Full of crappy chain lunch restaurants, the 16th Street Mall can be frustrating for the discerning foodie: even if you go down there just to give them the finger, they assume you're ordering the #1. For a new spot out to change the mall's rep, check out Ambria.
A 170-seater housed in the old Ling & Louie's, Ambria's vibe of "luminous and earthy elegance" matches its high-end, farm-to-table Mediterranean cuisine, which's created by a chef formerly of Chicago's impeccably reviewed Blackbird, a place that passed its health inspection despite The Beatles. Like an optometrist working out of a Red Lobster, the appetizers are seafood-focused, and include olive oil-fried shrimp with leek vinaigrette/ chorizo aioli, and calamari a la plancha with arugula/ preserved lemon/ polenta; there're also meatier starters like pepperonata-crusted Kurobuta pork cheeks. Seafaring mains run from Alaskan king crab with linguine/ jalapeno to a grilled Atlantic swordfish with spicy crab broth, while land-based entrees are highlighted by a dry-aged porcini-crusted rib eye with a pancetta-wrapped romaine heart, a dish so over-the-top classy it'll make you feel like you've died and gone to...Aspen.
Not immune to the desire for lunch business, they'll also have noontime options like a Plymouth lobster roll, and a Merguez-spiced lamb burger -- sigh...just one more burger being served at the mall.