Amber in Mountain View, in the past, has been a standout at the high end of N. Indian food. I had some incredible meals there in '98 and '99, but since then I'd say most meals have just been good. Still, the restaurant remains popular, and the owners just opened up at Santana Row.
You'd never guess this is the same Amber. This one has a frosted glass storefront, blaring techno (!) music, tall ceilings and a stone floor, and a bunch of white waiters/captains in the mix. And a totally different menu. Gulab jamon cheese cake???? Fruity cocktails? Duck crepes, too.
Well although I found the atmosphere way off for the crowd, the food I had was better than my recent Mountain View visits. Of course the prices are higher, but I'm sure the rent is too.
I started with the goat cheese aloo kebab, which was a much better combination than it sounds. It was 3 fried potato patties with mint chutney and a little goat cheese inside- it really worked. I also had the papdi chaat, which was the classic dish formed into a cylinder shape, with the crisps surrounding it and drizzled with tamarind chutney. It tasted just about the same as it would at a chaat place, but for $5.50 it wasn't too out of line.
I also had the butter chicken ($16.25), which was much better than when I've had it at Mountain View. It wasn't over-sauced, and the flavors were a little more subtle. It was a few $ more than MV, but at least they put in more chicken. I also had nan, which now comes with a choice of pesto or rosemary/oil topping, but it was good with just butter.
I followed with chai ($2), which was fine.
They've been open for about a week now, and last night the restaurant was about half-filled. They're working out service kinks, and they go a little over the top by spooning food onto your plate throughout the meal (vs. once in MV).
I'm not sure if the restaurant is going to be a huge sucess or failure- I've never been to a restaurant in the south bay where so much was spent on the interior (gotta love the night sky ceiling, complete with shooting stars). But I think it's worth a try- it's certainly setting new ground in Indian food.