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Aug 9, 2008 01:54 PM

Ambrosia India Bistro Open in Aptos

Whoa! Have been a bit out of the chow scene lately, but had heard a while ago that there was the possibility that a new Indian place would be opening in what had been the Bleu Spoon off State Park Drive in Aptos. Given that we're weak on Indian around here (to say the least), I had hoped it might be something that was an improvement on Royal Taj.

This morning one of our daughters mentioned that it was in fact open and we headed over for lunch to check it out. As we drove up and I saw the "Ambrosia" sign, I almost dared not hope that it was associated with the superb Ambrosia in Monterey. Long story short, it is!

Finally, good Indian in Santa Cruz (well, Aptos, anyway).

Ambrosia India Bistro
207 Searidge Rd
Aptos, CA 95003
(831) 685-0610

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  1. I just came back from Ambrosia in Monterey where we found out about the Aptos branch. I just wanted to echo the OP's sentiment that I think the original branch is outstanding. I've been three times, and I think the flavors are complex but clean (if that makes sense), the dishes have great balance and are well-executed. Oddly (for me) I think the vegetarian dishes tend to be better than the meat ones, although I haven't explored too many of the latter.

    In addition to clearly being the best Indian in Santa Cruz County, I personally prefer it to Amber India (though I've only been to the Mountain View branch and not any others). Interestingly, the website for Ambrosia in Monterey states that the head chef was in the same position at Amber in SF starting in 2000. I haven't sampled enough from each to get a strong impression for how much overlap there is in the menus, but my impression after a few visits to each is that they are fairly distinct.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bouncepass

      Thanks for the info. What are your favorite dishes at the Monterey branch?

      1. re: Carb Lover

        Although I'm not vegetarian, so far I've particularly enjoyed these dishes the most. I've always ordered the Baigan Bharta, which has a nice smokiness to it. There's a black lentil dish that I don't see on the online menu which is different and quite nice, although the last time I thought it was a bit heavy on the ghee for my taste. Out of curiosity, I tried the Aloo Gobi just to see what a standard dish was like, and I thought it was excellent. The spicing has a much better balance than is typical, and I would definitely order it again. I actually didn't particularly like the Butter Chicken - thought it was a bit too rich for my taste. Many, many people seem to get one (or more) of the sizzling tandoori dishes (comes out on a hot cast iron plate) but I haven't tried it - but look forward to doing so soon.

        1. re: bouncepass

          Thanks for your reply. I really like Indian vegetarian dishes. I'm also looking forward to trying some lamb dishes! I've never been into the rich chicken or tandoori dishes at Indian restaurants...I do love naan though!

    2. I had dinner there last night. Very good.

      6 Replies
        1. re: Nathan P

          So far, I've only been there twice for the lunch buffet. The standout was the Butter Chicken, which was the only dish that was on the buffet both days. I imagine they tend to avoid the spicier dishes for the buffet. I'm looking forward to going back for dinner.

          1. re: ahclem

            Thanks for alerting us to Ambrosia's opening, ahclem. I look forward to trying it soon.

            How much is their lunch buffet? Can one order off the menu for lunch or is it buffet only?

            1. re: Carb Lover

              The lunch buffet M-F is $9.95. They do a champagne brunch buffet on the weekend, and as I recall, the price is slightly higher. Not sure about ordering off the menu during buffet hours.

              Four of us had dinner there the other night and we all thought it was fantastic. We had an okra dish with ginger that was amazing. I'd go back just for that.

              1. re: spiltinky

                Thanks for the info. The lunch buffet sounds like a good deal if the food is good. Based on these early positive reports and some others I've been hearing from friends of friends, Ambrosia could be a great asset to the community!

          2. re: Nathan P

            I started with the Samosa. It was stuffed with potato and peas. Then I had a sizzling chicken breast kabob platter. It was very tangy. My friend loved his lamb dish.

        2. Well, add me to the chorus of praise for Ambrosia in Aptos! Eating there was a breath of fresh air and just what this beach community needs. Husband and I had dinner there w/ a friend last night and thought it was very good overall. It's a good sign when I'm still contemplating the meal the next day and plotting other dishes to try...

          In searching for this post to append my report, I found the below report on Ambrosia in Monterey from 2007. It will come in handy for my next visit, and I clearly need to save room for dessert next time.

          We ordered the vegetarian samosa, baigan bharta (smoky eggplant), rogan josh (Kashmir lamb curry), and Goa fish curry made w/ halibut. Also got plain and garlic naan as well as basmati rice to accompany. The wine and cocktail list looked interesting but I was in the mood for a mango lassi.

          The samosa was fried perfectly and came out piping hot. There were three on the plate which meant that we could each have our very own. Tasty but nothing remarkable. The eggplant dish was intensely smoky from the tandoor but was balanced w/ other seasonings I'm not skilled enough to identify. It had a nice pulpy consistency and was studded w/ plump green peas. The lamb cubes were tender and moistened w/ the rich tomato-based curry; it was very good. The fish curry was a little disappointing for me since I was most interested in this one. There wasn't a whole lot of halibut (especially compared to the lamb) so it seemed to be more about the sauce than anything. The sauce was slightly sweet but had a nice acidic note as well. Overall, the flavors for each dish were very distinctive, clean, and bright. Sometimes Indian food can taste sorta muddy, heavy, and "all the same", but this was not the case at Ambrosia.

          The complimentary papadums were crispy and feather-light, and I loved the condiment caddy w/ the spicy vegetable pickle, tamarind chutney, and mild green herb chutney. I kept on reaching for those addictive pickles and then stopped after consuming an entire fresh garlic clove w/ its spicy bite. My mango lassi was the best I've ever had; it was tangier than most and had a very fresh yogurt and fruit taste to it. The naan was fine but I wasn't crazy over it like that pickle.

          The service was very efficient, professional, and warm. To be honest, I don't see many South Asians in this county, so I felt comforted seeing the Indian waiters and one gentleman that I thought might be the owner. There were even a few Indians dining here, and they already seem to have cultivated a following since the dining room was pretty filled for a Wed. night for a lone restaurant next to a gas station in Aptos. I passed by during lunch and it looked like a number of people were partaking in their buffet.

          Total cost for three of us w/ two mango lassis, one chai, and one rice pudding dessert (I didn't try this) was $75 pre-tip. The portions aren't that big and look even more diminutive in their serving bowls, but the unique flavors, exacting preparation, and fresh ingredients make it a good value in my book. Even though this location is relatively new, it feels very established and humming smoothly since they were able to successfully transfer their Monterey model. I'm not sure who's cooking in the kitchen here, but they know what they are doing!

          1. Another "yes" vote! Tried Ambrosia for the first time tonight - wonderful to have a yummy place back in the old blue spoon location (ie, State Park W of H1 in Aptos).

            We had:
            > Baigan Bharta - nice 'n smokey, slivers of fresh ginger were fab.
            > Butter Chicken - curry was much "darker" than same-named-dish @ other places, but I loved it, flavorful sheds of dark-meat chicken, rich, nutty, creamy curry.
            > Butter nan - a bit dry but fresh and flavorful.
            + 2 appetizers and 1 sweet lassi, plenty of food for 2 adults and 2 kids, $48.

            We'll be back often!!

            4 Replies
            1. re: eqjosh

              Glad to hear you and your family liked it too! What appetizers did you try? I'll have to get out there one weekend for their lunch buffet...

              1. re: Carb Lover

                We've had the aloo pakoras - they've been made differently on different days... sometimes slices of potato, which is favorite of my 7-year old. Last time were a kind of cake of spuds and veggies which were WAY YUM for grownups but not-so-popular in the under 4' crowd.

                Also had something whose name I don't know, kind of a fried pattie of veggie, they had it as an ap in the buffet, but also in the buffet had it with a kind of lemony, creamy curry.

                In lunch buffet 2 days ago also had a chicken curry, no other name, that had a dark sauce w onions and ginger and wow. We're going back today!!!

                1. re: eqjosh

                  Thanks for your update! Glad to hear that Ambrosia has been consistently good. I will definitely have to get out there for the lunch buffet soon...

                  1. re: Carb Lover


                    Ambrosia India Bistro
                    207 Sea Ridge Rd, Aptos, CA

            2. It doesn't get any better than this. Last night was my son and my 4th visit. We've done the lunch buffet and the dinner menu. I'm glad it's so close to home and really glad I can stay within a reasonable budget. Two main dishes (as usual, one was butter chicken), two orders of Nan (the garlic one is to die for), lot's of flat bread while waiting and got out of there for $47 INCLUDING 20% tip. Best food and service in the Aptos, Watsonville, Soquel and Capitola area. Bar none.