Settle in at Lamalo, Gadi Peleg's stylish new restaurant in the Arlo Nomad Hotel, and within minutes your table is covered with all sorts of Middle Eastern wonders and delights, a thrilling mezze-like array of dips, spreads, pickled things, and sauces surrounding a slab of hot-from-the-oven Jerusalem Laffa. There are around 15 items here, all of them excellent, and served with a soft, oily bread that's baked over lava rocks for maximum cragginess. It's one of the most enjoyable ways to start your meal anywhere in the city right now.
You might get a little bowl of tangy Labneh, some tomato-based Matbucha and garlicky Scordalia, and a pile of wonderfully creamy Bulgarian Feta Cheese. There's Pickles and Olives, a refreshing Herb Salad, thick Tahini, hummus-like Msabbaha, Baba Ghanosh, nutty Muhammara, a completely inauthentic Spinach and Artichoke dip, and fiery Schug in both green and red. Peleg said he plans on having about 25 different things to pull from, so each night's spread will be a little bit different.
The dish, which everyone at Lamalo orders because how could you not, is called the Daily Spread and, in fact, you could easily make this your entire dinner, supplemented by a bottle of one of the boozy treats on the menu. Gadi, who also owns the Breads Bakery chain as well as Nur near Union Square, loves the sharing aspect of the Daily Spread, and it really helps the scene here at the Arlo feel immediately festive and fun, always tough to pull off in a hotel restaurant.
Israeli Couscous and Vermicelli Rice (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
If you really feel like feasting, the remainder of Lamalo's dinner menu consists of a half dozen oversized entrees, two of which I ate at a complimentary meal over the weekend: a Grilled Whole Fish (in this case, a tender Dorade), and a beautifully charred, fatty and intensely flavored Short Rib, served atop its bone. There's also a Grilled Chicken, a Cabbage Shank, fried Shabtai-Style Fish fillets, and a Grilled Octopus that looked great.
Lunch at Lamalo is what Peleg calls an "Israeli Bento" and features a more modest version of The Spread along with your choice of skewer. Lamb Kofta, Vegetable, Chicken Wing, and Mushroom are among the grilled options. You'll also get one of kitchen's grain-based side dishes.
All of the magic happens in the back of the Arlo lobby here on East 31st (it used to be Massoni), and Peleg has completely redone the place. The bread ovens and mezze prep area is crammed into the first small dining room, where you can eat at one of high tables along the wall or at the five-stool chefs' counter. Their main dining room is just beyond, a neutral-toned affair with a few cool booths and curved banquettes making things interesting.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Lamalo is located at 11 East 31st Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, within the Arlo Nomad Hotel. Dinner is served from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (212-660-2112; lamalonyc.com)