Gastronomic Fight Club SM

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Darwin Bistro - Omaha, NE (CLOSED)

posted by snekse
***UPDATE***
As of October 21st, 2007, Darwin Bistro has closed it's doors.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This post is either late or really late, depending on how you look at it.

So here's my holiday gift to you all: I'm going to let you in on my new favorite restaurant in Omaha. I might dare say it's also the best, but I think I'm too biased at this point to make that call.

So it's been just over two months since I first ate at Darwin and they've been open a mere 90 days or so (thus the really late gift), but they have hit Omaha with a bang. A quiet bang maybe, but a bang none the less. It's the kind of place that you find yourself making excuses to drag people to or maybe even eat there alone because you're "in the area". By the way, no one's complained that I dragged them there.

Duck. Tartare. Saffron. Carpaccio. Those are not words you see on too many menus in Omaha. Amuse Bouche. Truffles(the tuber, not the confectionery). Foie Gras. Foam/Powder/Paint. Those are words you hear even less. Darwin has used them all, thus the origin of my bias. Yes, let it be known - you can put a down payment on buying my love and affection by using ingredients, techniques and presentations usually reserved for fine dining establishments. And if you can actually make everything taste good, consider the deal closed.

So it goes without saying that the food here is good. It would never be called my favorite restaurant if it wasn't. I will not boast that this will become your favorite restaurant. I will, however, defy you to tell me their food sucks or is even mediocre for that matter. For my personal tastes, I think they have the best food in Omaha. When you serve dishes like Duck Confit Empanadas, Bacon-sherry Braised Cabbage, and Lobster Truffle Mac-n-Cheese, it's hard not to think that. Executive Chef, Paul Urban, is pretty much fresh out of culinary school, though you'd never know by the food he presents.

Despite all of that, it is not great food that earns Darwin the "favorite restaurant" title. What puts it over the top is the sense of place. I love that you can get great upscale food in a cozy upscale casual atmosphere. White table cloths and linen napkins - but jeans are acceptable. Let me preface that by saying if you show up in ripped jeans, a T-Shirt and sneakers, you might feel a little under dressed, but a tie, or even khakis are not required (nor discouraged). I think the staff helps tremendously in creating this atmosphere. They are professional, but always genuinely friendly - and they treat their regulars well.

What may actually be the reason this place will thrive is the pricing. It's not cheap, but it's by no means expensive. The average dinner entree is about $18. Lunch is even more reasonable with the average entree being about $9. If you frequently take clients out to lunch, this is a perfect spot at the moment. It may not be in the future as more people find out about our little secret and pack their 40-some seats from 11:00 to 1:00.

Which brings me to the faults I've found so far. Continuing with the thought of bringing clients in for lunch, make sure you make a reservation. Darwin is a very small place and parking is tight during the lunch rush. Also, keep in mind that the kitchen currently consists of Paul and his sous chef. I think they're still finding their groove and can get a little overwhelmed at times, so relax, take your time and don't expect to be in and out in 45 minutes during prime feeding times. This may have been a factor in the next item - seafood. Sadly, I must report that we don't have conclusive proof that the kitchen can properly prepare seafood. We ordered 3 seafood dishes on the same night and all of them were overcooked to varying degrees - though it could have been a service issue as well. Again, they've only been open for a little over 3 months.

For the oenophiles out there, consider bringing something from your own cellar. Their wine list is a bit anemic and doesn't do the food justice. Oh, and they need to replace their furniture. It's basically patio furniture. The chairs leave you with waffle butt and the table legs insist on occupying the space closest to your heels, thereby becoming a tripping hazard as you leave the table and preventing you from scooting the back of you chair any closer than 18 inches from the table. [ UPDATE: New chairs are in and I'm told they are much more pleasing to sit on and move around. ]

Those are my thoughts on Darwin. Admittedly, I'm biased because they make the food I want in an atmosphere I enjoy. So I encourage you to try it for yourself and let me know what you think. Is it the best? Or at least a new favorite? In the mean time, here are the pictures I've taken since they've been open.

Darwin Bistro & Catering Photo Collection
Lots of pictures of Darwin Bistro


Rating: 92

Darwin Bistro & Catering - Make a Reservation
Miracle Hills Plaza at 114th & Dodge

650 N. 114th Street
Omaha, NE 68154
Phone: 402-933-6600

Hours of Operation
Monday - Saturday: 11:00-2:00; 5:00-close*
Sunday: 10:00-2:00 (brunch); 5:00-9:00
* They close when it gets slow, so call first

Menus
Brunch Starters | Brunch Entrees
Lunch Menu | Dinner Menu | Tasting Menu

RELATED LINKS:
Foodies of Omaha @ Darwin Bistro
INTERVIEW: Paul Urban, Executive Chef - Darwin Bistro (Omaha, NE)

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