While the food is farm to table, there is nothing “downhome” about the aesthetic at Ambrozia Bar and Bistro. The floors are a gleaming hardwood, walls are painted in warm neutrals, and art is strategically place to give the entire place the feel of a chic gallery.
Make it a point to enjoy the artwork, created by Asheville resident Mick Donelan. Working primarily with watercolors, Donelan “layers” her paintings so that no two people see them in precisely the same way.
Ambrozia describes their fare as “new cuisine from the American South,” a great way of saying that you’ll recognize most of the ingredients but be surprised by how they are combined to create new and delicious flavors.
If you’re visiting Asheville for the first time it can be a tough call as to which time of day you should visit Ambrozia. Chef/Owner Sam Etheride and Sous Chef Eli Harris have managed to create a menu that makes it difficult to choose.
Each meal offers enough inventive options to make Ambrozia a restaurant worthy of multiple visits:
Fried Florida Gator
If you’ve ever wondered what alligator tastes like, this is your chance to find out. Once it’s fried, this gator is served with orange dipping sauce and a hearts of palm salad.
Bison Short Rib Bourguignon
Served with locally-grown mushrooms, cauliflower risotto, and brandy jus – this dish is but a small, delicious sampling of the South.
Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto
What makes Ambrozia Bar and Bistro so extraordinary is the way they combine everyday ingredients in a way that surprises the palate. In this dish, the beets are roasted and the goat cheese fried before being served with a savory pesto.
This is not your everyday brunch. Served as a 4-course meal or a la carte, the eatery offers dishes like Pork Belly Wellington and Cinnamon Pancakes with caramel apples and bourbon syrup. Even their Avocado Toast is special, created by adding heirloom tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, and fried egg.
One would think that the snack menu would revert back to “ordinary,” but that’s not the way it works here. Deviled Eggs are packed with smoked paprika aioli (mayonnaise seasoned with garlic), bacon jam, and fried sage. Trout Nachos consist of smoked North Carolina trout, sriracha aioli, pickles, and wonton chips.
Decisions, Decisions — Desserts
Pastry Chef Hazel Otto has built such a well-earned reputation for creating decadent desserts that your party might want to order several different things and share. Two examples are the Crème Brûlée with honey lavender and served with an almond butter lace cookie, and the Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding, brought to culinary life with sea salt caramel and sweet goat cheese cream. If you absolutely cannot decide, ask about the dessert sampler.
To say that Ambrozia has an extensive wine and cocktail menu is an understatement. There are literally pages of clever options to choose from, depending upon what you’re in the mood for. If you’re up for trying a new cocktail, the Appalachian 75 is fun. It’s a mix of Troy and Son’s moonshine, St. Germain, grapefruit lavender bitters, and sparkling wine.
-You shouldn’t have any trouble finding Ambrozia, but just in case – it’s located in the shopping center of Beaver Lake in North Asheville, not far from downtown. Parking is available on Merrimon Ave, although finding a spot can be an exercise in patience.
-Ambrozia has a new space available for private and large parties so call ahead if you’re planning something special.
-Don’t be scared off by the Southern menu if you’re a vegetarian. There are plenty of meat-free options available.
-On occasion, the restaurant hosts special events, like wine pairing. Ask about any upcoming events while you’re there.