With 10 years of reviews gushing about the “Royal Indian” food, service and atmosphere at the Ambassador Dining Room, we anticipated something special on a mid-September warm evening. The large lobby of the Ambassador apartment building oozes with a 1930’s era Tudor style that continues into the dining room. With high back upholstered chairs and tables overflowing with white linens and glassware shimmering in candlelight, it’s a handsome room (though curiously empty at “prime time”). We had a reservation to dine in an outdoor space facing a large garden at the rear of the apartment building that was supposed to offer a special view. It was a large roofed space open on three sides (there are glass “garage doors” that can be closed creating a large windowed room in cooler or rainy weather). There were a dozen tables equally covered in white linens and candle lit lanterns on the patio (of which three were occupied). We were surprised that the view was of a lawn and surrounding buildings and that there wasn’t even a pot of flowers be seen in this “garden”. The much praised garden view seemed seriously over-rated (unless you get excited over seeing a lawn!)
The menu differs from other Indian restaurants in a couple of ways – the “Chef’s Recommendations” section includes unusual selections like Lamb Chops, Lobster, and Swordfish ($23-$29) while many prices for 30+ Indian standard entrees ($19-$27) are priced 50% higher on average than any other Baltimore Indian restaurant. Marty decided to start with Mulligatawny Soup ($5), John with a Lamb Samosa ($4) and our friend Rita with a veggie Samosa ($4). For our entrées, Marty decided on a special of mixed grilled items ($27), John on Chicken Tikka Masala ($20) and Rita on Tandoori Salmon ($21). We also ordered Garlic Naan bread ($4) to share.
Our waiter brought Marty’s soup (which arrived lukewarm and was sent back to the kitchen to be heated up!). Our waiter delivered our two separate orders of Samosas out on ONE small plate (pointing which was veggie and which was lamb). With prices this high and waiters in tuxes, we were frankly taken aback by having our separate orders arrive on one plate. John’s Samosas were dry and tasteless. Marty’s entrée had large portions of grilled skewered lamb, shrimp and chicken (he had to take some home despite how much he enjoyed it). Rita’s salmon was cooked well-done as she had requested and won her praise. John’s chicken was good and the fragrant basmati rice was good for sopping up the tasty tikki masala sauce. All of the entrees came with some dal (cooked lentils) which we enjoyed along with the garlic naan. Service was friendly (but water glass didn’t get refilled without us asking)
Overall, we enjoyed our food but had misgivings. The “garden” patio was missing the garden. We were taken aback by two different appetizers being served to us on one small plate or having to ask our not so busy servers for water glasses to be refilled. High prices for standard Indian dishes like Chicken Tikki Masala or vegetarian Saag Paneer just didn’t seem worth it. (We wondered if the owner’s attention is distracted by the failures with of his attempts to expand with the nearby “Spice Company” and Lebanese version of the “Carlyle Club” restaurants.)
Between an over-priced menu, not so great service, the “garden” without a pot of flowers and so many other really good Indian restaurant alternatives in Baltimore, we probably won’t be rushing back for dinner at the Ambassador soon.
FACTS: The Ambassador Dining Room (Canterbury); 3811 Canterbury Rd; http://www.ambassadordining.com ; 410-366-1484; Open 7 days/week for lunch & dinner; luncheon buffet; full bar; veggie options; on-street parking can be difficult to find
|Surroundings?||The main dining room reflects the 1930’s Tudor style of the namesake Ambassador apartment building complemented by tall back chairs and lots of white linen. The covered patio provides upscale outdoor dining (but the adjacent “garden” curiously lacks any flowers)|
|Food?||“Royal Indian cuisine” (which in most cases is darn similar to the Indian food you’d find at most other Indian restaurants)|
|Service?||The waiters wear tuxes, they’re pleasant but service was average at best with moments that left us confused and un-happy.|
|Value?||You’ll pay 50% more at the Ambassador on average for entrees that you’d find at other Indian restaurants for entrées of similar quality and portion size. Are the prices worth it? We’re dubious.|
|Overall?||The touted “Royal Indian Cuisine” label hints that a maharajah’s wallet could be useful when dining here. The food is average and the main dining room is handsome but service is average at best and the prices are inflated.|