50 Best Restaurants 2017: Ambar

A Balkan restaurant in Arlington

Photo by Rey Lopez

This is going to be overwhelming because of course it makes sense to get the $35 all-you-can-eat option, and then of course it’s hard not to order everything.

Most items from this Balkan restaurant (its first outpost opened in D.C. a handful of years ago) are quite good. Here’s how to conquer the onslaught of plates.

Good ways to start include the gratis bread service with one roll moist like an underbaked brownie and another cloudlike; beef prosciutto, salty and smoky and delicate, served with a salty-briny cheese; and the chef’s tasting of spreads, if only to understand the earthy lusciousness of lamb pate.

The common combination of Brussels sprouts and bacon here is a reminder of why it works so well, with the brassica as crispy as the diced bacon, fluttering in a puddle of lemony garlic yogurt. Another deceptively delicious vegetable plate is the zucchini, puffy and light and the answer to the age-old bumper-crop conundrum. It will be hard to decide on what meats to get because there’s a long list of what works: moussaka, letting bechamel and lamb take a leading role; beef short rib goulash over soft, twisty noodles; housemade pork sausage that is juicy, smoky, charred and poked with little bits of fat; and a wild boar patty that is somehow light yet also funky and bright with a creamy pesto.

Dessert doesn’t come in the deal, not that your stomach would allow it.

MISC: Check out Baba, a coffee shop by day and cocktail bar at night, Ambar’s sister concept located in the basement.

Balkan | $$
2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington

(50 Best Restaurants 2017November 2017)