Ambrose Wanderers' Library: A Review
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Ambrose Wanderers' Library: A Review

by Gottsam R'lek

One year ago, rumors started circulating between Wanderers that a new restaurant was opening somewhere in the Library. Under normal circumstances, this would hardly be news; the Library is no stranger to small entrepreneurships providing food, drink and other kinds of nutrition to its countless visitors, especially those who have made of this place their permanent residence. This time, however, the rumors were not about a small café or bistro, or even a pub. The words "high-end restaurant" spread like wildfire amongst the shelves, and a direct statement from the Chief Archivist himself finally confirmed it all: it was true, Ambrose Restaurants was opening an establishment in the Wanderers' Library.

If you are neither an Earthling nor a fan of fine dining, you'd be forgiven for never having heard of Ambrose Restaurants or its owner, Chaz Ambrose. However many iterations or variants of planet Earth there may be, they are but tiny blue specks in the endlessness of their own universes, many of them limited by the permanence of the Veil and the SCP Foundation. However, connoisseurs like yours truly were elated to hear that the renowned restaurant chain had finally gone multiversal: a place like the Wanderers' Library is meant to be a sanctuary for all kinds of knowledge and culture, and what is cuisine if not a reflection of the ones who have created it? Food is the basis of most all life of planets; the culture of a people and their history made manifest through flavor.

However, as excitement spread, so did a quiet surge of backlash. There were some Wanderers among our numbers who remained skeptical about this new addition to the Library's culinary roster. Not a few controversies have arisen against Ambrose Restaurants, from their treatment of their employees to the sourcing of their ingredients. Some have even accused Chaz Ambrose of cultural appropriation, claiming that his dishes are not creative innovations on preexisting recipes, but rather shameless bastardizations that ignore the soul and history of the food for the sake of trendiness and exoticisation.

Regardless of the rumors, over the course of a year, the news did not leave anyone's mouth, especially when construction began on the Rafters and invitations were delivered to a select group of Wanderers and organizations, including this reporter's employer, The Planasthai, for a time and location two months ahead: the ribbon-cutting of the restaurant, and to be the first few to dine in the Library’s newest fine dining establishment.

Tonight, after a long wait and countless discussions about the supposed gentrification of the Library, the doors of Ambrose Wanderers' Library finally opened in invitation of we privileged few.

“Privileged few” may not be the best word to describe us, really. The "few" described on the invitations delivered to the Plasthani office did not mention the sheer amount of people who would be joining us, and the restaurant was packed to capacity. All around me, notable Wanderers and celebrity guests milled, chattered, clicked, and sang. I recognized some, and did not recognize far more, though they obviously knew each other: from explorers and writers to dignitaries from across the Multiverse, it felt like everyone was here, glowing and floating in clouds, sitting and conversing in quiet gesticulations, and so much more. Even a few gods showed up to witness us, popping into existence mere instants before the moment we had been waiting for. Heads turned, theatrical music played over well-timbred speakers hidden in the freshly stained woodwork panels, and the man himself, Chaz Ambrose, cut the golden ribbon that signaled the grand opening of his most ambitious business venture yet.

We all boarded the lift that would take us to the Rafters, a smooth, shining platform of exotic stained wood and incut emerald veins that that lowered smoothly to rest on the polished floor of the Library. The lift was trimmed, curtained, and contained multiple cushioned chairs. Despite the number of guests, we found no trouble accommodating ourselves: there was plenty of room for crowds. I, alongside several others, eased myself onto a plush seat, and the lift began its smooth ascent to the Rafters.

The view was magnificent, and a din of conversation spread across the lift like fog. Meanwhile, I, at my seat with some of the other, quieter reviewers, thought on the logistics of the Restaurant, and of today's guests' pedigree.

There are infinite Transylvanias. There are infinite Backdoor Sohos. Hell, there are infinite Chaz Ambroses. However, to the best of our knowledge and of all the knowledge repositoried in the Shelves, there is only one Wanderers' Library. A business making it to the Library means making it big, and paving a gateway to infinite realities — and infinite customers. For someone like Chaz Ambrose, opening an establishment here was a titanic achievement, one that should be announced to anyone who cared to hear about it. That, I figured, was likely where we reviewers and first customers came in, particularly the press. No doubt we were the ones counted on to spread the word to every branch, twig, and root of the World Tree.

My musings were cut short as the lift slid to a smooth stop at the edge of a gilt platform at the base of the Rafters, where we proceeded through a short but lovely exterior garden. Our excitement was such that my chest felt light and giddy — the aromatic flowers and exotic climbing vines of the Rafter gardens, making full use of the relatively low ceiling and unique architecture enhanced that, and had I not been so excited for the food, I would have loved to stay and enjoy the garden a little while longer. But alas, that was not the case.

One thick set of heavy wooden doors later, and we were inside. The lights were out, and in the warm dark we stood, and the doors shut behind us, enveloping us in a warm dark that smelled of spices. The anticipation was palpable, and one short moment later — likely for theatrics — the lights came on.

It was beautiful.

Let me express, dear reader, the nature of the Restaurant. Like our vehicle of ascent, the establishment was warm, friendly, and exquisitely textured for the delights of its visitors, a true luxury for the senses. A twin set of golden gates sat behind us — the doors we had come through — and linked solidly to the natural wood of the rafters above, criss-crossed in artful patterns, from which hung softly glowing paper globe lanterns. Soft jazz entranced my ears, played by a small live symphony on a blue velvet-backed stage. The smell of strange, savoury dishes wafted through the pleasantly warm air, and the elegant art deco style of the establishment — green and gold and black — delighted my Wanderer’s heart.

We stood there for maybe thirty seconds, taking it in. My fellow reviewers, standing stock-still as I had been, watched the surroundings, open-mouthed at the finery. Slowly, though, we thinned as servers appeared and led us to our tables.

One such server took the members of the press — myself included — to a row of tables aligned to a ceiling-high window on the farthest wall of the restaurant. The glass was painted — stained, but without the thick lead borders so common in glasswork — in scenes of blue and purple lilacs over a shimmering koi-filled lake, and under the hues of the restaurant lantern-lights the flowers looked like holograms.When I had taken in my fill of the art and was seated at my table, close enough that the art tinted but did not obscure the view, I beheld the view.

It was spectacular. I had had no idea that the Rafters could produce such a sight. Beyond the sapphire stained glass extended the shelves and the Library's Main Hall, patrons looking as tiny as ants as they moved about their business, perhaps thinking the same of us up in the heights of the Rafters. Flocks of Cromwells, wings paper-thin and fluttering like pigeons, soared just meters from our view, and as I watched, I think I even saw a school of lantern koi, gracing us with our presence, perhaps thinking that our curiosity was for books, not food.

My reverie at the uncommon view was pleasantly interrupted by a light tap on the shoulder as a server in white and blue handed me the menu. They drifted away before I could get a close look at their face, but I was not looking to them anyway, engrossed already in the menu. My lingering enjoyment of the view stayed with me as I, and my expression was of curiosity as I scanned my options.

Catering to an infinite Multiverse full of infinitely distinct tastes, cultural nuances, dietary preferences and biological capabilities is a task unlike any other, and I wished to see how Ambrose Wanderers' Library tackled this challenge. This is why, though some of the dishes would no doubt have been appealing to me, I opted to select those which would encompass the greatest range of tastes. After all, if I only tried what I thought would be good, what would I really be reviewing? As a reviewer, my purpose is to serve as the eyes, ears, and tongue of the people.

To my disappointment, as I read the menu, I quickly realized that most dishes, despite being made with highly diverse and exotic ingredients, were based on human recipes and culinary concepts, with little room for a true exploration of other cultures and cuisines from across the Multiverse. Not on this menu did I see a single non-tangible, non-taste-dependent item. I have had such dishes before — the dream-sharing starflowers of Seven Sisters being one of my favourites — but I could see nothing of the like here. While understandable given that most staff and the owner himself are of human descent, my hopes for true multiversal dining had been dashed. However, the food did look appetizing — I decided that if diversity was off the menu, then I would dive headfirst into the heart of every Ambrose venue: the food's anomalous properties. I was to try a small portion of many things, and of those things, I would do my best to have as diverse an experience as possible. I set down my menu. My tastebuds could not wait.

The waiter returned, and I told them my wishes for my meal, then, on a whim, asked them of their recommendation for a dish to go alongside one I wanted a pairing for. They told me of my options, suggested one in particular, and I expressed my interest. They nodded, and then, they were off. The air smelled faintly of honeysuckle nectar from the kitchen, and idle conversation and soft, pleasant jazz made an ambience I could rest forever in. I stared out the lilac-tinted window once more, and it felt like only seconds had passed before my server returned and my first meal at the Wanderers’ Library branch of Ambrose Restaurants was served.

I smelled the Fire Chili before it arrived. It smelled smoky, earthy, like water on searing cement on a summer day mixed over the hot white ash of a campfire. The dish was brought to me in a crucible, something that resembled a lead core rather than a platter, and which flaked molten foam from the outside. I leaned back, and and through the radiant heat I watched my server, equipped in silvery fireproof cloth garments, open my meal.

They gestured for me to keep back from the dish while they opened it. I did.

When the lid was cast off, I felt a gust of air so hot that I thought I was staring directly into a furnace. My eyes, dry as they are, felt scorched by the billowing wave of heat. The server, without prompting, took my forelegs and slid on a set of silver cloth gloves, then indicated that my meal was ready to be eaten. The heat had lessened faintly, just enough to bear being near without catching fire. I nodded, and my server bustled off to another table. I was alone to enjoy my meal, which, given the lack of utensils, I ate with my hands.

The first ruby-red portion reached my mouth in as dramatic fashion, and the initial burning sensation (and my accompanying cry of pain) gave way to a far more pleasant sensation all in a matter of seconds. The pain was was almost like a deep massage, where it rose with agonizing severity, becoming so excruciatingly painful that my mind could only release endorphins to quench the pain. Despite the spiciness wrecking my mouth, I found myself in heart-racing enjoyment of my meal, and despite my shaking of my forelimbs under the fireproof gloves making grasping another coal difficult, I took another bite.

It was so terribly beautiful. And incredibly, astoundingly, utterly delicious.

Soon, I found, alongside every bite where my tortured mind examined the method of the pain, my breaths, too, had caught fire. On each exhale, my mandibles exhaled gusts of plasmatic lightning, not forking and not jumping, but dripping like drool, rolling down my chin in a faux-wet glowing slurry of liquid plasma to drop on the table where it pooled before vanishing, charring the plate and giving off a scent of ionized vapor. Somewhere in my agonized mind, it hit me: the menu had said that the dish would give me the breath of a dragon. It just had not specified which type.

And then I was done. Thankfully, the effects of the meal subsided as quickly as they came. I thought that I would have been damaged from the heat, but my carapace was as clean and unmarred as ever. Too, my palate was untouched — I was clean and ready as ever for my next meal. Excited and with a fire in my belly that came not just from my meal of fire, I raised a limb, signalling my waiter waiting across the room, for my next dish.

My choice for soup, Abyssal Pleasures, proved to be everything the menu boasted. With every spoonful, a sensation of oceanic dread creeped up my exoskeleton, the restaurant disappearing from view in brief glimpses of watery darkness, a heavy pressure building upon my thorax as I sank to the depths of the sea-soup. Through the crushing darkness, I saw faint spots of luminescent blue, electric and tantalizing but ever out of reach.

It was the longing and intermingled terror, I think, that drove me to keep eating. Unlike the dish that had boiled my tongue yet kept me coming back for the intricacies of pain and pleasure, this one was like a well-written book: I could not stop eating, could not quench my desire to catch just one more glimpse of the sea, where everything was dark save for those still, quiet, starving leviathans that drifted as the size of clouds so far above my heavy head.

Just as I was feeling full, being pulled to my body body from the waking dream by the constraints of my biology, the dish was done. I scraped automatically at the clean, empty bowl for more, seeking that glorious and strange world once more, but there was none left. I had asked for small portions, I recalled faintly, so I could review all the more dishes this night. Now, I regretted it.

I exhaled. Inhaled. This dish had an aftertaste. The meaty, salty taste like kelp that came from the dish itself, paired the subtle taste of thalassophobic terror-like adrenaline, lingered in the back of my throat.

So far, so good. The element of surprise and the sheer quality of the meal had more than compensated for the lack of diversity. I was enjoying myself. I relaxed back in my seat, listening as one patron’s dish sang a poem, while another’s spiked like ferrofluid with a magnet underneath on their plate. Jazz played softly, a different tune this time but still as lovely as any I had ever heard, jaunting and lively. Spirits high, already thinking of what praise I would give Ambrose in my review, I signaled my waiter for the next dish.

This, however, was where my experience took a nosedive.

I had scarcely put my foreleg down before the main course was set before me: a steaming slab of glistening red meat, striated with rings of white fat, lay on a prickly aromatic leaf before me, still simmering. A gentle sprinkling of what appeared to be fresh spices lay gently on the meat, the red of which appeared to move, almost like it were breathing as I watched. The idea of meat moving in memory of living, even long after being cooked, struck a matchstick of memory in my mind, but it would be long until I remembered what it was.

Without much thought, I took the first bite of my Leviathan Fillet. It was scrumptious, but I will not, for reasons that I will now make very clear, go into detail about its quality: my enjoyment has been completely replaced by indignation and revulsion, and I must, for the sake of decency, refrain from giving any further praise.

When I asked the waiter about the dish's origin and preparation, I was informed that this was not some strange fish from the depths of a primordial ocean, but one of the space-faring arthropods credited with seeding entire worlds with life.

The shock almost made me spit out what meat was still in my mouth: I had, unknowingly, been feasting on one of the most precious species in existence — one that, to make matters worse, was sapient. I had been eating a person.

The server attempted to calm me down, assuring me that all their meats were ethically sourced and that only deceased Leviathans were harvested for their flesh and organs. I, however, had started looking around at what my peers had been served, and my shock and disgust only grew.

Close by, one of my fellow diners struggled to fit what looked like a live octopus down her throat. The poor creature squirmed and resisted, but was eventually swallowed whole. The eater's nauseated, horrified look told me all I needed to know, but as I watched, her gaze grew unfocused and relaxed, practically euphoric, like she were under the influence of some illicit narcotic while the octopus slipped the rest of the way down her throat.

Next to her, another man looked on in horror as his server roasted a small creature before his eyes, the sizzling of meat failing to drown its cries. His cutlery sat untouched.

As I reached once again for the menu, the realization rammed me like a train: in my urgency to taste the culinary wonders of Ambrose Wanderers' Library, I had failed to notice that many of the dishes listed were, in fact, live servings, and not sourced for ethical consumption. Ambrose Restaurants, in attempting to make a "multiversal culinary experience," had somehow decided to prepare still-living and even sapient beings as high-end meals. This was not just some exotic or otherworldly selection of dishes and recipes, but a highly dubious, if not outright criminal, list.

Suffice it to say that I did not order dessert, although the server insisted I at least enjoy one of their homemade drinks. In the end, to avoid making more of a scene, I accepted a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, strong enough to allow me to stomach sitting in that place until it was time to leave. All the way down the lift and back to my home, I thought of the horrors I had just witnessed: the commodification of cruelty, the ignorance of the suffering of others, a restaurant trying to dupe its customers into accepting vulgar and immoral dishes as a luxury.

In retrospect, I think those who voiced their concerns from the beginning have been vindicated. Chaz Ambrose's failure to see the issue with serving live creatures, desecrating a corpse, and trying to sell cruelty as culturally enriching and fashionable trumps any and all positive aspects of both the restaurant and the Ambrose brand as a whole. The quality of their food may be beyond fantastic, their service impeccable, and their ambience fit for royalty, but none of these things matter in the face of ethics. While the Multiverse is infinite and morality varies from world to world, there is one idea we Wanderers agree on: The needless torture of others in the name of novelty is abhorrent. This extends to what goes on behind Ambrose's gilded closed doors.

I truly wish I could recommend Ambrose Wanderers' Library to my readers, but I find such thought to be as unpalatable as the practices behind their menu. Unless the menu and the practices behind the business change, no good can come of an establishment like this.

Ambrose Restaurants is beautiful and magical, a truly wonderous place to patron. However, the establishment embellishes horrid practices and markets them to the public. As many of us know, glamour cannot turn a murder into a feast. What kind of people are we if we choose to patronize this restaurant still?


Planasthai Papers

In today's Planasthai, our top food critic ⁂fancy_mantis reviews the restaurant that's been all the rage: Ambrose Wanderers' Library!
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2 hours ago



⁂planasthai WTF? The Library is allowing animal cruelty?!? #DownWithAmbrose
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10 AM · Today


Eric Aunger

Appalled and frustrated. Sentient beings in the library have enough problems as it is. Shouldn't have to worry about ending up on a plate!
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21 June 2022



⁂planasthai ⁂fancy_mantis just finished reading your review. I'm beyond disgusted. How did the Chief Archivist authorize this shit? And what have you to say for yourselves ⁂AmbroseWL? #DownWithAmbrose
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⁂gekkota Great question. Why don't we ask ⁂theRoundOne himself, huh? #DownWithAmbrose
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They out here putting sentients in the soup just for it to still taste like lukewarm sweat and okra. Smh my head. #DownWithAmbrose
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21 June 2022

#DownWithAmbrose (2654 posts in last two hours!)🔥🔥🔥



⁂rheumatism we are currently looking into the situation regarding ⁂AmbroseWL. Please remain calm as our investigation continues. We will get back to you soon with an official statement.
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⁂theRoundOne hope you hang them by their toes. #DownWithAmbrose
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M. Red

This is horrific on a genocidal scale. ⁂AmbroseWL, how could you do this in good faith? I am disgusted. #DownWithAmbrose
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10 AM · Today


C. L. Atlas

Can't say I'm especially surprised. Mostly disappointed. We at the Reclamation Agency strongly disavow the use of living creatures for such purposes, and strongly condemn ⁂AmbroseWL for their actions. #DownWithAmbrose
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Dr. Birendra Shah

Wait. Are you telling me that Leviathans are actually sentient?! #DownWithAmbrose
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#DownWithAmbrose (10k posts in last two hours!)🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥


Ambrose Restaurants

We at Ambrose Restaurants sincerely apologize for the backlash that the food served at last night's opening caused in the Wanderers' Library community. Rest assured, we have temporarily withdrawn the controversial items from our menu in favour of more appropriate cuisine sourced from vendors within the Library. We are deeply sorry for the disapproval this has generated in the community, and hope to see smiles again when our new menu comes in next week. Cheers, and see you soon!

- Chaz

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Gottsam R'lek

⁂AmbroseWL you guys are seriously the worst. #DownWithAmbrose
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