Home > Ballard, Restaurants, Seattle > The Amber Den – 2/25/2012

The Amber Den – 2/25/2012

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Location: 1556 NW 56th St

Hours:

Mon-Sun: 2pm-10pm

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 4pm-7pm

Sunday: All day

Open only three weeks, The Amber Den has used its small space well, making it a much needed spot to relax and enjoy a drink at the east end of Market Street. On the corner of 56th and 17th, in a space that has seen a couple of coffee shops come and go, The Amber Den is the type of place to go for a glass of wine and a few small bites before seeing a movie at the Majestic Bay.

The comfortable space has a mixture of tall bar stools and tables and groupings of couches and chairs that invite hanging out. There is an extra loft space that overlooks the main space with a few more tables, chairs, a couch and a bookcase with an eclectic array of donated books. With free wi-fi available, The Amber Den is an interesting alternative to the typical coffee shop, inviting you to stay a while.

Their small menu consists of a variety of small bites that range from meat and cheese plates to stuffed mushrooms to harissa spiced meatballs. They serve local beer and wine along with various non-alcoholic options. The most interesting thing about their wine list is the four choices of Washington State wines on tap.

The Service:

Our server was very friendly and full of suggestions about the best wines and food. When J’s choice of wine came from a nearly tapped out keg, she brought a glass with the last bit, gratis, before bringing a glass of wine from the new keg.

The Drink:

J chose the Proletariat Bordeaux Blend. He found the flavor difference between the end of one keg and the new keg very interesting. The end of the keg wine was stronger with more tannin while the first glass of the new keg tasted far milder.

I had the Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir, a fresh and bright red with a bitey finish.

The Food:

We ended up ordering nearly their entire menu. First was the Crostini Trio, a small plate of three homemade pestos (basil, tomato and chimichurri) and bread. The plating was very clever, offering three pestos and six thin slices of baguette. We both felt that the baguette slices needed to be toasted just a bit more. It was a little soft for crostini. The basil pesto was bright with a strong basil/olive oil flavor. The chimichurri was a little too grassy tasting for us. It needed a hit of citrus and/or salt to counteract the green flavor. The best of the three pestos was the tomato, with its rich, caramelized taste.

Next we decided to try the Den Fries, lightly seasoned potato pieces served with chipotle catsup and an avocado aioli. The potatoes could have been a bit crispier and done with some more seasoning … perhaps salt or lemon. The nearly flavorless avocado aioli could have done with the same extra hit of seasoning as the potatoes. The winner of this small plate was the perfectly spiced chipotle catsup. J remarked that they should bottle and sell it since it was so good.

The Albondigas, beef and lamb meatballs in a homemade honey-harissa glaze, were awesome. The little, slightly charred meatballs tasted unlike any meatball either of us had ever eaten. Perfectly cooked with a sweet-spicy sauce. Delicious. We would go back to The Amber Den again just for these meatballs alone.

Then came the Blue Cheese ‘n Bacon Mushrooms, mushroom caps stuffed with a blue cheese, bacon, and date filling. So tasty. The addition of the date to the filling helped to cut the sharpness of the high quality blue cheese. We could have eaten two or three more plates.

Our final small plate was the perfectly Garlic Shrimp tossed with garlic and chorizo. The addition of the hard, salty chorizo gave this dish a spiciness that uplifted what could have been a bland dish. The only issue I had was the odd, floral aftertaste of the garlic and J thought the portion was a little small. Otherwise it was quite good.

The Price:

Proletariat Bordeaux Blend: 8.00 (7.00 Happy Hour)

Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir: 6.00 (5.00 Happy Hour)

Crostini Trio: 5.00 (4.00 Happy Hour)

Den Fries: 4.00 (3.00 Happy Hour)

Albondigas: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

Blue Cheese ‘n Bacon Mushrooms: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

Garlic Shrimp: 7.00 (6.00 Happy Hour)

The Verdict:

The Amber Den was a neat, little place with a creative menu, good wine, and nice Happy Hour deals. The friendly staff and inviting atmosphere encourage lingering over a glass of wine and the tasty small plates. I can imagine J and I going back before seeing a movie or a show in Ballard and if they were open later, it would be the perfect place for a nightcap. We’ll be returning for the stuffed mushrooms and meatballs at the very least.

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  1. March 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    We liked it as well. We just had time for a glass and their cheese & charcuterie plate, but it was all delicious and very reasonably priced. We’ll be back!

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