I first heard about Ambiyan a year ago, when they first opened, but never got an opportunity to visit. As I found myself craving some good Indian food I decided to give Ambiyan a try and found myself actually going back a few days later. Ambiyan has a prime location in the heart of Main Street Unionville, and with the help of the owners of the Amaya Group they launched a much needed upscale Indian restaurant in the Markham-Unionville area.
Ambiyan does an excellent job of balancing the menu with traditional Indian dishes and exploring the fusion realm of Indo-Mediterranean cuisine.
Currently Ambiyan has a three course prix-fixe menu that allows you to sample many of their popular dishes. Regularly, this is priced at $29.99 per person, but from Monday-Wednesday the price is dropped to $20, which is an excellent deal for anyone who wants to try out Ambiyan for the first time.
Inside the restaurant, there is a dining area and a bar at the front. Prior to Ambiyan claiming the building it used to be a steakhouse and much of the layout and decor seems to still resemble that.
Between my two times there I sampled three different appetizers: the tandoori chicken tikka ($12), brie pakoras ($9) and the chicken tikka samosas ($7). Prior to the appetizers each guest is provided a complimentary mango lassi shot which is a nice touch.
The tandoori chicken tikka was part of the prix-fixe meal and was perfectly executed. The chicken pieces were large cuts and moist, with the tandoori masala modestly marinated and not overbearing the natural taste of the chicken.
On my second visit, I sampled both the Brie Pakoras and the Chicken Tikka Samosas and noticed that the plating for the appetizers is the same in many of their dishes as the tamarind sauce and/or green mint sauce is smeared on the bottom with the food placed on top.
The brie pakoras was an interesting combination and the tamarind sauce complimented it very well. I found the taste of the brie to be overpowering at times, but overall it was excellent.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the chicken tikka samosas. I thought this had the potential to be an excellent appetizer but was underwhelmed when I received it. The chicken tikka was grounded and filled into the samosa, similar to the meat samosas found at any take-out Indian place. The chicken was incredibly dry and bland. The pieces were ground into small pebble like chicken and many of the pieces would fall out after the first bite.
The entrees at Ambiyan are really the highlight of their menu, with all the dishes I have tried being flavourful and beautifully presented. From the prix-fixe menu I chose the butter chicken ($14), and have sampled the lamb ($17) and chicken vindaloo ($14) my next visit. The prix-fixe comes with regular nan and a jeera (cumin) basmati rice. The portions are large and can easily serve two people. The nan was fresh and fluffy, while the rice mixed with cumin and onions was plentyful.
The butter chicken had a sweet and creamy sauce that was not overly oily, often found in many run-of-the-mill Indian restaurants. The chicken pieces were similar to the Tandoori Chicken Tikka, being large cuts of moist white meat.
The vindaloo was by far my favourite dish at Ambiyan and one of the best vindaloos I have tasted. The vindaloo is normally the spiciest dish on the menu, but often nothing special at most restaurants, as they focus solely on adding heat to the dish. At Ambiyan even though the dish may not rank high on the Scoville scale the tomato based dish builds a level of heat that provides a welcoming kick and maintains an excellent overall taste. Both the chicken and lamb are excellent and boneless.
For dessert I have tried the gulab jaman and the kheer and overall although both were executed perfectly I was hoping for them to take these traditional desserts to another level. The gulab jaman came pipping hot and each one was soft. The kheer (rice pudding) was thick and not overly sweet.
Both times I went the service has been good with everyone friendly and efficient.
Ambiyan has done a remarkable job with their restaurant and competing restaurants such as The Host, Jaipur and Bombay Bhel which are all a 10 minute drive away in Thornhill have just gotten more competition. As a bonus, Ambiyan has delivery Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-9pm with pricing for take-out/delivery a tad cheaper per item.
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