Glowing, cove-like semi-private areas pop out of the space, adding further intrigue to the complex dining room.
A sampler ($25) of three of the four cold dip options comes with house pita bread.
It's baked to order, fist-sized, crackery on the outside and soft on the inside.
My favourite is a potent garlic labneh made with toum and mint and topped with an entire roasted clove of garlic, closely followed by a bold muhammara of fire-roasted red pepper, house spices and walnuts.
Hummus is more typical, but it's silky smooth and I like that it's topped with whole chickpeas.
Oily marinated olives ($8) make for a good accompanying starter, a wide variation of olives flavoured with bay leaves, dried chili and citrus.
Tabbouleh ($16) is vegan and gluten-free, strongly parsley-forward with mint, tomato, onion and an olive oil lemon emulsion. Served with a wedge of lime, the small lettuce leaves could be used for scooping.
The pistachio kabab is pricey at $32 for what you're getting, but the flavour is absolutely phenomenal, like a very rich and fatty meatball. The crunch of pistachio balances this well, and the plate feels familiar served with spicy flatbread as well as grilled tomato, onion and pepper.
The grilled branzino ($48) is second only in price to the Ontario lamb chops, but again a big punch of flavour is delivered by the perfectly cooked fish working in harmony with a spicy green schug sauce. Lime, pomegranate seeds, pickled onion, and fresh parsley and mint add extra brightness.
You can be forgiven for mistaking shaabiyat ($12) for baklava at first with its layers of flaky phyllo and triangular shape, but you won't forget this delightfully different dessert. It's filled with airy, mousse-like ashta (a type of clotted cream) and flavoured with rose water syrup.
Rice pudding ($10) is less surprising, also flavoured with rose water syrup, and topped with walnuts and cinnamon.
The Heart & Soul ($17) engages the eyes and taste buds, a crystalline blue combination of gin, curacao, lemon oil, elderflower tonic, orange and juniper bitters, and a sour cocktail mixer. Pops of complementary colours come from sumac, lavender and orange.
Colour of Hope ($17) is similarly dreamy-looking, a combination of vodka, Peychaud's Aperitivo, arak, kiwi, apple, citrus and celery bitters.
A second-floor patio is equipped with heaters.