Ambrosia: More Than Adequate But Less Than Economical

The opening of a restaurant within walking distance of my apartment always excites me, and I'm admittedly more primed to enjoy their food than that of other similar albeit less proximal places. In the case of Papa Mio, I was happy to find the restaurant met my expectations. Thus when their next-door neighbor Ambrosia opened about six weeks later, I was ready and willing to make this my new ultra-convenient dinner & drins spot.

I waited a few months for the restaurant to get its bearings, and in the meantime read glowing reviews of its food and service. A few diners complained about waiting times, but most just gushed about the Indian tapas and great cocktails. Ambrosia then and now still didn't have a menu on its website, but patrons' pictures and press shots certainly suggested quality small plates. Missing, of course, was prices, but I filled in those gaps with my (overly?) optimistic imagination.

A few friends and I arrived early on a weekday night to find Ambrosia almost completely empty, a surprise to me considering reviewers' frequent mention of the very busy "happy hour." I learned quickly from our server, a cheerful, very capable young lady, that "happy hour," however, just designates, at least for some reviewers, a general time period in the context of Ambrosia, which offers no regular food and drink discounts. That was a bit disappointing, but my fault for assuming the reference to "happy hour" served more as just a temporal descriptor on Yelp.

We started with a round of cocktails (each $10). My Goodnight Goa martini was bland and weak, though a taste of my friend's vibrant Silk Road Tea suggested perhaps I had ordered the weakest link on the drink menu. Another friend's Muay Thai Martini was even better; the combination of rum, ginger, mango, and muddled green chili created a fiery fruity elixir that paired well with our well-seasoned appetizers.

The samosas were lightly fried and bursting with juicy coriander and cumin flavored lamb. They were also each the size of a ping-pong ball and with three to an order ($11), we were trading mere bites between us. Tiger Prawns (perhaps better named Tiger Cub Prawns) were dressed with a wonderful peppery honey glaze, but the shrimp themselves were, well, shrimpy. About 50th percentile on the growth chart and not worth the $12.

The most substantial dish in terms of serving and satiation factor was the curry wedges, thickly cut fries (chips) covered in a bright rich yellow curry with ground chicken. I could have easily eaten one dish all by myself, however, as the mound was of moderate size and more in line with a $6 or $7 tapa than a full-blown $10 appetizer.

A little more than an hour and a half later (thanks in part to some almost excessively speedy service), my stomach was fuller, my wallet definitely lighter, and my curiosity about Ambrosia permanently satisfied. So much so, in fact, that I don't think I'll be returning any time soon unless they reduce their prices by about 20 percent or start some sort of happy hour. There are equally interesting and less expensive Asian fusion offering in this town (not to mention far cheaper and robust craft cocktails) and Ambrosia's proximity just ain't worth the price.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joanna O'Leary