Tag Archives: Japanese Food

Bitter Service, Sweet Food

381 3rd Ave (Btwn 27th & 28th St)

Amber’s modern style decor and trendy bar is a contrast from the stream of customary diners and bars along 3rd avenue, making this restaurant seem like the East 20’s best kept secret.

The second level boasts the Asian restaurants ability to stand out from other establishments with a more intimate and mellow setting provided by the brick walls, dim red lights, and cushioned chairs. However, as Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” blasted through the speakers, I was left with a “hot and cold” feeling as my dining experience slowly began.

Several minutes after being seated and wondering where our waiter/waitress was, she finally arrived. Asking for our drinks and orders was the only time she spoke to us the entire evening.

Unlike the unfriendly and aloof service, the appetizers and entrees did not disappoint.

Veggie Mini Rolls

Ordering Veggie Mini Rolls ($6) as an appetizer, the steamed carrots and spinach leaves inside tasted fresh and seemed healthy as I was able to distinguish the vegetables from its lightly fried exterior. The sweet chili dipping sauce on the side had a sweet and sour sauce appearance and taste with a hint of spice, acting as the perfect accommodation.

Shrimp Tempura, Salmon Avocado Rolls

The sushi added to the delectable quality of Amber as well. The Salmon Avocado Roll ($5.50) and Shrimp Tempura Roll ($7) each had an unique and tangy flavor to them. With ripe avocado, firm rice, and the fish tasting as if it was caught and cleaned that morning, my fears of eating contaminated sushi were thankfully put to rest.

Pineapple Fried Rice

The originality of these two dishes were seen throughout the entire menu in dishes such as, Tropical Mango Chicken ($17), Spicy Sautéed Sweet Peanut Sauce ($17), and my final choice of the evening, the Pineapple Fried Rice ($11). Served in an actual pineapple (I appreciated the literal touch), the rice was spicy yet sweet as chunks of pineapples evened the flavor. Inside were cashew nuts, chicken, and pineapple-flavored raisins, which tasted as juicy and fruity as the actual pineapples. Once a spoon full, or should I say chopstick full, enters your mouth, so does bursts of fruity, spicy, and sweet flavors.

Unfortunately, the hot streak ended there. Because our waitress forgot our soup and salads, we didn’t receive them until after the main course, when we were completely full.

It seems almost impossible to mess up soup and salad, especially after these unique dishes, right? Well Amber knows how to make the impossible possible.

Known for its salty flavor, the Miso soup ($2.50) was bland and altogether tasteless. The salad, which looked like a plate of leaves with clumpy orange juice on top, was insipid as well; leaving me to believe this error from the waitress was a blessing in disguise.

All in all, Amber was a bittersweet experience. The restaurant has delectable main courses, generous portions accommodating the price, and a pleasant decor. Unfortunately, the indifferent staff and overly loud music, which ranged from 1920’s jazz to obnoxious Z100 pop, lead me to unfortunately quote Katy Perry as I sat in my comfortable seat, unable to hear my friend over the loud music , “You don’t really want to stay, but you don’t really want to go.”

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Oishii Desu Yo!

If any of you are wondering what that title of the post means, it is Japanese for “it is delicious!” and that is exactly how I feel about Japanese cuisine. Sadly though, when people think of Japanese food, the first thought that comes to mind is sushi, seaweed, rice balls (onigiri) or Ramen noodles. But Japan has a much wider range of tasty food than just those few items and I was able to learn that a few years ago.

During the summer of my junior year of high school, I stayed in Osaka, Japan for six weeks and fell in love with a variety Japanese food. One of my favorite dishes is Gyuudon, which is a beef bowl with rice and caramelized onions.


Yes, the strips of beef look like a squishy mess, but trust me when it hits your mouth, it is a sweet delight.

Another dish I liked was Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu), which is a Japanese variation of a Chinese meal. Consisting of a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables that are dipped into a hot pot of boiling water and different sauces, Hot Pot results in a broth which is eaten with rice and noodles. Eating this with a group of people is a funny experience, especially when fighting over the last piece of anything on the table.

I also tried chicken Karaage, which is covered in wheat flour or potato starch and fried in a light oil. It is much better than any of the fried chicken that I’ve tried here. My friend Chantal, who went with me to Japan and is picky eater, practically survived on this and gyuudon.

When I returned home, I immediately began looking for convenient places where I could find the dishes in America.

I have not been to many Japanese restaurants in America, but the one that I go to regularly is Yoshinoya, a Japanese restaurant chain that fortunately opened on 42nd Street around the same time I returned home. The cooks make a gyuudon that is just as good as the one I had in Japan.

Now, I am hungry, so I will stop here. But, since this post is about Japan and in light of recent tragic events there, I encourage everyone to send any support you can to the country during this time.

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