The opening quote contrived for this article is a toast dedicated to alcohol — “To bourbon whiskey, amber liquid, sweet and dear, not as sweet as a woman’s lips, but a damn bit more sincere.” Although “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” seems more applicable.
This article was originally written on St. Patrick’s Day, but now I’m consumed by the roll call of local restaurant and bar owners making the unimaginable gut-wrenching decision to shutter for an unforeseeable amount of time. Livelihoods rely on doors being open. Restaurants play a numbers game by the week, and, after a prolonged closing, recovery seems like a foreign concept.
I’m feeling contrite, engulfed with guilt to review The Amber Room, a speakeasy attached to Chef Stefon Rishel’s Wishbone and Flynt in the up-and-coming South Main neighborhood under these conditions. The neighborhood has seen several openings within the last two months, with others deemed to open soon.
All locally owned. None marked safe from the pandemic.
Reviews can already be crippling for establishments, striking discord among readers and owners alike. I mulled over this with heavy heart, because, yes, there were missteps upon the Amber Room’s January opening. That goes without saying, and battle plans change when the first shot is fired.
My first visit was opening night, and I’m no simpleton who expects top-tier service during such an occasion. I respect their flow and go with it. However, my heart lowered when the bartender told me in a hushed voice that this was not the cocktail menu they trained with, that it had completely changed right before opening, thus rendering them unfamiliar with it. Cocktails were off, servers scatterbrained, half an hour to correct an order, apologies and atonement from the bartenders. Customer service was the saving grace.
Hoping they had locked it in warranted more visits to provide a fair shake. The second visit saw improvement, while the third — prior to temporary closure — solidified The Amber Room as a necessary augmentation to Fort Worth’s burgeoning craft cocktail scene.
The bar itself is draped in eccentric Victorian-esque pictures and garb with earthy tones. Contrasting ornate chandeliers keep the room light enough to locate a seat in one of the mismatched furniture offerings. Faux candle flames flicker from sconces along the wall, though real candles would add to an ambiance already purveyed by the subdued jazz overhead.
The entrance from the restaurant is dotted with antique keyhole plates and doorknobs. Entering from the outside, there is a medieval-style wooden door with a Latin phrase painted to the side. “Carpe Noctem,” meaning “Go hard, or go home,” in layman’s terms. Party the night away with no regard.
With 16 offerings, the opening cocktail menu wasn’t convoluted but didn’t do any service to opening night. Possibly learning from this, the menu has been greatly reduced with only two remaining from the debut menu. Fortunately, with these modifications, the cocktails are now dialed in. Earlier selections are still available upon request.
The Bermuda Triangle (choose gin over vodka for its base) reminds one of that first bite of cotton candy at the State Fair. A playful but well-balanced mix of Campari, orgeat syrup, pineapple, and lime gave a bright flavor with an easy finish.
A favorite from my first two visits, Orchid in the Morning found its way to the final menu. The floral notes from St. Germaine and pear nectar, along with the bubbles of champagne and hint of vodka, was delicate yet subtly dry and rounded out with slight sweetness.
When looking to carpe noctem, the Scarlett Letter, a combination of trending alcohols — mezcal and green chartreuse — will nudge you closer to reaching that goal, while chocolate and rye hints of the smooth Aztec Old Fashion will assist in sealing the deal.
While the future is not certain, bars and restaurants have always been sought as places of comfort. People turn to them for normalcy. Without them, things seem a bit off. Saving you from an emotional diatribe, I leave you with this: Support your local bars and restaurants any way possible. This review matters none in the long run. I only hope people choose to frequent these cradles of comfort many times over once the light turns green and the multiple knobs on the door to The Amber Room, and all our eating establishments, turn to open once again. — Cody Neathery
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The Amber Room
Inside Wishbone and Flynt, 334 Bryan Av, FW. 817-945-2433.