One of this fall's most anticipated openings, Ambar is a Serbian restaurant from El Centro/Masa 14 partner Ivan Iricanin that is getting set to hit Barracks Row in late November. Serbian-born Iricanin traveled to the Balkans twice in recent months, spending altogether about a week and three days researching Serbian cuisine. The trip changed a few things about his approach to Ambar. For one, while the restaurant was originally going to adhere to a more classic Serbian menu, now it will be what he describes as "modern Balkan" or "modern Serbian."
What else did Iricanin learn from the trip that he's incorporating into the restaurant? Here now, Iricanin offers new details about the design, food, bar program — and an entire bar devoted to dessert.
Bar Program: Iricanin has hooked up with small producers of rakija, a brandy made of fruits such as plum, cherry or apricot that is widely available throughout the Balkans but not so much in the United States. Similarly, Ambar will offer wines imported from the Balkans. While Iricanin noticed during his trip that Serbian restaurants haven't quite developed mixology programs yet, he's talking to a "very successful mixologist" based in New York to develop one for Ambar that uses Balkan products.
The Food: While Iricanin's trip was partly about finding a chef for Ambar, there's still no official word yet — Iricanin says one chef he met there is doing a tasting for them on Friday. Assisting Iricanin with recruiting and developing the restaurant is a friend who owns a couple of restaurants in Serbia, including a modern restaurant in Belgrade whose name translates to "Little Factory of Taste." Here's some food porn of Ambar's three confirmed menu items, courtesy of Iricanin:
The Dessert: Ambar is going all in with its dessert program — not only will there be a dessert tasting menu, but there will be an actual dessert bar. Yes, half of the bar area on the first floor of the restaurant will be a dessert station. Iricanin has hired a pastry chef from Serbia to develop the dessert program, which will have modern twists on traditional Serbian desserts.
The Space: While the main level will have that dessert bar, it's mainly going to be sit-down dining — and will be quiet compared to the dining space upstairs. That space will have a bar, too, but this one will be for drinking rather than dessert, so Iricanin expects that level to have more of a bar/lounge feel. There will also be a back patio upstairs with an open-air bar at which the full dinner menu will be available.
The Design: The decision to change the Ambar concept to modern Balkan meant a change in design concept, Iricanin explains, which means that the restaurant's early renderings are now moot. While not giving any details, Iricanin says Ambar will have a "more European look" and will be a "hip, fun place." The restaurant is halfway through its buildout now, with mostly cosmetic work left to be done.
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