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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Restaurant review: Ambrosia Grille & Lounge ****

Ambrosia Grille & Lounge has to be one of the more impressively decorated restaurants in Toledo.

Filled with art glass, lighted glass columns, and a variety of textured surfaces, the Maumee restaurant that was once named Mezzmerize Mediterranean Grille is a beautiful place for a relaxing meal.

It's also a good place for a relaxing meal, because the food — a combination of American, Middle Eastern, and Italian — is topnotch.

Ambrosia is broken up into several dining rooms and three separate bar areas. Of the latter, one has the now-requisite televisions tuned to sports channels and another is more of a wine bar. Those wanting a libation of just about any sort likely will be well served here.

The appetizer menu is heavy on such Middle Eastern favorites as hummus, falafel, baba ghannouj, and mejadra (saut ed lentils), but it also includes a seafood sampler and smoked salmon, things I've not often seen on local menus.

On several visits, my companions and I found much to like and little to criticize. A server brought me coffee instead of tea once, but she quickly rectified the mistake, graciously apologizing.

For appetizers we tried lunch portions of grape leaves filled with lamb and rice, ($6), a cup of the lamb and vegetable soup ($2.50), and spinach pies ($1.25). (Dinner portions are priced somewhat higher and portions are larger, a server explained.)

Served with a side of creamy yogurt, the grape leaves were tangy with a hint of lemon and, with the soup, hearty enough for a lunch. The spinach pies are sort of dough envelopes with a spinach-onion filling. I prefer the type that has cheese and is layered with phyllo, but Ambrosia's version was tasty in its own way.

The soup, thick with vegetables, was a surprise, and it must have been the lamb flavoring the delicate broth, because it didn't taste like the vegetable-beef soups I'm used to. Boy was it good. I could happily make a meal out of the soup and the puffy pita bread brought to the table soon after we were seated.

(Our server said the bread puffed up while being heated in the pizza oven before serving.)

From the sandwich menu, we tried shish kabob wrapped in pita bread ($5) and immediately put the shish kabob dinner on our to-do list. Char-grilled with a pink center, just the way we like it, the meat was tender and tasty. Ambrosia is currently running a lunch special: sandwich, fries, and beverage for $7, which is a deal in our minds, given the quality of the food. Other sandwiches on the menu include an open-faced steak, hamburger, reuben, Italian panini, veggie melt, and falafel, most of which are in the $5 to $6 range.

We're not big fans of lamb, but a roasted lamb-shank lunch ($13) came close to changing our minds. The meat was falling off the bone and meltingly sweet and tender. It's also available in a dinner portion for $17.

Dinner brought veal marsala ($18) and lemon-oregano shish tawook ($16) to the table. The former featured several tender filets coated with a rich sauce studded with porcini mushrooms, and the accompanying couscous was wonderful as it captured some of the sauce. Ambrosia goes to the top of the list when we have a hunger for either veal or chicken marsala, which is also offered.

The shish tawook featured chunks of white-meat chicken that remained moist and tender despite being chargrilled. The light sauce had a distinct flavor of lemon, as advertised, but not so much that it overwhelmed the chicken.

Entrees are served with a cup of soup or house salad, seasonal vegetables, and a choice of potatoes, rice, or couscous. Portions were ample enough for us to take some home.

Desserts apparently change depending on the season and the whim of the chef. We were told that the tiramisu is popular enough so that it's generally always on the menu. We ordered one to share ($5), and we endorse the general sentiment. It was worth the calories.

Ambrosia, owned by Amin and Aida Beshara, is at the intersection of Dussel Drive and Holland Road in Maumee. There's plenty of parking, and a welcoming atmosphere that's worth seeking out.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com.



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