|Amazing Cheese Pies|
We set out for our next stop on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon on what has been an otherwise cold and bleak DC winter. Down on Barracks Row crowds of people were out enjoying the day as we stepped into Ambar to try our third Richard Sandoval brunch (last year we visited El Centro and Masa 14). It was #ClassicSandoval; this time with a Balkan twist. Overall score: 3.83/5.00
Ambar is Sandoval’s newest restaurant in DC, having only opened about a year ago. Like his other brunches, Ambar offers a $35 Unlimited Brunch. Everyone at the table must participate in order to get the deal. Another fusion restaurant, its aim is to “put together the finest products of the New World and Old World.” There is a nice, brief history on their website. The deal is a good one and standard fare for DC bottomless food and drink. Average price score: 3.81/5.00
The Ambar brunch menu features three drinks: Traditional Mimosa, Ambar Mimosa, and a Bloody Mary. You can switch between them during the unlimited brunch, and we tried all three. Everyone liked the Ambar mimosa, which has peach puree and blood orange but tastes more like pear. The traditional mimosa was also delicious and medium in strength. The questers that tried the Bloody Mary were also pleased, finding it flavorful, well rounded, not too spicy, and not too strong. Average drink score: 4.00/5.00
Definitely the highlight of the brunch. With the small plate unlimited brunch we were able to try almost everything. Our waiter recommended the Cheese Pies first (pictured above), and we are so glad he did. After our first bites we immediately wanted to order three more… per person. The menu features an abundance of prosciutto and cheese—two things I love. Even the eggs benedict has prosciutto on it, and it’s phenomenal. Other highlights include the salmon omelet, the roasted mushroom crepe, the Balkan salad, and the Balkan Panini. The fried potatoes and steak both have a hint of garlic and are delicious.
|Steak & Fried Potatoes|
We sampled all the desserts. The cinnamon sweet sourdough and strawberry waffle clearly were the best. C’mon, they both had Nutella; the other desserts didn't stand a chance.
The Mezze Platter for Two was more trouble than it was worth. The tiny portions of meat, cheese, and bread come on an oversized cutting board that takes up half of your table and is $16 if you’re not doing the unlimited brunch. I’d say skip it and move on. The Balkan Burger was OK. The patty is a mixture of beef and pork and tastes more like a sausage than a burger. The fried chicken sandwich had a quality cutlet but a powerful slaw. We’re still not sure how we feel about it.
What actually would have made my brunch experience better was a cutting knife. We shared our dishes, and trying to cut burgers and sandwiches with the knives on the table gets frustrating after a while. So if you plan on sharing your plates, ask for a proper knife. :)
Overall the food was really good and is reflected in the score, but in terms of the other Sandoval restaurants we've tried I’d choose El Centro or Masa 14. However, other questers choose Ambar. I may be biased because I love Latin food but hey, you gotta do you. Average food score: 4.38/5.00
This is where it received a mediocre score. Though we liked the food and drink, they came very slowly. There were too many long stretches of time with no food in front of us and with our glasses empty. However, our waiter was friendly, helpful, and gave us some good recommendations. Average service score: 3.38/5.00
It was a great day for brunch, and we all enjoyed our time at the restaurant. Some people docked points for what they thought of as ill-fitting music, but it wasn't too loud and I didn't notice it until someone pointed it out at the end of the meal. The noise level was low, we were able to have good conversation, and we were right inside of a nice outdoor bar area. Average ambiance score: 3.56/5.00
If you find yourself on Barracks Row, Ambar should be near the top of your list of brunches to try.
Ambar Balkan Cuisine
523 8th St. SE
Washington, DC 20003
523 8th St. SE
Washington, DC 20003