Ambria, which opened last November, was on our short list of contenders for Best New Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2012 -- until, just days after a marvelous meal there and a few weeks before the issue was going to press, chef/part-owner Jeremy Kittelson was fired, and partners Steve Halliday and Rich Manzo installed Gabe Balenzuela in the kitchen.
While Manzo assured me that Balenzuela was keeping Ambria's "American cuisine with Mediterranean inspirations" (with perhaps some more seafood, since he came from Oceanaire), and moving forward with changes and improvements, the shift knocked Ambria out of the running for Best New Restaurant, since we generally give new restaurants or places with major changes -- and a new chef definitely qualifies -- at least two months before reviewing them or considering them for an award.
Balenzuela has now been at Ambria for just about three months. So for this week's review, I returned to the restaurant on the 16th Street Mall to see what he'd done with the menu.
Ambria switched chefs at a bad time -- but was the change for the good? Find out tomorrow when the review is posted here.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.