7/23/2012 05:50:00 PM

First Look: Amber Dhara Opens in the Mission

One by one, the summer's highly anticipated restaurants are pulling down the scaffolding and swinging open their doors. Just this weekend, Farina pizzeria peeled away its protective coating to reveal a spiffy gleaming white exterior that suggests its getting closer, and a few doors down, Abbot's Cellar is readying its stoves for a Wednesday night debut. But judging on size only, the biggest opening of the week goes to Amber Dhara, a sprawling contemporary offshoot from the South Bay-based Amber India empire, which opened on Sunday night.

The Look: Clocking in with 275 seats spread out over 6,000 square feet makes this bi-level storefront the largest venue on Valencia St, according to owner Vijay Bist. The room is awash with orange, red and yellow walls, but the look is modern and loungey, with low-slung leather sectional sofas up front, a more formal dining room upstairs and a long side bar area with white Design Within Reach-like light fixtures, while the walls throughout are hung with oversized white-line illustrations of what looks like ancient deities doing yoga.

The Food: Unlike its other Amber India siblings, this one is designed with a bar crowd in mind, so not surprisingly the affordable menu features a large selection of small plates; in addition, it offers a large selection of entrees and several sections dedicated to items cooked in the tandoor (including five specialties breads and a rack of lamb) and most everything is priced under $20. We got our hands on the opening night menu and were particularly jazzed about masala Ohhari on partha (spiced pork belly on housemade bread), Hyderbadi chicken biryani (Mary's Farm chicken and rose water) and the assorted bread basket that filled with their classic naan, green pea kulcha and lacha paratha. The menu will change seasonally and name-checks all of the local, sustainable sources.

The Drinks: Forget just beer or Sula. Complimenting the food are premium sakes, non-alcoholic fruit drinks such as lassi, and an enviable international wine list that includes reserve bottles from boutique and eco-friendly wines such as Scribe, Flowers and Turley. But the highlight are its special signature ayurvedic-based cocktails employing various herb, spices and fresh fruits that are designed to stoke different medicinal properties aside from just getting you buzzed, that comes with suggestive names such as the Chakratini and the Cocky Sultan.
The Details: 680 Valencia Street, open for dinner only for now, weekend brunch to follow in the future.


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