Fine Dining in the ‘Burbs

by Sarah on September 9, 2010

Who knew there was affordable, prix fixe, fine dining out in the suburbs of Sacramento, located in a boring old strip mall?  Oh, I guess BAR did.  Mr. Robertson’s review piqued my interest, but the thought of driving all the way out to Carmichael is usually not foremost on my list of things to do.  Thankfully a friend took the initiative and just made reservations and another friend navigated the vehicle.  How could I say no to that?

Oh, Ambience.  I’m going to come out and say it.  I hate your name.

But the hate stops there because the food and wine selection were top-notch, and almost ridiculously affordable.  $45 covers your meal, and there were several good wines to be had in the $30-40 range.  We went with the Sobon Estate’s Zinfandel, which I believe was about $40.

Now, this is a 5-course affair, of which you can choose your first, second, fourth and fifth dishes.  The first course is an hors d’ oeuvres, there were only 2 options.  I went for the spinach and cheese gratin.  Perhaps better suited for fall, but creamy and rich nonetheless.  And I love the little pot it’s served in!

The other option was this fig dish.  There was cheese involved.  I think that apricot was supposed to be involved too, but they had run out.  Now I admit, I lost the menu, so I’m going to try to recreate this from memory.  I know I’m going to screw it up.  Sorry Ambience!

Second course.  This is the tuna trio.  From bottom, a tartare, seared tuna and what I think is a pickled preparation.  The wasabi sauce on the seared tuna was perfect–just the right amount of punch but not overwhelming the tuna.

Also part of the second course, poached scallops with a ravioli…..but I forgot what was in it.  The scallops were soft and delicately flavored.

The best second course for last!  This was my beef tartare.  Look how pretty, like a work of art!

It tasted like a work of art, too—the beef was chopped so smooth and when it was mixed with the quail yolk and the sauces….Oh Mama.   It was the best thing I had all night.

This is the third course, the one that the chef chooses.  And a good choice it was–a delicate little asparagus puree with creme fraiche.  It was a perfect palate cleanser and got us ready for our main courses.

This was my entree, which I think was the best too.  Little tenderloins of lamb, cooked perfectly medium rare, served with a sweet potato puree, a broiled tomato and some edamame cooked in cream.  Perfect portion, beautifully presented.

My dining companion’s orange roughy.  Looks good, doesn’t it?  I think I was so in love with my own dinner that I forgot what that was like.  The other entree was a buffalo hangar steak……but the diner had tucked in before my photo op.

Fifth course, dessert!  Apricot creme brulee, with antennae.

Baked Alaska!  A real one with a soft meringue and flambeed.  Stellar!

Mine was like a Charlotte with raspberry and apricot mousse.  Light and fluffy with bright and tangy fruit.  Loved it.  Perfect end to a big meal.

Ambience, I can’t say anything bad about you except that your name is a little dated.  But who cares?

Good food.  Good price.  Perfect portions.  Artfully plated.

This is a place you don’t need to wait for a special occasion…any night is a good night for a date over in Carmichael, it’s even worth the drive.



6440 Fair Oaks Boulevard

Carmichael, CA

(916) 489-8464

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