Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amber Dhara

I'd heard good things from omnivorous folk about the new(ish) Amber Dhara on Valencia Street and, being an Indian restaurant, I assumed they'd have a pretty decent selection of veggie items as well.  What I didn't expect was an entirely vegan, and incredibly delicious, 4 course tasting menu.  Dim lighting made for some terrible photos, but let me take you through it, won't you?

The amuse bouche was a papadum filled with onions, herbs, and veggies, and served with three chutneys. (The chutneys stayed on the table for the rest of the savory courses, too.  Good things, since I put them on everything!) What a flavorful bite (or two or three, actually) and lovely way to start the meal.

Next up was their fried kale appetizer.  I love anything battered and fried and I will take kale in any preparation, so this was right up my alley.  These crisp, fun, and addictive poppers, were perfectly seasoned and not greasy at all.  Amber Dhara should bag and sell these guys!

The third plate to hit the table was this eggplant.  Much like a typical bengan bharta, but with more refined and layered flavors, the eggplant was left in large chunks, rather than turned completely to mush, which I appreciated.  The almonds were a nice textural touch, and the fried lotus root and plantain chips were perfect for scooping up the savory sauce.

The last savory course was the mushroom curry.  Made with coconut milk, and served with roti (you could also get brown rice), this hearty main really hit the mark, and I'm not even a huge mushroom fan.  Well played, Amber Dhara. It was soul warming and satisfying without being too heavy... good, because there was still dessert to come!

Gluten-free and vegan, this chocolate banana cake would please the palate of any omnivore (my omni dining partner devoured hers).  The best part is that it is served warm, so it's a bit gooey on the inside, and crunchy from the walnuts on top.  Add a caramelized banana, some soy ice cream, and fresh berries and it is the absolute best way to end your tasting menu.

So, as you can see, I loved my meal and hope to get back to Amber Dhara sometime soon.  I will say one thing, however: The service was attentive to the point of intrusive.  We were asked over and over and over again if we were enjoying everything (we really were, but we'd also like to have a conversation, thanks) and it seemed like someone was always way too nearby.  At the end, the head waitress asked us to please yelp our experience, and then today they CALLED ME (not even kidding) to ask about our experience.  I get it, you're a new restaurant.  It's a huge space and you need bodies in the door.  But hovering over your diners is NOT the way to make that happen.  You have a gorgeous space (albeit a complete DOSA rip-off) and are serving scrumptious food.  Chill out on the in-your-face "hospitality".

Ok, that's it for now.  A place in my 'hood got a makeover recently, so stay tuned for my review next week.  Meanwhile, have a great weekend everyone!

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