Ambar

I had brunch with my girlfriends Katie and Kathy, along with Kathy’s tiny new baby, on 2-25-2017. The decor was amazing, the food and staff were good, but the crowd and noise were a bit much. Maybe I just haven’t brunched in D.C. a lot lately? I’m curious if it’s quite so cacophonous during dinner.

Atmosphere: 3 out of 5
Food & Drink: 3 out of 5

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I arrived early, which gave me a chance to scope the place out. The main level was all white wood, which combined with the Edison bulb light fixtures and the the entire front of the being open to the patio, gave it a very beachy vibe.

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I wandered upstairs and accidentally walked into the most beautiful private room where some sort of luncheon was taking place.  I took a quick picture before realizing I’d crashed someone’s party. Can we talk about the airiness of it and the plants hanging down? Or that gorgeous grey bar with back-lit bottles? I would seriously consider this space for a future event.

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Once I showed myself out of that party, I had a seat at the copper bar to wait for my girlfriends. It was then that I realized just how loud the upstairs bar area was. People were sitting all around me eating at high top tables so I thought it was a normal dining room, but based on the screaming laughter, I think it’s really more of a bar. In Ambar’s defense it might not always be quite so crazy. I thought maybe I just wasn’t used to the brunch scene anymore but the woman at the bar next to me said, “Oh, no, those people are the worst.” So maybe this is the exception not the rule.

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Ambar mimosa (Balkan sparkling wine, peach and lavender puree). I couldn’t taste the lavender but that just meant I had a delicious bellini.

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My friends arrived and we were seated downstairs (thank god). We all decided to get the “Balkan Experience,” which included an endless selection of all plates and brunch drinks for $39. Based on the amount of food and drink consumed, that was quite a deal. Also rather than pick and choose, the waitress just ordered for us to start. Since I always rely heavily on server recommendations, that was perfect.

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Mezze platter (homemade cornbread, chef’s selection of cold cuts, cow cheese, olivier spread, ajvar spread, kajmak). It was hard at first to figure out what we were eating since it was loud and it was a little difficult to understand the food runner. However, what I think was the ajvar (red pepper spread) was amazing, the olivier spread (mayo, mixed veg, egg, lemon juice) was a little odd almost like potato salad and the kajmak (traditional aged skim milk spread) was surprisingly fantastic like unsweetened whipped cream. The cornbread muffin was great and the deep fried sourdough was different yet really good, like something you’d get at a state fair.

Not pictured- Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato, onion, celery, horseradish, Worcestershire, chipotle). I’m not sure if it was the chipotle or what but this tasted like summer sausage. It wasn’t bad but it was unexpected.

Cheese pie (cucumber yogurt, ajvar emulsion). This tasted like feta and lemon inside phillo dough and was good.

Meat pie (ground beef and pork, garlic yogurt). This wasn’t bad but wasn’t that exciting.

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Balkan salad (tomato, peppers, cucumer, onion, aged cow cheese). This was delicious. The bright-tasting peppers contrasted nicely with the salty cheese.
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Roasted mushroom crepe (red pepper emulsion, thyme veloute, gouda). I didn’t mind the smoky flavor but my brunchmates didn’t care for that or the texture.
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Steak and egg (homemade chimichurri sauce, eggs). This was fine, not bad, but not that great. I probably wouldn’t order it as my standalone entree.
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Ham omelet (smoked ham, pepper, onion, Gouda, basil spinach sauce). Again I probably wouldn’t order this as my standalone entree because it was a little boring. The ham filling was good, the eggs were a little dry, but I will say the sauce was excellent.
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Cinnamon sweet sourdough (Nutella). This reminded me of a zeppoli and was good, because how could that not be?
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Veal and vegetable soup (sour cream, fresh chives). This was weirdly delicious. I say that because the flavors were not at all what I expected and yet so good. Between the sour cream and lemon, it kind of tasted like avgolemeno. I would definitely order this again.
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Salmon Benedict (muffin, cream fraiche, kajmak sauce). This is exactly what you would expect: nothing different but as good as always.
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Fried chicken sandwich (almond and walnut encrusted, spring mix, apple-wasabi mayo). The chicken itself wasn’t that exciting but the apple-wasabi mayo was good.
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“Popara” Balkan bread pudding (aged cow cheese, milk, chili flakes, country style bacon). This was not for me. It tasted like a giant plate of mashed potatoes, my least favorite food.
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Left – Mango mimosa (Balkan sparkling wine, mango and hibiscus puree). This was very mango-y, in a good way.
Middle – Cherry mimosa (Balkan sparkling wine, cherry puree, lime juice). Slammin’, like a cherry limeaide. Highly recommend.
Right – Ambar mimosa (Balkan sparkling wine, peach and lavender puree). This one had a more pronounced lavender flavor, which was nice.
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One more shot my cherry mimosa, because it was the best thing ever.
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Zucchini burger (red pepper spread, sunflower seeds, Gouda cheese). I really liked the presentation on the slate. The taste was wonderful–my favorite part of the meal. The texture was a little pasty, like maybe it was under cooked, but the flavors more than made up for it.
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Strawberry waffle (Nutella, whipped cream). Whoa–out of this world. I normally wouldn’t think to order this but man the Nutella plus the strawberries and whipped cream were an amazing combo.
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Poached pear waffle (homemade caramel sauce, whipped cream). Less exciting than the strawberry but still good.
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Plum rakia. This fruit brandy will put hair on your chest.
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This is clearly the longest blog post ever. We tried 15 plates and five different drinks! You really, really cannot beat that for the price. The food might not have been the most amazing thing ever but it was solid. As I noted above, the uproarious other dinners (especially upstairs) were a bit distracting but I really do wonder if the vibe is different during dinner. I mean I don’t want  totally hushed tones but I do want to be able to relax. Wait–am I getting old?!

 

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