Ambar

Before I begin, I would like to apologize for the poor quality of photos. Ambar’s lighting is trying really hard to make sure that nobody gets a decent picture.

It’s sometimes hard to know what you’re ordering at Ambar. It has the little descriptions you’d find at a fancy restaurant, but the main titles are in…Serbian? Croatian? Pig Latin? Unclear.

We started with Sumadija, which turned out to be a cheese spread with some fry breads, and it was like a cross between ricotta and whipped cream. Very mild, but creamy and whipped. This is right up my alley, but I have been known to eat whipped cream by itself.

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My mother-in-law surprised nobody by requesting the white flatbread, which can be seen in the top part of this photo. If you like cheese on bread, you’ll like this.

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Next up: cauliflower and brussels sprouts. The cauliflower was accompanied by a spicy sesame sauce but was in itself a little plain, undercooked, and small. On the other hand, these sprouts would convert any veggie-hater to a sprouts-fanatic. Creamy-sweet yogurt and saffron threads forgave any mushiness that might have possibly infected these sprouts. They’re not the broiled-to-a-crisp sprouts I might have cooked in my own home, but they were beyond delicious.

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“…You ordered a hot dog,” my husband said when the smoked pork sausage arrived. “No…” I tried to argue. “It has mustard on it,” he pointed out. Okay, so this is a hot dog. But, like, the best hot dog you’ve ever eaten. It was sooooooo smoky and the mustard was deliciously strong. There was plenty of this to go around too.

We waited and waited for the almond-crusted chicken to arrive. I think they forgot about us.  And I can’t lie; when it did arrive, it was kind of disappointing. First of all, it was slightly dry, although it had a really good crunch. And it had a nice apple-horseradish slaw that was so strong it made me feel like a dragon with smoke coming out of my nose (it also led to an interesting wikipedia rabbit hole in which we learned the origin of the word “horseradish.”) I would probably not order this particular dish again.

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We ended up with two desserts for the table: the baklava and the tres leches cake, which I remembered as being delonculous. Full disclaimer: I ate three different tres leches cakes on this day–the one I made, the one my coworker purchased for another coworker’s birthday, and this one. And in this particular case, I can’t be modest; the tres leches I made from scratch was unanimously voted the best (by me and my husband), but it was no contest. Ambar’s was second place, though. It could use some more sweetness, some more moisture, and a crapload more whipped cream on top, but it was still solid. The baklava was weirdly lemony and not super crispy. I would probably not recommend this one either.

Price: $40 per person.

Bottom line: I love Ambar’s experience and the wide range of interesting small plates. Not everything is super amazing but when they do it right, they do it right. Don’t miss brussels sprouts and sausage.

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