Have you ever had Balkan food? Well, let’s assume you haven’t because I haven’t. For the sake of this review, we’re going to assume we’re surprised by the flavors and ingredients intended for each dish. This restaurant was suggested by another food blogger that was in town TIA SMITH who happens to know a thing or two about food. It’s very seldom that I take restaurant suggestions from people, for reasons I’ll discuss in a separate post, so I was excited that this restaurant was chosen. The restaurant is located in Capitol Hill off of 8th St. “The term Balkan is generally believed to come from the Byzantine word meaning: “a chain of wooded mountains.” With a desire to introduce Washington, D.C. to cutting edge Balkan cuisine, we created a dining space that will delight and indulge the senses. Primarily featuring “small plates,” Ambar also offers wines and spirits from the Balkans not often experienced by the American diner.” The interior of this restaurant is quaint with an upbeat feel to it. There are two levels with both levels offering a bar area with happy hour sections.
When you decide to eat out with people who love to eat, you generally order a bunch of food for the table to share. We got there during happy hour time and decided to get two drinks along with four dishes. We sat “outside” which was covered by a roof but it rained so hard that it forced us to go inside to finish our food. I usually don’t go to happy hours because the food sometimes is limited and I prefer full meals. A couple of cocktails were ordered, Drunken Mussels, Almond Crusted Chicken, Balkan Kebab, and Pork Sliders. Because I’m fat, the happy hour appetizers weren’t enough, so a decision was made to order more food! The dinner items that were ordered were the Smoked Trout Spread, Tuna Tartare, Roasted Mushroom Crepes, and Sesame Crusted Salmon. The cocktail of choice that was ordered was the Berry Daisy. It consisted of vodka, mixed berry puree, and sour mix. The drink was “fruity” and even though I’m not the best at providing details with how cocktails are supposed to taste, I’m going to respectfully pass on the details about how the drink tasted. I would positively assume that you can get an idea of how the drink tasted based off of the ingredients in it. I maybe wrong, but forgive me.
The four appetizers that were ordered were very satisfying. The drunken mussels were some of the best mussels I’ve tasted. Mainly because of the sauce that surrounded the mussels. It consisted of rakija, garlic, capers, lemon, somun, and cream. The broth was a sweet cream sauce but very smooth. The next dish that wasn’t favorable at all was the Almond Crusted Chicken. It was made with walnuts, green apple, chive, and a wasabi mayo. The best part of this dish was the Wasabi Mayo. The chicken was dry, flavorless, and there was still some left for the waiter to throw away. The Balkan Kebab was up next. It consisted of beef and veal, scallions, and paprika. I would’ve loved to see the paprika incorporated with the Kebab, which might I add wasn’t on a stick, so is it really a Kebab? Yogurt would’ve been a great add on to this dish for a dipping sauce. The Pork Sliders were pretty good with the cabbage slaw and horseradish sauce it came with. The pork sliders weren’t too tough, and were very flavorful. I would opt for three of the four appetizers that were mentioned. Oh, one last thing, they were ALLLLLL $5 a piece!
The dinner items that were ordered as previously stated was the Smoked Trout Spread, Tuna Tartar, Roasted Mushroom Crepes, and Sesame Crusted Salmon. The Smoked Trout Spread was made with pickled jalapeno, cilantro, and mayo. This was my first smoked trout spread but I’m not sure if I would order it again. The smoked trout spread was over-powered by the pickled jalapeno and mayo so if there was any fish included in the spread I couldn’t taste it. The tuna tartar that was ordered was fresh and flavorful. It was made with black butter, a pear salsa, and roasted almonds. Even though almonds were included in this dish, I couldn’t taste a nutty flavor. I thought about ordering another tartar but remembered I still had two other dishes to go. The Roasted Mushroom Crepes were my favorite as they were made with red pepper emulsion and gouda. These crepes were possibly some of the best crepes I’ve ever tasted in my life. The red pepper emulsion wasn’t too spicy and the cheese worked well inside of the crepe with the mushrooms. Last but not least we have the Sesame Crusted Salmon. I didn’t particularly care for the Sesame seeds, but the salmon was cooked well. The horseradish sauce along with the spicy eggplant and arugula gave it the extra kick it needed. Salmon was a “safe dish” that was ordered, but if I decide to go back I’ll order different items.
Overall, this restaurant is a must-try. If you’ve never eaten Balkan food before then give this one a try. Did I mention that no item on the menu is over $13 so you can literally get a taste of a bunch of items under $100.