Oakland kosher restaurant Amba shuts its doors buyers stepping forward

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.


      Visitors to Amba Grill kosher restaurant in Oakland this week were greeted by a sign taped to the front door: “Amba is officially closed. New owners will re-open soon.”

Negotiations between the seller, Jonathan Wornick, and a frontman for a group of three interested in purchasing the 45-seat restaurant took place this week, according to sources, but no word of a final deal was received before J.’s deadline.


Amba Grill in Oakland on Sept. 1 photo/andy altman-ohr

Sources said the potential owners are “all Israelis” who will “definitely” keep Amba kosher and at least one of them, the frontman, is from the Congregation Beth Israel community. CBI is a Modern Orthodox synagogue located within the Berkeley eruv. It has increased its membership over the past decade by nearly 50 percent, to 250 households.


Amba opened in late 2009 as a vegetarian, kosher restaurant featuring Israeli cuisine such as hummus bowls, falafel sandwiches and salads. In an attempt to spark new business, Wornick changed the restaurant to glatt kosher last year, adding beef kabobs, chicken shwarma and other meat dishes.

The note on Amba’s door included the following: “In our nearly six years in operation, we are proud to have kept true to our mission of offering authentic Israeli style Kosher Middle Eastern food. Chef Jacky Malul and Jonathan Wornick are considering a new food venture … Todah rabah and Shalom.”

Amba has two or three years left on its lease, according to one of the building’s original owners.

Amba is the only kosher restaurant in the East Bay, although both Oakland Kosher Foods and Grand Bakery in Oakland have a few tables for on-site kosher dining; neither, however, is open for dinner.

The only other kosher meat restaurants in the Bay Area are Sabra Grill in San Francisco and Jerusalem Grill and Bar in Campbell, both supervised by Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California. Shangri-La Vegetarian Chinese restaurant in San Francisco is kosher, under the supervision of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of San Francisco.


      <Click here for a recent “Hardly Strictly Bagels” column on Amba, which quotes Jonathan Wornick as saying, “I’m at the point where it’s not worth my time or money”>