Ambeli Greek Taverna, a very casual storefront restaurant in Cranford that opened last January, is another dining option if you live in the area. We experienced some pluses and minuses here, but the quote of the night, which gave us a good laugh, was when our waitress asked Lowell twice if he really wanted his fish on the bone with the head and the tail intact. More on this soon.
We started with a Greek olive bread (not good) served with hummus (good). Service was fast and within a few minutes of the waitress taking our order our appetizers were placed on the table. Calamari was listed on the menu as being charcoal-grilled but tasted boiled (in our opinion), was not hot and did not have any char from the grill. While tender with an assertive olive oil and lemon sauce, capers and finely chopped roasted peppers the small portion for $14 seemed overpriced to us. Our other app was large, a horiatiki salad with bright red tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, feta cheese and Kalmata olives with olive oil and oregano dressing. It just needed a squirt of lemon to give it some liveliness.
Entrees were served as soon as our appetizer plates were removed from the table. Moussaka, a classic dish to order in a Greek restaurant, is like tiramisu in an Italian restaurant in that no two places make it the same. Here, it is served in a soufflé dish (not a clay pot as listed on the menu) and while tasty, nutmeg overwhelmed the dish and it was too oily.
Now for the fish that Lowell got a gold star for! Our waitress asked us twice if we wanted the bronzini with the head and tail and not deboned. We said yes, and to bring a plate for the bones. She then asked if we were Mediterranean because that is how Greek people eat this fish. We told her no, that we were Eastern European. She replied that she only met Mediterranean people who ate fish like that! Lowell devoured the excellent, tender, large and juicy piece of fish with charred skin and all that was left were the bones and a pulled apart head. As she took away our plates our waitress said, “I feel that I am back in Greece because you ate the fish properly.” Bravo Lowell!
There were only three desserts offered: baklava; yogurt with walnuts and honey; and galaktoboureko. We opted for the galaktoboureko described on the menu as a creamy custard baked in phyllo then topped with honey syrup. The custard was firm not creamy.
Ambeli Greek Taverna
29 Union Avenue
Photo courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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