NOTE: This is the first in my series of reviews from Baltimore, Maryland.
I had some big decisions to make about where I would eat on this trip since I had only a few days to get as much Baltimore as possible. The words “Royal Indian Cuisine” grabbed my attention and ”lunch buffet” acted as a lighthouse leading this ship safely to shore. Buffets are attractive for two reasons: 1) A buffet allows me to taste a large assortment of dishes instead of being forced to choose one or two items from the menu and 2) I can sample the aforementioned large assortment of dishes for a lower price than the cost of the chicken tikka masala alone! Actually three reasons: 3) I can eat as much as my little tummy desires.
Of course not all buffets are created equal. If the restaurant does not experience a good crowd, the dishes don’t get turned over and the food becomes old and tired. I felt confident this buffet was popular enough, rumored to be the best Indian in town, to maintain fresh food on all the stations.
You step into 1930’s Old Baltimore when you enter the space that is the Ambassador Dining Room. The building, an apartment complex, appears ordinary from the exterior but once you pass through the door, there’s nothing ordinary about it.
We dined inside due to the heat, but I walked around and snapped some photos outside on the terrace. The oversized rattan arm chairs are fitted with inviting cushions in coordinating fabrics. Every table is dressed with white linen and gleaming flatware. There’s even a cozy fireplace outside for chilly evenings. A fountain provides the calming sound of rushing water and attractive plantings offer blooming color. Baltimore Magazine named it Best Ambiance in 2008 with good reason.
I was in love with the atmosphere before I even tasted the food.
The Ambassador’s style of cuisine is Northern Indian. Characteristics include creamy sauces, dried fruits and nuts, use of cream and yoghurt, and a wide array of fruits and vegetables. The prevalence of fresh vegetables allow for a generous array of vegetarian options. Lucky for me, being a carnivore means I eat the meat and the vegetarian selections!
And selection there was – the lunch buffet was arranged in the center of the main dining area in elegant serving vessels. It began with poppadoms (I like to call them Indian tortilla chips) and condiments and stretched nearly to the terrace door. Offerings included basmati rice with peas, palak paneer, lentils, malai kofta, tandoori chicken, lamb vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, fish, and an assortment of cookies. And that’s merely the list of what I personally sampled – there were additional items I simply couldn’t eat. Oh, the shame.
Naan was delivered to each table in a basket wrapped with a linen napkin. Don’t you love the charred spots on the naan? The bread is chewy and slightly sweet with a delicious grilled overtone. I have not tried to make naan at home – I simply pick some up at the restaurant on my way home where the experts baked it in a tandoor.
One thing I adore about Indian cuisine is the aroma. Coriander, curry, garam masala, cardamom. The spices combine to create a bouquet of aromas and flavors unmatched, in my opinion, by any other cuisine. Add some chilis for heat… and I am completely smitten. Everything I tasted was delicious. At $14.95, the weekday lunch buffet is a bargain when compared to the prices dinner service commands.
In addition to the dishes on the buffet, my party also enjoyed the Crab Malabar – garlic naan topped with sweet backfin crab, fresh corn and coriander leaves. And solely because it was so hot outside, we concluded our meal with refreshing mango sorbet that tasted as lovely as it looked.
The Ambassador Dining Room is a complete dining experience. Atmosphere, service and quality combine to earn FOUR FORKS for the lunch buffet. Now I need to do some sightseeing to walk off lunch so I can be ready for dinner tonight.Ambassador Dining Room 3811 Canterbury Road
Baltimore, MD 21218
P 410 366-1484
F 410 366-1484
A note to my fellow Charlestonians: you don’t need to travel to experience fine Northern Indian cuisine. Sitar of India serves dishes equally as delectable as what I experienced in Baltimore.