Ambar - Arlington

4.6
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1996 Reviews
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$30 and under
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Tapas / Small Plates
Our aim is to put together the finest products of the New World and Old World for your dining pleasure. Perennially on the edge of great empires, the Balkans owes much of its food culture to its history, geography, and climate. The term Balkan is generally believed to come from the Byzantine word meaning: “a chain of wooded mountains.” With a desire to introduce Virginia to cutting edge Balkan cuisine, we created a dining space that will delight and indulge the senses. Primarily featuring “small plates,” Ambar also offers wines and spirits from the Balkans not often experienced by the American diner. Ambar showcases the best dishes from the Balkan Peninsula with a modern twist. These dishes are presented artfully, with modern combinations that deliver the flavor profiles in a unique way. Serbian natives Ivan Iricanin and Uros Smiljanic developed the menu with the help of Executive Chef Dejan Pilovic .
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What 1996 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.6based on recent ratings
4.6
food
4.4
service
4.5
ambience
4.5
value
Noise · Moderate
95% of people would recommend it to a friend
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MB
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined a day ago
Overall5food4service5ambience5

Waiter was able to accommodate request for creative mocktails that tasted delicious.

OT
1 review
Dined 2 days ago
Overall3food5service1ambience3

The reason we came was for the tapas menu. My husband and I love the idea of small plates in variety to fill us. The food was great, we had reservations on the high tops which was fine except the two tables to our left and right kept kicking the bar where our feet rest and it was super annoying. Not only that, but our server was horrible. He greeted us 12 minutes after we sat down and said he will be be back to take our orders. Took another 10 minutes to take our orders and never came to check on us throughout the entire experience. Had to ask for an extra pair of silverware and ask the manager for a dessert menu, not to add the fact that we didn't even get everything we ordered... He also took 10 minutes to swipe our cards in the end. If you have a 2 hour limit per table then your service should be on point. No apologies at all. Sad it was our first time and this was a bad turnout. Maybe we'll try again when it's slow.

GC
Washington DC
1 review
Dined 2 days ago
Overall4food4service4ambience5

i really like the food here, especially the slow cooked menu and spreads. Not fond of their meats though. We did the valentines special this time and I think it was a bit too expensive. Only big complaint was the gnocchi dessert, which felt like an overwhelming amount of extract flavoring that left us sick to our stomachs.

KJ
1 review
Dined 2 days ago
Overall4food4service5ambience4

The experience was great until I went to the parking lot and my Truck was towed. It was Valentine’s Day and we had a full day planed so imagine how I felt when that happened. MY wife I read the signs several times. We both understood it to be “no parking before 5 with the exception of guests at the listed establishments”. We went back inside the restaurant, and were told we can’t do anything but give you the phone number and address to the tow company. Then we were showed a print out on the front counter that said not to park in the back before 5. Nothing was said about that, nor was it pointed out when we walked in. We had reservations so we barely approached the greeting area. The signs are misleading - small print and in some cases illegible. I am not sure if this is intentional or not, but I had to pay for an Uber and 135 dollars to get my truck out of impound. This ruined the day for my wife and I and our fond memories of Ambar - our amazing place. The place we went on all of our special days and occasions.
I’m sad and disappointed by this and very hurt by the lack of empathy and concern by your staff.

CL
E. Tennessee
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Attentive wait staff, orders delivered quickly, great unique food. This place has it all. Highly recommended for someone who has not tried Balkan food before and for those who have. The $35 all you can eat small plates is the perfect way to get a large sampling of their great food. Will definitely return.

JL
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal! Will definitely be coming again

KA
1 review
Dined 4 days ago
Overall4food3service5ambience5

Wait staff was excellent. Food was good, $35 small plate special was very good value.

OT
Atlanta
5 reviews
Dined 5 days ago
Overall4food5service4ambience5

Birthday dinner celebration with out of town guests. Such great food and good service

l
Washington DC
9 reviews
Dined 7 days ago
Overall5food5service5ambience4

We've now been to Ambar Clarendon five times, always with one or two other couples with whom we share the small plates, even though this means only getting one or two bites. We let the server bring his or her favorites while mentioning a few that we especially want. This last time we tried 17 different plates. It's always been fabulous and we enjoy the variety of salads, meats and vegetables. I highly recommend it.

SR
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on February 9, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

My cousin wanted to try this restaurant- and I’m glad we did! Food was great & service was too! Really enjoyed her birthday brunch!

FM
Washington DC
9 reviews
Dined on February 9, 2020
Overall3food3service4ambience2

First time to the brunch, and perhaps it was our food choices but we were underwhelmed. The mezze was good, but anemic. Most of our food was just...fair. The price point (good deal on drinks) made up for the ok food. The slider choices were just a bit boring. Very loud. Service was better than most.

SA
1 review
Dined on February 8, 2020
Overall4food5service5ambience3

Food and Service were great.
Not crazy about the Euro-beat music that played the whole time and was a little loud. Also, cold at the high top tables with the door opening and felt crowded with waiting customers standing behind me while I ate.

P
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on February 5, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

The all-you-can eat Express Lunch was delicious. It gave us an opportunity to sample just about everything on the menu. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

OT
Washington DC
1 review
Dined on February 2, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

The Ambar Experience really made our dinner worthwhile! Amazing selections.

DL
Washington DC
1 review
Dined on February 1, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Love Ambar, it’s a favorite.

RI
1 review
Dined on February 1, 2020
Overall3food3service4ambience2

Lots of the food was cold and none particularly good.

V
1 review
Dined on February 1, 2020
Overall3food4service2ambience4

The food took forever to bring out. Like 45 minutes. Other than that, the experience was great, but I don't feel like I got the full 2 hour value that I paid for.

OT
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on January 30, 2020
Overall5food5service4ambience5

In DC once a year, and this is a staple stop. Always a hit with anyone joining me.

TH
Washington DC
17 reviews
Dined on January 30, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Balkan tapas! What a remarkable selection, and all delicious!

RG
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on January 29, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Food, service, location, and atmosphere were outstanding! Recommend opting for the "Ambar Experience" in order to try lots of options.

OT
Washington DC
12 reviews
Dined on January 28, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Great place to go with a group and enjoy the all you can eat appetizers. Service was excellent.

LI
Naples
5 reviews
Dined on January 27, 2020
Overall3food3service5ambience3

I left feeling like Garfield the cat! :) I’m still full after 2 days.

R
Washington DC
12 reviews
Dined on January 26, 2020
Overall3food3service2ambience4

We love Ambar... both the Cap Hill and Clarendon locations, but we go to the Clarendon location more often as it's in our backyard. We were very much looking forward to sharing the experience with our two friends from out of town, and made reservations on the early side for a Sunday evening. We were seated right away in a booth, which was great - those are my favorite tables as it tends to be quite loud and the booth seems cozier and easier to hear one another. We quite quickly decided to do the Balkan Experience - which is absolutely the best value, as long as you know that you often have to put in multiple orders of the same dish since only one piece comes on a plate for some of them (Balkan Zucchini, Boar Patty, Balkan Slider, etc.). Overall, the evening was very nice, but there were also a few things that were off. The service from Bogdan was sub-par. I don't need an overly-chatty or smiley server in order to feel like the service is good, but some kindness is expected, even if you're having a rough day and would rather be elsewhere. We did spend about three hours there, but we also ordered a number of adult beverages and dessert, ensuring that the tab was worth his time. Nevertheless, it was very clear by the end that he just wanted us gone... nearly felt like we were begging for dessert/coffee/another glass of wine... and he literally wasn't speaking to us by the time we left. Very odd. I also felt like the food was a bit off... more salty, and the fried sourdough (which we freakin LIVE for!) was much chewier and denser than usual. All in all, as I said, it was still a very nice evening and our friends did enjoy it... but since we go there so frequently, I felt compelled to share this. I sincerely hope that the standards aren't slipping now that the business is expanding so quickly (Buena Vida, TTT, etc.). We'll definitely be back, and hopefully, so will the quality and service we've come to expect!

B
1 review
Dined on January 26, 2020
Overall4food5service3ambience3

The food is amazing! I love trying all the different options.

It is expensive, so not a good value, but as I said the food is amazing. Many people say they do not want to pay the $35 all you can eat fee, especially since they do not eat much. Yet if you pick 2 options and have a drink your are up to the $35. You can easily end up paying more per person by selecting the a la carte option. For example, they currently charge $12 for 2 small sour cabbage rolls. From my cooking experience it may be $1 for me to make a roll of this size. So, I don't consider it to be a good value.

Service was poor in the beginning of our meal. We were seated and did not receive any attention for possibly 20 minutes. Others were seated after us and waited on before us. Once our server checked on us. Service was great. Tapas plates appeared within a couple minutes. Water glasses were not ever empty. Empty plates were removed quickly, and rolls showed up before we asked for more.

Ambiance is OK.

We sat at a table for 2, but given that this is a tapas restaurant, it was not large enough to accommodate 4 or more small plates as well as a menu so you can continue to order. Suggest only ordering 2 small plates at a time or you won't have room on the table of this size. For our evening, the plates did appear to be timed coming out the kitchen. There was only one situation where the table could not accommodate the plate.

D
Washington DC
9 reviews
Dined on January 26, 2020
Overall3food3service2ambience3

Mediocre food and lackluster service at brunch. Very busy and noisy. Might give them another chance for dinner but overall only an okay place

AD
Washington DC
8 reviews
Dined on January 26, 2020
Overall3food4service2ambience5

I love Ambar and have had their brunch, Happy Hour, and Balkan Experience dinner many times before. I was quite disappointed with this last visit, especially considering I'd raved about it to the person I brought with me. The service was very inconsistent (our first two plates came out before our coffees and drink), and we had to flag down the server every time we needed something. The high-top seating also, to be frank, leaves something to be desired. It feels like it's slanted downward and it remarkably uncomfortable to sit on. We asked to be switched to a table in the main dining space and were told they were being reserved for walk-ins, yet--in the entire time we were there--many remained vacant. All in all, this was a really disappointing experience, and I really hope this isn't a trend but a fluke!

AS
1 review
Dined on January 25, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

My favorite restaurant in the DMV area. Their hospitality is unmatched by any other place in DC.

LB
Washington DC
11 reviews
Dined on January 25, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Excellent as always. Fabulous food, great service, lots of fun. Just a bit loud, but a very friendly environment! The wild boar patties were my favorite, but everything else was also outstanding.

KR
Washington DC
6 reviews
Dined on January 25, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Met a few friends for dinner. Love the family style and ability to try many different things. Service was good, good was amazing. Definitely recommend.

OT
1 review
Dined on January 25, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Every time I fly into the DC area, I have to make a stop at Ambar. The food is to die for and I love the drink specials. I will most definitely go back!

J
Washington DC
5 reviews
Dined on January 24, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Loved it!!!

GR
1 review
Dined on January 23, 2020
Overall4food5service5ambience5

Food and service was amazing. We choose the Ambar experience and enjoyed all of the small plates. My boyfriend and I especially enjoyed the chicken kabob and Ajvar. Even though the ambiance was perfect for our date night, noise level was very loud and we could barely hear each other talking. Probably not a great for a first date if you want to have a quiet night with deep conversations. Otherwise it is a really great restaurant to go to with a large group of friends. Try the Ambar experience!

AJ
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on January 23, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Amazing restaurant!

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DB
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on January 23, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

It was was my first visit and The service was top notch from arrival to check out. The food was delicious. However if you’re salt conscious be careful selecting the all you can eat option. But I’ll certainly be back!

C
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on January 22, 2020
Overall3food3service4ambience2

Dinner was at 7:15-7:30pm on a weekday, and the restaurant was VERY loud and crowded. The menu selection was very good, but I requested vegan options, but was disappointed to see that the “allergy” menu has menu items marked that were incorrect. One of the “vegan” dishes I ordered came out, and it was NOT vegan at all. I’m only eating vegan for a short time, and went to this restaurant specifically bc it said it has vegan selections, but was kind of disappointed with the variety, and left not really being sure what I ate. Once I’m done with the fast I might return to try the rest of the menu, since it did look promising. But if you have allergies or special food requests, maybe go elsewhere.

CD
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on January 21, 2020
Overall5food5service4ambience4

The music was loud when we came in and the hostess kindly turned it down so conversation was easy to hear. We had our vegetarian son with us so tried many new things from our previous visits and had a great lunch!

AD
Orlando
2 reviews
Dined on January 20, 2020
Overall3food3service3ambience4

The food was hit or miss. The meats on the Mezze Board were just ok, and the creamed corn tasted like a can of corn was blended and heated up. The spreads were delicious though, with the best being the beet Tzatziki. I was disappointed that the brunch menu was limited in terms of the Balkan food you could order. I didn't come to Ambar for waffles so, wish the full lunch menu was available to try.

MI
Washington DC
12 reviews
Dined on January 19, 2020
Overall3food3service4ambience4

Been many time to both locations. Was somewhat disappointing this time:

-Food seemed rushed. Rice in mushroom pilaf was under-cooked, you could chew uncooked rice. Ustipci (deep fried sour dough) were doughy inside-under-fried.
-Size of the portions was a shocker-they shrieked since last time to a one bite size. Been several months since was here last night, but that was very noticeable difference.

Sean, our waiter, was very good.
Hostess at the door should dress nicer, sneakers and tight jeans looked unpresentable for the restaurant.

I don't know was it because it was restaurant week, or because it is holiday, but experience was below what I am used to.

B
Washington DC
12 reviews
Dined on January 19, 2020
Overall4food4service2ambience4

Food was good. Service was awful. Manager stepped in to help and fixed most of the issues. Changed from a great server when were seated to a new server who either was not interested or simply incapable.

OT
Washington DC
1 review
Dined on January 18, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Excellent food and atmosphere!