Ambar-licious

In Barracks Row, Food, Food Blogger, Review by RUNINdc

From its modern, yet rustic decor, to its expertly crafted menu, Ambar gratifies all the senses.

There are a lot of restaurants to choose from just off the Eastern Market metro stop, but if you haven’t been to Ambar, you’re missing out.Since this was my first experience with Balkan cuisine, I didn’t know quite what to expect, but trust me when I say that I will be returning to both sample more of their menu and enjoy the ambiance. The restaurant provides outdoor seating under a canopy as well as lush indoor seating made up of wooden booths with plush covers. Each table sits under an amber glass lamp, which casts a warm glow over the wood and the cream table cloths. It is perfect for night out with friends, but even better for a romantic occasion. If you don’t know where to take your date this weekend, reserve a table at Ambar.Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 3.00.32 PMOur server, Alex, and the General Manager, Uros, greeted us warmly and provided us with ample information about the menu items. Since it was restaurant week, I was lucky enough to try their 4-course restaurant week menu, which features a wide selection of modern balkan cuisine and costs only $35. Everything looked amazing, but I was very pleased with my selection: Smoked Trout Dip, Roasted Mushroom Crepes, Bacon and Peanut Pork Tenderloin and Panna Cotta.Served with lavash bread, the smoked trout dip was the best blend of creamy, smoky and tart. It has pickles, celery, homemade smoked trout, jalapeños, onions and cream. The smoked trout is subtle and fresh and is perfectly complemented by the spicy jalapeños, sour pickles and cream. If you’re like me and don’t normally care for smoked trout, this dip will change your mind.Next came my favorite dish of the entire night; the Roasted Mushroom Crepes.

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When you go to a restaurant like Ambar, it is hard to pick a favorite but these are just that good. Imagine marinated wild mushrooms in béchamel sauce wrapped in crepes flecked with baked Gouda cheese and you will know what I mean. Infused with thyme, the tender and flavorful assortment consists of oyster, cremini, button and shitake mushrooms. So often, crepes rely on an overly cheesy sauce, which masks the taste of the meat or vegetable within. In these crepes, however, the main event is the earthy, herb-marinated mushroom assortment. They are highly recommended.

When the bacon and peanut pork tenderloin came, it was so elegantly plated that I just wanted to gaze at it for several minutes.

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The 4 oz. pork tenderloin came grilled medium well. It was sprinkled with bacon crumbs and arranged over creamy mashed potatoes and next to a generous pool of Tarragon cream sauce. The tangy Miso combined with the silky mashed potatoes really brought out the earthy flavor of the grilled pork

Lastly, the Panna Cotta was a work of art. It came on a thin, rectangular plate with three mounds of Panna Cotta and expressive trails and pools of strawberry yogurt and berry sauce, all covered in graham cracker crumbles.

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Each portion was served with an almond cookie and juicy fresh blueberries and strawberries. It delighted our eyes and taste buds.

So often, a restaurant has a clear strength and a clear weakness, but Ambar effortlessly ranks highly in service, ambience and cuisine. My experience at Ambar was unequivocally excellent and I will be returning to enjoy its atmosphere and cuisine, which are a unique combination of refined and rustic