Francisco Ayoub and his family moved to Philadelphia from Jordan in 2013. Jordan, an Arab nation in the Middle East, is bordered by Israel to the west, Syria to the north, and Saudi Arabia to the south.
His father, Farah Ayoub, moved the family to the Philadelphia area to practice dentistry. Two of his brothers are also dentists, and a third brother is a doctor. Francisco, a trained IT professional, wanted to pursue his genuine passion – cooking food from his native country – and introduce Philadelphians to traditional Jordanian cuisine.
In 2017, they decided to open Alamodak, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Philadelphia, focusing on Jordanian foods such as Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. Traditionally, Mansaf consists of spiced lamb cooked in a sauce made from fermented dried sheep’s milk yogurt called Jameed. First, the Jameed rehydrates for 24 hours. Then, it is added to browned lamb and stewed for a couple of hours. Finally, the lamb and yogurt stew is assembled on top of a thin bread (called Markook) with layers of saffron-infused rice, toasted pine nuts, and herbs.
“We offer a variety of Middle Eastern dishes all prepared by our chef who also comes from Jordan,” Francisco Ayoub told Philly Grub. “We feel cooking is an art form and care about the presentation of every dish. We want our guests to have an authentic Jordanian experience as if they were in our home.”
The family brought many items with them from Jordan and displayed them throughout the restaurant. Much of the décor, imported from Jordan, includes furniture, colorful blankets, pillows, baskets, statuettes, paintings and drawings made by his father, and other keepsakes that can be found inside on the first floor and the 2nd-floor Hookah Lounge. Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke specially-made tobacco that comes in different flavors. When open, live entertainment such as Bellydancing performances take place in the 2nd-floor lounge on Saturday evenings.
“We want our guests to have the full Middle Eastern experience. Our friendly servers all come from a Middle Eastern background,” said Ayoub.
The food is the real star of the restaurant, though. Modern interpretations of familiar dishes such as hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, shawarmas, and various kebabs feature alongside Arabic staples such as Kufta, ground meat attached to a long skewer, and Kanafeh, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup. Some vegetarian dishes are available, and all meat is Halal. The restaurant also offers specialty beverages such as freshly squeezed lemonade with mint and an avocado strawberry smoothie. BYOB is welcome on both floors.
“Until we can open the inside of the restaurant again, we’ve been offering most of our menu for take-out and delivery, except our special dishes,” Ayoub mentioned. “We have recently put some tables outside for outdoor dining.” (Editor’s note: Dishes like Mansaf likely don’t travel well, so they’re on hold for now.)
In normal times, the restaurant can accommodate private parties for up to 85 people. They’ve hosted birthday parties, baby showers, and even small weddings and receptions complete with a Photobooth inside. They offer full-service catering off-premises, including but not limited to food, beverages, servers, rental supplies, and entertainment.
“We hope people will want to come to try our Jordanian food, which we feel is the best in Philadelphia. Try something new during this time. We think you will love our dishes.”
Alamodak Restaurant is located at 161 Cecil B Moore Avenue in Kensington. Delivery is available Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 4PM-10PM. They are closed on Wednesday.