Ambra is one of those spots that you may or may not know if you’re familiar with the Philadelphia food scene. Ambra serves contemporary style Italian cuisine and the pre-fixe menu changes with the season.
You have the choice between two options separated into four courses, but be prepared to constantly have something in front of you. The staff is attentive and full of surprises, from bringing complimentary prosecco to small courses that range from a delicious consume broth to a muffuletta or a warm potato focaccia with herbs and fixings. You’ll certainly won’t go hungry and both your taste buds and senses will go fulfilled.
Ambra was started by Marina de Olivera and Chris D’Ambro and named after D’Ambro’s grandfather. The two met while working at Talula’s Garden and after taking some time to work in San Jose de Cabo returned to Philadelphia to take ownership of Southwark, which led to the opening of Ambra right next door.
705 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
What I Ate:
“The life of a mushroom” – stracciatella toast, smoked egg yolk and truffle
Mezzelune di cinghiale al sangue, mustard greens, black garlic and parmesan
Anise scented duck with cippolini onions, parsnip, nebrodini mushrooms, puntarella and marsala
Sorrento lemon cheesecake, olive oil torta and poppy seed merengue
This was one of the those meals where there are too many good dishes to pick a favorite. I found myself taking a bite and savoring the flavors for many moments after. One of the best surprises were the items not on the menu, but the between course additions. The fava bean ravioli in a teacup of consume broth was by far one of the most flavorful bites and I wish it was an entire dish. Another highlight was the tiny tart filled with raw tuna; another one-bite superstar.
I have not been a fan of mushrooms for most of my life, but with each new restaurant experience I find a new appreciation. “The life of a mushroom” is an interesting dish since it takes the same mushroom at different ages and serves it with stracciatella toast decadently covered in truffle and paired with my one of my favorite things; egg yolks. These dishes are becoming my favorites at every restaurant I try.
I also never ever thought I would eat blood sausage in Philadelphia. It’s just not one of those things you’re going to see on most menus. The wild boar and blood sausage ravioli was served with mustard greens and topped with black garlic and parmesan. It wasn’t the highlight of the meal for me, but it was in itself such an interesting dish and unexpected flavor profile.
Next, you bring on one of my go-to choices with a duck breast, but elevated with the scent of anise, which is unique to its own. The duck was served with additional duck meatballs along with cippolini onions, parsnips and covered in a marsala sauce. Eat the elements on their own or mix them together to get pure perfection.
Finally, the cheesecake was a light finish to the meal. I have to say that the poppyseed merengue is where I was really caught off guard here. I don’t typically like merengue, but I love poppy seeds. It was the highlight of that dish for me. It had the perfect flavor and was a crisp partner to the creamy lemon cheesecake.
The ambience in Ambra is intimate; with a 16-seat space designed purely minimalist and dark with a mix of hardwood, concrete and metal. It did get really dark making it a bit hard to see, take photographs or even read the menu. Prepare to be blinded by the cellphone flashlights by fellow diners. However, with the industrial and minimal interior there is nothing to take away from the amazing food or the dining experience that the staff work so hard to provide. This makes my meal at Ambra one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Philadelphia.