Amata’s interior will instantly conjure images of a small café in an Asian country—fans with leaf-shaped blades punctuate the ceiling, Eastern bric-a-brac fills overhead cubbyholes, easy-listening cool-jazz charges the air. The space is small, but as a nice touch partitions have been raised to create sections and add privacy for diners.
Interesting enough, Amata also happens to be a bit of a rarity in that it offers three types of Eastern cuisine: Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese. The menu definitely reflects its inclusive diversity, offering over 88 menu items, panning everything from noodle, rice and seafood dishes to Pho. In other words, diners interested in experiencing a variety of Eastern dishes will find a very happy home here. Additionally, the restaurant also tries to cater to the more adventurous palates—i.e., people who like spicy food—and thus offers a scale to varying degrees of bite, ranging from “not spicy” to “super spicy” for dishes with pepper. Don’t expect your tongue to melt or anything, though—super spicy will barely raise the sniffles for seasoned spice-eaters.
We ordered the Chicken Rice Soup ($5.95) to kick off the meal, which can also be ordered with shrimp ($7.95). This soup is a very simple dish consisting of chicken gibs floating in a tasty garlic and green onion broth with a bed of white rice resting at the bottom of a well-proportioned bowl. It’s a delicate taste, but the Chicken Rice Soup is easily a comfort food for many.
Drunken Noodles (Pad-Kee-Maw, $6.95) served as our main course and, according to the menu, is a customer favorite. Rice noodles are stir-fried with garlic, onions, bell pepper and fresh basil in a special chili sauce. We ordered ours with beef, though chicken can be substituted, as well as shrimp for an additional charge. The beef was served in strips instead of normally ground and the noodles weren’t cut, making chopsticks almost impossible to use as the long ribbons clung to each other tenaciously. Regardless, the entrée was still very flavorful and it was explained that the super spicy standard was lowered for Western tongues.
Dessert was handled quite nicely by the Sweet Rice with Mango ($5.95)—sticky rice soaked in coconut milk with mango slices fanning out on top. The serving size of this particular dish is large enough to satisfy three diners, so be forewarned. It’s not as robust as Western pastries or pies, but it is nevertheless a wonderful complement to the rest of the meal. The Thai Iced Tea ($2.00) is fairly standard, made with Thai tea, creamer and sugar—but it’s the best beverage to wash everything down with. Amata’s staff thoughtfully offered me the drink Thai-style, which is served without the cream, but I declined.
Service is on par with any less-Americanized establishments you can find out there. There’s no meal coursing and dishes are brought out as soon as they’re prepared. Amata’s wait staff are friendly and happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have, but won’t go out of their way to engage you. It’s nothing to take personally, though.
The success of any restaurant relies on meeting their guests’ expectations. At Amata you can expect good food at bargain prices, authentic dishes and a pleasant staff. And, like any good restaurant worth their salt, expectations are met here with flying colors.
Amata Asian Restaurant, 1689 W. Kendall Dr., Ste. H, San Bernardino, (909) 808-1799, Mon.–Sat., 11:00AM to 9:00PM, Sunday 12:00PM to 8:00PM. Average Price for Two: $40. AE, D, MC, V