Amber India - Page 2

Gratifyingly spicy and carefully prepared dishes keep SoMa diners coming back for more
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Photo by Rory McNamara

Every Indian restaurant I've been to — except, now, Amber — offers an interpretation of this standard. Amber's spinach dish is called teen saag ($14.95); it consists of spinach (plus some dill and mustard greens) wilted with cumin and garlic and, for counterpoint, mushroom caps and spears of baby corn instead of cheese chunks.

I would count that dish as vegan, despite a small suspicion that cream was involved. Indian cooking is expansively vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, but if you are a sometime or intermittent vegetarian, or a pesco-vegetarian — or even just some kind of poser — Amber doesn't disappoint. Our tongues were left pleasurably smoldering by the "thecha" shrimp salad ($9.95), a clutch of small shrimp marinated with garlic and chilis, sautéed, and nested in mixed baby field greens. The masterstroke: a vinaigrette scented with lemon verbena, an herb that, like lemongrass, is lemony in a way distinct from plain lemons.

It's possible that people eat in Indian restaurants without having naan, but I have never seen such a display. Amber isn't the place to experiment with the naanless life, either; its flatbreads are wonderful exercises in blistered tenderness, and the signature Amber rounds ($3.95) come with a variety of toppings, including a fragrant and nippy blend of chili and thyme.

On the other hand ... $3.95 for a disk of bread sprinkled with a few herbs isn't exactly the steal of the century. Amber's prices are, I would guess, about 50 percent higher than the Indian-restaurant average in the farther reaches of the city. So you pay a city-center premium that reflects convenience and the affluence of the surroundings. But you won't find better Indian food, and in that sense the premium, although steep as a percentage, is modest as a fact.

AMBER

Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5–10:30 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., noon–3 p.m.

25 Yerba Buena Lane, SF

(415) 777-0500

www.amber-india.com

Full bar

AE/DC/DISC/MC/V

Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

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