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Amber India at Santana Row – A Review July 9, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Bay Area, Food, India, Review , trackback

I have mentioned Amber India several times in my reviews about Indian restaurants in Bay Area, however i never got to doing a detailed review of Amber. Amber is a brand name for Indian food on one side and to many Indians it is not an Indian food restaurant at all. Yours truly being one of the many who never choose Amber for Indian food. With my (negative) bias put aside, I initiate my full review of Amber:

Date: July 6, 2008

Time: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Address:  377 Santana Row, Ste 1140

City: San Jose, CA 95128, USA 

Tel: # ( 408 ) 248 5400

Restaurant Name: Amber India (Everyone pronounces it as Amber (the color), but to an Indian it is Amber (pronounced as Um ber – meaning Sky). The roof decoration with a star lit night sky puts the intent of the owners clearly and literally.

Location & Address: On Santana Row, San Jose. My rating: 10/10. You just can’t beat it. Ample parking too.

Food/ Menu: Indian and/or Americanized Indian/ Multi cuisine. My rating 4/10 very confusing, unstructured and lacking character. If Pindi Channa and Karavali Shrimps are in the same menu something has to be horribly wrong. Pindi Channa is supposed to be a take off on White Garbanzo or Chick Peas which are native to RawalPindi region of Punjab (the part of Punjab in Pakistan). http://www.mapsofworld.com/pakistan/pakistan-political-map.html   In the state of Punjab/ Pakistan. Rawalpindi is popularly known as Pindi. My mother was born and brought up in Pindi, I know my Pindi Channa – Pindi choley – or Chitey Choley as it is called in pindieven today. So if you go to Rawalpindi ask for Chitey Choley and not Pindi Channa. Karavali Shrimps are a take off on the Canara region of the state of Karnataka in southern India. Canara region comprises of the three coastal districts of Karnataka (Between Goa and Kerala on the western coastline of India). http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/karnataka/karnataka.htm food from Uttar Kannad, Shimoga and Dakshin Kannad is commonly referred to as Coastal Kanada food or Coasatal Karantaka food, or Karavali or Canara food or Mangalorian cuisine. Karavali style of cuisine has influence of both Goan and Kerala style of cooking and has liberal coconut flavor to everything. I very strongly feel that putting these two distinct signature items from their respective regions on a single menu in the city of San Jose in California, is more of opportunism than culinary challenge.

Pindi Channas were not Pindi Channas because the Garbanzo beans are little different than Indian Chick Peas and they were not soaked overnight in milk and water or even only water, or kept under moist muslin cloth for two days. Pindi Channas need to be slightly white in color as a dish not jet black what we got on our table.

Karavali Shrimps were not Karavali Shrimps. Amber India’s website claims Karavli Shrimps to be “Our signature recipe of stir-fried shrimps flavored with curry leaves and black pepper”,  curry leaves fine, black pepper fine but what is paste made of onions, tomatoes, and practically every Indian masala doing out there. That’s not what the description reads. At least I couldn’t find the coastal kanadatouch in the paste or in the shrimps, it was spicy with little more than usual salt. I remember the flavor of paste but not that of the shrimps. Curry leaves and black pepper should have highlighted the flavor  of very fine quality of shrimps which were used, but it just didn’t. On our table was an (by heritage) Irish/American, a  Malayali, a Bengali and a Punjabi. The Irish/ American couldn’t finish even the one piece he had taken, the Bengali and the Malayali choose not to take second helping, the Punjabi on the table of course had the second helping (after scrubbing the paste).

Ambiance: Excellent. The best for any Indian restaurant in the bay area. My rating 10/10.

Format: A la carte, full service. my rating 10/10

Drinks:Mango Lassi, Lemonade, Heineken – No issues. My rating 8/10.

Appetizers: Karavali ShrimpsExplained in food 3/10, if your guest just leaves it after eating one morsel, it just can’t be more than that. My 2 cents, if you are by heritage Indian go infor it, otherwise best avoided. Goan Steamed Mussels: They were in Goan gravy, they were steamed and they were fine mussels. My rating 9/10. I just loved them. Tandoori Appetizer Platter: Shrimps were good, Chciken (I am told was) excellent, Lamb (I am told was) horrible. My rating 6/10

Main Course: Mint Salmon Tikka: From no angle an Indian dish, except for the tikka word in its name. OK taste 4/10.

 Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani – was good, but I am told Tandoori Oven in downtown San Jose makes it better 7/10.

Bombay Fish Masala – Sea Bass in tomato & onion thick Garvy, very tasty and well cooked, my rating if you don’t look at authenticity as an Indian cuisine 10/10. 

Pindi Channa – I didn’t like it at all. Was left on the table too. Rajjot on Wolfe Road is my best choice. My rating 1/10.

Breads: Lacha parantha, Garlic naan. My rating 6/10.

Dessert: Gulab Jamuns were very nice. As they were not stuffed, I would say my rating is 9/10.

Interior: Nice and functional – My rating 8/10.

Tables: Comfortable 8/10

Cooling: About 75 (F) could be lower. 8/10

Rates: At about 15% to 20% lower this place would have been a good value for money. My rating 6/10.

Why go:Ambiance; Location; Americanized Indian Food, Something for everyone

Why Think Twice: If you want to eat what you love and you know how it should be made and how it should taste. Names and preparations can be misleading and authentic Indian food lovers may just avoid.

Comments»

1. Cory - July 11, 2008

Thank you for your review. Simar is a real gentleman and business man, as I observed in our meeting today.