Ambar is a Balkan American Kitchen and Rakia Bar. It is located on Barracks Row which gets its name from the Marine Barracks that are located along the street. The Navy Yard is just around the corner from this popular strip along 8th Street, SE on Capitol Hill. It is an easy walk from the Eastern Market Metro stop. It is a fantastic area.
Leo Schmid, marketing manager for Richard Sandoval Restaurants, reached out to Military Town Advisor and me inviting us into their beautiful restaurant to enjoy a taste of what Ambar has to offer. We quickly responded: Yes!
I had no idea what to expect of this Balkan American Restaurant called Ambar, but we were excited to try it and find out!
From our first step into Ambar we were welcomed with smiles and friendly faces. Uros Smiljanic, the general manager, greeted us with handshakes and a warm welcome. His face lit up as he shared the history of how Ambar Restaurant came to be.
Ambar opened its doors 1 year ago. Before those doors opened owner and creator Ivan Iricanin had a vision. He wanted to share his, Uros, and their staff's Balkan heritage with the United States. The Balkans is a geographical and cultural region of Southeast Europe, gaining its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the east of Bulgaria to the very east of Serbia.
Ivan missed his home of Belgrade, Serbia and wished to bring a little of their home here to Washington DC. Ivan decided the best way to do this was through food. What better way to bring people together than to share a meal? Uros explained that in Serbia when you eat a meal everyone tries each other's food, passes food around, and eats a family style type of meal. In doing this everyone eats a little bit of a variety of foods. At Ambar this idea of having multiple things to eat in smaller quantities is the way the food is served. It is very similar to a tapas style restaurant.
I love how Ivan and Uros of Ambar restaurant have reached out to our military community. They recognize the importance of the military and they love for us to dine with them. With the Marine Barracks just a few buildings down from Ambar and The Navy Yard a couple blocks away there are military people all around Barracks Row. Uros told us that there were three armies in Serbia where he lived, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Armies. His grandfather was the General of Serbia's 1st Army.
Ambar is a restaurant with a modern spin on traditional Balkan foods. Let me tell you these foods are delicious!
We began our evening with a round of drinks from Ambar's Rakia Bar. Mike enjoyed a light Balkan bottled beer and Uros selected a cocktail called Podgorica for me. It was a grappa rakia / aji amarillo / passion fruit / mango / lime drink. Both were full of flavor.
My husband and I feasted on a 4 course tapas style meal of Balkan foods.
We started out with a Smoked Trout dip that was light and fresh, with delicately smoked salmon and we shared the White Flatbread freshly baked flat bread with four white cheeses melted on top. Next up were Roasted Mushroom Crepes that were divine and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon served on a tangy yogurt sauce. These were the most delicious brussel sprouts I have ever eaten! They are a must for ordering at Ambar. By this point we were so full that we could barely continue eating, but of course we did continue.
For our third course we had the Balkan Burger. This is the best burger I have ever eaten! My husband loved this burger too. He recommends that anyone coming into Ambar should definitely order the Balkan Burger.
Finally, comes the divine ending to an already fabulous meal ....dessert! Four Chocolates dessert was the perfect balance with rich, thick chocolate and cold, creamy raspberry sorbet. We also indulged in the white chocolate panna cotta with strawberry yogurt and a hazelnut biscuit. Mike capped off the evening with an espresso he said was equivalent to the best espressos he has had across Europe on his various naval deployments.
Thank you to Ambar, its owner Ivan Iricanin, and general manager Uros Smiljanic for reaching out to Military Town Advisory, the local DC military community, and to my husband and me. We will surely be back to Ambar soon!
Visit Ambar Restaurant in DC and enjoy the military discount. Please, tell them you read about the restaurant on Military Town Advisor!