A recent visit to Ambrosia Bistro in Spokane Valley was like catching up with old friends – fun, comfortable and something new.
It started with our waiter, Wayne Broach, who was there more than six years ago when we discovered this treat for an anniversary dinner.
Ambrosia, in the shopping center at the railroad underpass on Argonne Road near Montgomery Avenue, passes our quick checklist: clean, nicely decorated, well laid out, full bar and ample parking.
And the food measured up.
Ambrosia has always been good, usually great, and the last visit was no exception … kinda.
Cajun pasta ($18.99) and butternut squash ravioli ($17.99) have always been favorites and when we could tear ourselves away it was crab ravioli ($16.99) and the portabella sandwich (currently not on menu).
This time, struggling to decide between Cajun and crab, Broach suggested the prawns and black truffle sacchetti ($20.99). Oh my, future tough decisions just became more difficult. The stuffed pasta tossed with prawns, mushrooms and garlic in a parmesan cream sauce was bowl-licking good.
Another new choice was apricot chicken ($18.99). High marks for flavor, though the chicken was just a touch dry for my liking.
Also ordered was chicken picatta ($17.99), which was favorably compared to the recently reviewed Sundance Bistro.
It was a given the butternut squash would end up at our table, though it was a tossup which wife would make the easy decision, and for the first time ever it disappointed.
However, it wasn’t until afterward that one wife said, “I love the way the raviolis are really tender, not overly saturated with the butter sauce and the sweetness of the cranberries. This time, though, there was barely any taste to the dish. The ravs were overdone and chewy and the butternut squash was very bland and there wasn’t much sauce. So sad.”
Few of us are sophisticated enough to rate our meal on a 1 to 10 scale. Most are going to fall into great, good or bad, and taste is subjective, so we rarely go into detail and don’t often complain.
In this case, sad was the reaction of the professional restaurateur, who didn’t think it was fair to Ambrosia for a diner to leave with a bad taste in her mouth, so to speak, without giving the waiter and chef a chance to make it right.
He said the mark of a good restaurant is the way complaints are handled. A quick taste and an agreement that this one was off with a replacement prepared, or the diner didn’t exactly know what was coming should be the expected house reaction. Often a sauce’s or meal’s consistency changes over the few hours of the restaurant’s dinner hours, or with an overload of orders coming in at once, the timing of a freshly prepared dish can be off.
Needless to say, the cooks aren’t going to stick their finger into every dish as it leaves the kitchen for a taste-test … you have to count on customer feedback to help maintain quality.
He recalled a time when his soup of the day was accidentally salted twice and had a diner not complained, they would have continued to serve up something less than their standards.
Back to our night, our meals were paired with the house wine, a red from Arbor Crest that was very pleasant in both flavor and price, which made the second bottle an easy decision.
Broach’s recommendations, wine included, were a hit, which was a reminder of past visits. During a previous visit, he replaced a wine that disappointed. That leaves no doubt we should have done our part to contribute to a fine night out.