Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Off the Map: If Tower of Terror Ever Opens a Restaurant...

Goa Fish -- Ambassador Dining Room, Baltimore, MD
Ambassador Dining Room

Nothing like scaring a busboy half to death to kick off a meal.

Vodka and Bloody Mary arrive at Ambassador Dining Room in Baltimore fifteen minutes before our 5:00 reservation hoping to locate a bar.  Instead, we find a completely empty restaurant situated beyond one of the top ten creepiest lobbies ever, as the Dining Room seems to be part of an apartment house.
What, Does No One Want to Eat Whole Fish Bodies Anymore?!
We stand at the hostess stand waiting for an employee to point us to the bar (of which we later learn there is none), and when a busboy finally emerges from the back, gripping a pitcher of water, he jumps a solid inch in the air at the sight of us.
Presumably He Thought the Ambassador Ghosts Had Finally Come to Haunt Him
He manages to pull it together long enough to send us back into the ghost-town of a lobby to wait for 5:00pm to arrive, which is where we decide that the Ambassador Apartments could rival the Omni Parker House on the eeriness scale.  Dark with overly large, old-fashioned furniture, the lobby even features an ominous wooden "Manager" sign hanging above a ringing telephone (with no such "Manager" in sight).

The place is striaght out of Disney World's Tower of Terror.
The "Manager" Actually Died 400 Years Ago.... OoOooo....
Based on all of this "ambiance," imagine our surprise when we are finally escorted to our table at the back of the dining room, only to find a full, lush garden out the windows and multiple fireplaces framing our seats.

What a difference twenty feet can make.
No Hitchhiking Ghosts in These Parts
The Only Thing This Hearth Is Missing Is a Cat Basking In Its Warmth
Settling in, we (finally) order some cocktails -- red wine for Vodka (a generous pour - thanks Ambassador) and a ginger-based drink for Bloody Mary (Ginger would be so proud).
Goblet of Wine Dwarfing the Cocktail
We also ask for Duff Goldman's chosen Best Thing I Ever Ate SAUCED dish, the goa fish (a whole pan-fried fish topped with roasted garlic, tamarind, and scallion), along with chicken tikka masala and naan.
This Looks Excessively Like Something Oscar the Grouch Would Wrap Up in His Newspaper
The Standard "Least Scary" Indian Dish for Weak Palates
Truth be told, we are not overly excited at the promise of dining on a whole fish -- we don't particularly like to work for our food, and such a presentation seems to dictate a lot of effort (what with all the fish bones and all).
Mom, Please Cut Up Our Food
As we wait for our fish slaughter, we sip contentedly at our drinks and watch the busboys add an ever-increasing number of lit candles to the room, including on the window fixtures above our heads.
Precarious Lighting Fixtures
"I wish those candles on the windows weren't lit," Vodka says, breaking the mood.  "I have highly flammable hair."  Before Vodka can catch on fire, our complimentary bread basket arrives, which is full of potato and pea-stuffed naan (which, because we are morons, we at first mistake for the plain naan we have ordered).
It All Kinda Looks the Same from the Outside Though, Doesn't It?
When our entrees are placed before us, we immediately have entirely too many plates on the table.  Between the whole fish, the chicken, each of our sides of rice and creamed spinach, and the plain naan, we barely know where to begin.
So Instead of Dealing with the Problem, We Do the Logical Thing: Drink More
Gingerly, Vodka begins peeling off pieces of the fish and handing them to Bloody Mary piecemeal.  The fish itself is, thankfully, airy, light, and easy to break apart.
One Fish Two Fish Me Fish You Fish
The white meat is soft and pleasing, if a bit bland, as the outer layer of sauce has remained almost strictly on the fish skin.
Pucker Up
When we manage to taste the sauce, we find it excessively like soy sauce - salty and garlicky, and thus, in Vodka's opinion, delicious.
The Better to See You With, My Dear
By some miracle, we manage to make it through most of the fish with only one bone issue (courtesy of Bloody Mary), and while the fish was better than we had expected, we are not blown away.
Though We Do Know How to Make a Plate of Food Look Horrible
Similarly, the chicken tikka masala is tasty, if completely standard as far as we can tell, and we enjoy the bread basket naan ten times more than the plain variety we had ordered .
Naan in Need of Some Garlic Salt
The sides of rice and creamed spinach (at least, we think the green stuff has derived from spinach) is especially good, most likely because it features a carb, and we love a carb.
What's With the Solitary Pea?!
While the food overall is tasty enough, it seems that the one thing the Ambassador Dining Room has going for it is its scenery, what with the garden, fireplaces, and candles.

That is, if you can make it through the lobby without being kidnapped by a ghost.

Ambassador Dining Room's Goa Fish: 3 stars

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