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Posted Mar 15, 2010, 9:05 am
I paid a lunchtime visit to Amber Restaurant at 7000 E. Tanque Verde. Formerly the Olive Tree, Amber serves homemade Polish specialties along with other gourmet dishes to round out their menu.
It was a cold and blustery day when we tried Amber and the hot, hearty food was welcome. The Amber Restaurant has an atmosphere that invites one to linger. The dining room also serves as an art gallery with art work rotated on a regular basis.
The restaurant is named after the golden jewel amber, which is mined from the Baltic Sea. In past centuries, adventurers, merchants and collectors from all over the world traveled the Amber Road in search of the rare jewel. Their way led them through the native lands of Poland, where the hospitality of the people and the rich, wholesome food quickly earned the Poles an unrivaled reputation as welcoming and generous hosts.
It would be wonderful if Amber Restaurant added more Polish dishes to try. Surely, there must be more than a handful of Polish specialties that would be appealing. The shrimp scampi, while very good, seemed odd as a menu item in a Polish restaurant. The seared salmon club sandwich ($13.00) was intriguing, but still seemed out of place in a Polish restaurant.
I decided to go native.
For starters, I tried the potato pancake appetizer ($7.00). The pancakes were served with applesauce and sour cream. I found them tasty but a bit rubbery. I also tried the a bowl of white borscht ($6.00) which was rich and hearty with chunks of Polish Kielbasa, giving it a smoky flavor.
My friends tried the Polish kielbasa sandwich ($9.95) and bigos, a Polish hunter’s stew ($9.95). The Polish kielbasa sandwich featured a large chunk of the Polish sausage served on a homemade toasted roll, which my friend deemed delicious. The bigos featured chunks of beef, onion and Polish sausage and was redolent with sauerkraut. It was savory and delicious.
Other Polish specialties offered are pierogi, a type of potato dumpling stuffed with cheese, mushrooms or meat($9.95), veal schnitzel with egg noodles ($16.95) and golabki ($9.50), stuffed cabbage rolls with a dill-tomato sauce.
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Despite the curious absence of more Polish delicacies, I found the Amber Restaurant to be inviting and peaceful with accommodating service and large portions. Amber offers full service catering and happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every weeknight.
I wouldn’t hesitate to try Amber Restaurant again once more Polish specialties are added to their menu.
Elsa Cook is a local foodie returning to writing after an absence. She was the Tucson Weekly’s food critic in the 1980s.