Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review: Ambrosia

Name: Ambrosia
Address: 201 Walton St, Syracuse, NY
Neighborhood: Downtown (Armory Square)
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: New American, Asian Fusion, Sushi
Alcohol: Full Bar
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Saturday 5 PM - 10 PM
Bar Hours: Friday to Saturday 5 PM - 2 AM
Parking: On-Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Accepts Reservations: Yes
Delivery: Yes (available through TakeOut Xpress)

I arrived at Ambrosia on a humid evening around 6 PM. Parking was easy as I found rock star parking less than a block away on S Franklin Street. Amrosia has an absolutely superb location: directly on the corner of Franklin and Walton Streets overlooking the busiest intersection in Armory Square. There's some tables outside as you walk to the doors, but this was way too hot of a day to be eating outside. There's two entrances upon entering: one for the restaurant, bar, sushi lounge, and banquet area, and the other entrance for the nightclub. The sushi lounge can seat 40 and hold 70 for cocktails and oeuvres and the banquet room can seat 120 or hold 300 for parties and receptions. As for the restaurant interior, it's very nice: hip decor, subtle lighting, old hardwood floors, and a very sleek looking bar area. And with its big windows lining the exterior, you really get an outstanding view of Armory Square. Overall, I really liked the interior of the place. It borders on the trendy and pretentious side, but it's a nice change of pace from other Syracuse restaurants.

Other observations and notes...

- It seems like it would be a great place to host a business meeting or lunch

- Sushi is half-price on Thursdays.

- Happy hour is Fridays from 5 PM to 8 PM.

- The place was generally very clean, with the exception of my soy sauce bottle being extremely dusty.

As for the menus, the drinks menu looked really great. A lot of creative cocktails and twists on martinis. Though, there were no prices listed next to them (which is a pet peeve of mine).

The menu itself is predominantly modern American cuisine with a wide range of sushi varieties. The sushi portion was a little overwhelming. A lot of creative pieces, but I think the amount of offerings could be widdled down quite a bit. When you start labelling things as "#85" and "#127", I think the numbering system ends up doing your place more harm than good. And the appetizer and entree menu portion looked good. A decent selection of main entrees like pan roasted duck breast, grilled swordfish, and steaks, Though I think they could cut down on the sushi offerings and offer more than just nine appetizer options. Some of them even seemed a bit unorthodox (grilled cheese, fried mozzarella...). At any rate...

The order...

Mojito: $7
Lobster & Goat Cheese Rangoons: $14
Maki Mono Godzilla Roll: $15
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $42

Pictured above on the upper left is the Mojito (lime, mint, sugar, citrus rum, and club soda)

Not only was this drink not strong, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this it wasn't properly mixed as well. It didn't taste muddled (it was missing those little pieces of mint that float around). It was sweet and all, which I'm sure was the "citrus rum", but it was missing that mojito-flavor. And you can tell a good mojito once it hits your lips - especially when it's 90 degrees outside. I can appreciate it for its creativity, but I was really hoping that this would be a bit more refreshing than what it was.

Also above is the Lobster & Goat Cheese Rangoons, served with sweet chili glaze.

This sounded delicious on the menu, but it really wasn't. They tasted like they were fried, left out for some time, and then fried again (they were extremely crunchy and dark-colored which leads me to believe that they were refried right before serving. You can tell by the picture that they are all dark save for the one on the end). The cheese was bland and didn't have that punch that goat cheese has and the chili glaze was relatively uninspiring and tasted like duck sauce from out of the packets of a Chinese restaurant. The lobster meat itself was the only thing it had going for it: plump and juicy pieces that tasted like the sea.

Pictured here is the Godzilla Roll: Yellowtail, scallions, kani kama, avocado, panko encrusted and flash fried, rolled with wasabi tobikko and sesame seeds.

There were a lot of ingredients here, but I thought they all blended together nicely and it looked very colorful on the plate. It was a decent piece of sushi, but it was way too large of a portion size. (It looks fairly deceiving on the plate). I could barely pick a piece up with chopsticks, let alone fit it in my mouth. The ingredients were good, but it all tasted a little dry.

All and all, Ambrosia's food was relatively mediocre. The portions and plating were both great, but the food didn't give me that "wow" feeling that I was expecting. It was all generally bland.

Some other notes...

- The music that was playing felt more like 9 o'clock music instead of 6 o'clock music. Something a little more toned down would have been more appropriate rather than drum and bass.

- There is a dress code. I've read that the policy is "no jeans and no hoodies" though I could be mistaken. I also have no idea at what hour the code goes into effect. There was no bouncer at the door when I visited, so I was fine with a black tee and shorts. But it's just a heads up if you plan on eating there later in the evening that it might be wise to stay within the dress code.

- Service was slow. It may have been a fluke thing, but it took forever to order, get drinks, and get the check.

- If you're drinking at the bar, you have to spend more than $15 on drinks in order to get your card back.

I've read a bunch of reviews online that deal with a snotty waitress staff, rude bouncers, and a strictly and unfairly enforced dress-code. Although my visit was only for the restaurant and not the nightclub, I didn't encounter any of these problems. However, this was during the evening, so perhaps the rules change once the sun goes down and the bridge and tunnel kids start showing up. I'm sure the dress requirements get stricter and the wait staff gets a shorter and shorter fuse as the hours go on. They probably don't want to have a bunch of drunk 20-somethings wandering around inside the restaurant while people are eating.

Some improvements that I would consider incorporating: more refined Asian appetizers (like a few elegant, Asian-style soups for instance), quicker service, more appropriate mood music during earlier dining hours, separate entrances for the club and for the restaurant, and an organized and easier to read sushi menu.

For the quality of food, I thought it was overpriced. It's too expensive to warrant another trip back anytime soon. However, despite its faults, Amrbosia did have good things going for it: a hip atmosphere, an interesting sushi menu, creative drinks, good sized portions, and it's located at the quintessential spot in Syracuse's most desirable neighborhood. They have their niche: trendy, Asian-style dining in the heart of Amory Square. I don't know when I'll be going back again. If I do, it would more than likely be for cocktails and half-priced sushi on Thursday evenings.

My rating of Ambrosia:

Your rating of Ambrosia:


administrator said...

I have noticed that Alcohol has a bad effect on restaurants at least in "party Districts" like Armory.[I am not incuding place that have no nightclub or pub scene such as BC restaurant, pastabilities etc].....Once they do ;the food goes downhill.Ambrosia is a hip hop dance club that serves food too ,Pj dorseys is College pub /dance club that serves food too,Empire is Beer pub bands/that serves food too,Syracuse Suds is Beer pub that serves food too.Once you get the easier money selling booze ,interest seems to wane in keeping the quality up ;it's hard to run a restaurant,easier to pour beer.I gave up eating at all 3 of those a long time ago!.The service and food all went downhill. Also it may be the clientel really doesn't care; pizza and wings is fine and they may have grabbed that on marshall st before the ride to A.S.Why waste time and effort on the food...The major customers in Armory square is 20-30 yr old partiers there not here to eat!!.If they are; pizza or subway....A tourist that visits here at dinner time may not realize that he is a nightclub that sells food on the side .

JoeBass123 said...

good points. and i agree about your statements about pj's, empire, ambrosia, etc... alcohol is the main draw, followed by food which takes a back seat. it's unfortunate, because like you said, it's easy to pour a beer and not so easy to serve excellent food - which is something that i have yet to find at any of the bar-oriented places in armory square.