This time of year, I need to combat cold days with warm naan and spicy curries. I am guilty of obsessing over the thali lunch at Kohinoor or longing for the lassoni gobi from Himalayan Chimney, and I've recently become a fan of Ambar India Restaurant in Campustown.

I've been for lunch a few times this semester, and I wrote about my love for Ambar's #69 chicken curry in my September list. The last time we reviewed Ambar India Restaurant was in 2016, so this review is a bit overdue.


Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Each time I've been to Ambar India Restaurant, my experience has been the same: hot, delicious food served quickly, but it's always a mostly empty dining room. Maybe I'm not going when the crowds are going, but it seems C-U might be overlooking this Campustown restaurant.

For this review, I wanted to try a variety of foods, and so we ordered an appetizer, a vegetarian dish, a chicken dish, a lamb dish, and garlic naan.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

We started with the vegetable pakora ($3.99) appetizer. It was a bowl of crispy, crunchy fried veggies served with two dipping sauces. The wispy besan flour batter covered a medley of chopped veggies like a fritter. The softened potato, broccoli, and cauliflower were deliciously seasoned. The Indian spices were very flavorful but not at all spicy. The green dip had a bright cilantro taste, and the red was a sweet, thin sauce. This vegetable pakora was a great hot app, especially for the price.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Ambar India's chicken tikka masala ($13.99) was a tasty bowl of creamy tomato sauce with big cuts of chicken breast. We ordered it at medium spice, and it was perfect. The flavor profile of the spiced sauce was great: chili, garlic, ginger, coriander (cilantro), and a big tomato finish with building heat. Hearty and spicy, this dish was just perfection on a cold afternoon.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Dal makhani ($11.99) was a creamy, herby lentils dish. Flavors of cinnamon and allspice were infused in the saucy lentils and chopped onions. I loved that the lentils had a little chew, and I liked the texture of the soft beans, too.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

This lamb curry ($14.99) was seriously incredible. The lamb melted in my mouth. When I used a spoon to cut the bigger pieces, the meat was so tender that it shredded easily. The roasted flavor was excellent with the slight gamey taste of the lamb, and the tomato-based curry tasted of aromatic garlic, ginger, and spicy pepper.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I liked the garlic naan ($3.99) at Ambar India. The bread was thinner on the edges, and those parts were crispier. The airy pillowy center was sprinkled with minced garlic and chopped herbs. I liked dragging a piece of the warm naan along my plate to sop up the sauces. This garlic naan was so good that we ordered another to go with the leftovers — of which there were plenty.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Ambar India's portions were big enough to share and still have food to take home, especially after the delicious appetizer. While we dined, several GrubHub drivers came to pick up orders from the restaurant. I haven't had takeout from here before, but I assume most of the saucy dishes would be just as tasty at home, just without the restaurant's ambiance and pretty metal bowls.

I personally like to dine in at Ambar India because the staff are really quick to refill waters which is clutch when eating spicy food. The restaurant does not offer alcoholic beverages, just water, tea, coffee, and soft drinks.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Tucked between A-Ri-Rang and Cravings near Jerusalem Middle Eastern Cuisine, Ambar India Restaurant is a great Campustown spot for a satisfying meal. 

Ambar India Restaurant
605 W Wright St
Champaign
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m., daily

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.