Sunday, April 03, 2011

NYC's AMBER ambles and survives (4-2-11)

Amber has several locations in NYC and Saturday night I hit the one on
the Upper West Side at 221 Columbus Ave (@70th St.- in between two wonderful opera performances at
the Met.
On entry I noticed my cellfone was low and I asked at the hostess
stand if they could find an outlet to charge it...they were kind and
offered to watch the phone at the stand and charge it there. I then
hit the nice clean bathrooms and then settled in to see a woman and
her two boys (aged 2 & 4) at the next table chowing down on sushi. I
remarked that perhaps they could come and give our Samuel a lesson on
eating sushi as they were so good at using the kid-friendly chopsticks
(and Sam refuses to touch sushi). There is dining on the glass
enclosed sidewalk section or the more darkened rear dining room
depending on your mood as well.
As soon as I sat two servers came by to ask if I wanted a drink, but I
had not even opened my menu. I decided on what was called a "personal
bottle" of saki. These actually are 250-350ml size bottles and I was
surprised at the low prices all below $20. I chose a smooth medium dry
yet with huge flavors in the mouth Junmai called Hitori Musumi, a
great choice with all my 3 courses.
As I awaited my first course the woman with the two boys was clearly
upset over her quite expensive Omikase platter which she said was
basic sushi and sashimi (it kind of was, but it was very pretty);
nobody seemed to care she was upset. At this point her boys stopped
munching sushi and started to just mess around. One played with wasabi
with his fingers and cried when he rubbed his eyes and then ran around
the restaurant for an hour. OK, maybe I prefer Samuel's behavior when
we dine out to this and he can skip the sushi for now!
My first plate was a MIXED FIELD GREENS with SASHIMI (tuna, salmon and
whitefish) and a Lemongrass White Soy Dressing. The greens were simple
and it needed more dressing especially for the fairly bland sashimi
(now I felt for the lady with the Omikase). It sat in a kind of thin
bowl of rice paper which was stabilized with a glob of wasabi
underneath. I did not know this and broke apart the "bowl" and munched
and then hit a ton of wasabi with some greens!
KUMAMOTO Oysters come in a dozen and are larger here than normal with
a Citrus Dressing and Golden Tobiko Garnish. When they arrived I
noticed that there was no tobiko and so I asked my server who came
back to tell me that a "tobiko Garnish" is pulverized into the citrus
dressing--ok what kind of crap is that? I must, however, say the
oysters were superb and the slightly soy-tasting citrus dressing was
just a dab on each oyster and just right.
PAD THAI with CHICKEN is a super dish here and at $12 or $13 is a
steal for a west side dinner garnished with peanuts, tofu, bean
sprouts and even nicer leafy greens than the salad and a lime wedge.
It was the perfect main course on a not so warm April evening....
I left thinking I might come back and avoid the sushi dishes and stick
with the Asian cooked ones.