A new addition to Johnstown’s restaurant scene, Ambrosia Fine Dining is located in the Rosewood Inn on Scalp Avenue in Richland. As is customary for the region, Ambrosia apparently eschews the Series of Tubes in favor of other methods of promotion. I learned of the restaurant from crookedly photocopied menus that showed up at my workplace.
While the appearance of the menus was unimpressive, the content was exciting—a wide array of Mediterranean dishes, with descriptions that suggested attention to ingredients and creative preparation. I’ve scanned the menu for your convenience.
The Spousal Unit and I arrived at about 7:00 on a Friday, on a cold and snowy evening. We were warmly greeted, and offered a table near the window, or across the room. Wary of the cold outside, we chose the interior option. The dining room is large and open, and appears to have been recently decorated and furnished. The walls are painted in warm tones of burgundy and gold, and the black and red tablecloths provide a modern touch.
Although the room holds about 30 tables, few of them were occupied and the atmosphere was quiet. I don’t believe the restaurant is well-known yet in the community, and the poor weather may have dissuaded people from venturing out.
We saw a liquor license application notice in the window, so we asked the hostess if a wine list was available. She said that they were still waiting on the license, which was anticipated any day. In the meantime, they had been pouring complimentary wine, but no longer had any available. Our server took our soft drink order, and he was very attentive to our needs throughout the meal.
The Spousal Unit and I were excited about a couple of appetizers, the Beer Cheese Fondue and the Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, so we ordered them both. We selected two pasta dishes as our main courses, which included a salad.
Soon after ordering, we were presented with warm slices of bread, with herb- and garlic-infused olive oil. It was a nice start to the meal; the oil was flavorful, with plenty of garlic, and a smooth finish.
The first appetizer to arrive was the hummus. It was served in an unusual presentation, with large scoops of hummus placed on a bed of warm pita bread, and carrot and celery sticks on the side. My initial impression was that it looked like a plate of Buffalo wings. The hummus had a very good flavor, with a nice kick from the Sriracha. The hummus was served quite cold, and the texture was somewhat coarse. I would prefer that they take a bit of the chill off the hummus before serving. The pita chips varied in texture, with some soft and puffy (which I preferred) and others well browned and crispy. The portion size was very generous, and it was a successful start to the meal.
Shortly after the hummus arrived, our server presented the fondue, and lit a tea light under the vessel with instructions to wait a couple of minutes before eating. The fondue warmed as we enjoyed the hummus. From the first bite, the fondue was a great success, with a powerful cheddar cheese flavor, and a complex background of garlic and beer. The texture of the fondue was excellent—silky smooth. The ample vessel of fondue was served with a substantial assortment of cubed bread. It was a really excellent appetizer, and I think it could only be improved by including a greater variety of dippable comestibles. Kielbasa or summer sausage would be excellent with this fondue, as would apple slices.
As we stuffed ourselves on the appetizers, our salads arrived. Neatly presented on small square plates, the salads were fine, but, frankly, it’s hard to get excited about a green salad when there’s a bubbling vat of flavorful cheese on the table.
The portions thus far had been so ample that we could have called it a night, but we still had the pasta dishes coming. My wife’s Shrimp Caroline, shown below at left, was described by our waiter as a specialty of the house, with a wine and cream sauce, Boursin cheese, and angel hair pasta. My Spaghetti alla Chitara con Salsiccia was a dish of pasta with fennel sausage, bell peppers, and fresh tomato sauce.
The Shrimp Caroline was a complete success, with a delicious, well-balanced sauce and exquisitely creamy cheese. My spaghetti had, at its core, the concept of a good dish, but did not rise to the same standard as my wife’s pasta. It lacked the intensity of flavor that I expected from the description and the appearance of the dish. Even the sausage was very mildly seasoned. I think that a spicier sausage, and maybe some hot peppers mixed with the sweet peppers, would dramatically improve the dish. I would also like to see the spaghetti served more al dente, as it seemed a touch overcooked. With a few tweaks this could be a very successful dish.
Having ordered rather too much food, we ate only a bit of the pasta and packaged it up for tomorrow’s lunch. As we lingered over some very good coffee, we gave in to the Spousal Unit’s New Jersey heritage, and ordered cannoli, served by the pair. We boxed up one cannolo to take home, and split the other. The mascarpone and chocolate filling was sweet but not too sweet, encased in a very crunchy shell and drizzled with vanilla crème anglaise. We’ve had trouble finding cannoli in Johnstown, so we were pleased by this well-executed and tasty offering.
Ambrosia’s food offerings are fairly priced; our check was $66, but we ordered too much food for the two of us. Even if we had ordered only a single appetizer with our entrées, we would have left with plenty of leftovers, and our dessert was necessary only to appease my wife’s inner Jersey Girl. I look forward to seeing the wine list and pricing once the restaurant receives its liquor license.
When I read Ambrosia’s menu, I was excited by the possibilities of the restaurant, but fearful that I was developing false hope. To my relief, Ambrosia is the most promising new restaurant I’ve seen in Johnstown in a while, with a large menu of appealing dishes, and a genuine enthusiasm to provide a quality experience. I plan to return to Ambrosia soon, probably to try one of their promising sandwiches for lunch, and I’m excited to have a new destination in town for fine dining.