I've done a lot of fine dining lately. Lots of "progressive american" or French, lots of Michelin stars, lots of foie gras, and lots of long, drawn out meals. Tonight was I looking for a fairly simple dinner, something relatively fast (not fast food, but not a 3 hour tasting menu), and I wanted some seafood. I haven't had indian food in ages, and it seemed like a good fit. So we headed to Amber India, where I thought I could get both indian food and quality seafood.
I've been to the San Francisco Amber a number of times. While it has never blown my mind, it has always been pretty reliable and decent, albeit overpriced (but, given its SOMA location and swanky, slightly fushiony menu, does seem fitting). So while I wasn't expecting an awesome meal, I was expecting something decent. Sigh.
The night started with our group of four being told the wait would be 20 - 30 minutes. Not too bad, so we put our names down and went to check how long waits would be at neighboring restaurants as fallback options. They told us an hour, so we went back to Amber, thinking 30 minutes wasn't so bad, and we'd already burned through 10 minutes of it. Unfortunately, there was a private party in the bar area, so there was absolutely nowhere to wait. The small entryway was packed full of people, so we waited outside for a while. Unfortunately, San Francisco decided to turn back into winter a few days ago and it was pretty much freezing. After a while, we checked on our status: 15 more minutes (Note: it had been more than 30 minutes at this point). We ask them to take our phone number and call us when our table is ready, and head next door to Bluestem for drinks at the bar. 25 minutes (and some bad cocktails) later, the phone has not rung, so we go back to check on our status. Another 20 minutes they say. So we head back to the restaurant that had quoted us an hour to see what their waits were now like. Still an hour. So we start calling around to other nearby restaurants to see if they have availability. No where does. At this point we conclude there must be a conference in town or something, as these places are never busy like this on Tuesday nights! Anyway. Back at Amber, still waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Eventually (almost 2 hours after being quoted 20 - 30 minutes), we are seated.
We place our order immediately, as we had decided far in advance what we wanted to order. Our waitress tells us that the appetizer we order is too small for four people and really strongly talks us into ordering more. It turns out that the appetizer was not small at all and would have been completely sufficient. Service strike #1.
Three people order drinks. Two drinks show up a few minutes later. I was actually a little surprised at how quickly they came. But then a few minutes after that, the waitress arrives with the three drinks. She looks confused that there are two drinks on the table already, puts down the third one, and still has the two duplicate drinks. We offer to take them anyway, but her response makes it clear that she'd charge us for them. Hmm, ok, nevermind. She leaves with the drinks. Service strike #2.
Appetizers come relatively quickly. The food isn't good (more on that later), but no big disasters here. But then ... we wait. And we wait. And we wait. 45 minutes go by. At this point, I finally say something to the waitress, asking her if she can check on our food. She does so, and comes back saying it will be out shortly. I express my displeasure at this entire situation. Her offered solution: we can just cancel our order if we want. Service strike #3.
I was so put off by this response, that I ask if I can talk to a manager. I'm really not one to do this sort of thing, but this was getting fairly ridiculous, as we were approaching the 3 hour mark. The manager doesn't even act sympathetic. He just says he'll check on the kitchen for us.
Anyway, eventually our food comes. It isn't good (you can read the details below if interested). The manager comes over at some point and offers to comp the appetizers (which, we tried to just order one of in the first place). While I appreciated that, it was far, far too little, too late at that point.
I will not be returning. And as much as I like the other locations, I'm bitter enough with this experience that I'm pretty seriously considering not returning to any of their locations, which is too bad, as the Mountain View location really does have quite tasty traditional indian food, and the new Amber Dhara in Palo Alto was really innovative and good as well. I'd been looking forward to checking out the new Amber Dhara soon to be opening in the Mission.
|Pepper Crab: Dungeness crab meat, ginger, black pepper and curry leaves|
|Tawa Seared Scallops: Couscous Pulao, tomato & fenugreek sauce|
|Sea Bass Kokum Curry: Sea bass, Maharashrian style kokum and coconut milk sauce.|
|Arbi ke Kofte: Taro dumplings, almonds, raisins, cashew nut sauce.|
|Chili Cheese Kulcha: Leavened bread stuffed with “Amul Cheese” and Serrano chilies|
|Mango brulee: Classic Crème Brulee infused with mango.|
|Lemon grass panna cotta: Lemon Grass & Kafir Lime Leaves set Custard.|