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Roja, Bianco and Blue @ GFC

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Roja, Bianco and Blue

posted by snekse
What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to celebrate our nation's diversity? After all, what is America if not a melting pot of different cultures and flavors. And since we have a group of locally owned restaurants with a red, white and blue theme, what better way to cover the Omaha food scene this 4th of July than to check out cultural diversity of Roja, Bianco and Blue?

So we have our theme, but checking out 3 restaurants can get expensive very quickly. Never fear, we have that problem solved. Roja, Bianco and Blue have some of the best Happy Hour specials to be found anywhere in Omaha. Besides the standard and not-so-standard drink specials, they have half price appetizers with almost no restrictions on which apps are available. You can quite easily get your fill for little more than it would cost you to get a combo meal at a fast food joint. So lets find out just how good their food is.

Roja Mexican Grill

Our least favorite of the three. How hard is it to make Mexican food? Especially when your kitchen staff is comprised mostly of Mexicans. Nothing was horrible, but nothing was really good enough to make me want to come back. We've been to Roja before and didn't really care for their food the first time, but their parking lot is always packed. We thought maybe we were wrong. We weren't. The taco - bland and boring. The nachos - I just don't understand the point of nachos and these were greasy and unappetizing. Now the Achoite Chicken & Spinach Flautas - those were good, but only because the serrano ranch sauce carried them. I'd imagine the food tastes a whole lot better with a Margarita in hand, but you really shouldn't need a drink to enjoy the food your eating. There are too many restaurants in Omaha, and too many good Mexican restaurants to waste my time eating here.

Bianco Ristorante Italiano

A stark contrast to Roja. Bianco was our favorite of the three restaurants. The food had a touch of refinement to it that was sorely missing from Roja (yes, there is such a thing as refined Mexican food) and better execution than found at Blue. Everything about the food was just a welcomed surprise. Lots of bright, yet homey comfort food flavors. I think the weakest dish we ordered was the Cozze Marechiare and even that was in the good to very good range. I was impressed with the free bread and white bean dip served to us. It was a unique freebie that I've never seen in a restaurant before and it was delicious to boot. The Bruschetta was better than most thanks to the heirloom tomatoes, as was the Calamari which was perfectly cooked on a skewer. Even the 4-cheese pizza was a delightful surprise with a rich sauce and complex array of cheeses with a little bite to counterbalance. I will definitely be going back, maybe even outside of happy hour.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

It seems as if everyone in Omaha has been to Blue (Anyone know why they didn't call it aoi?). This is another restaurant that we had visited before and never bothered to return. In this case, however, it wasn't because their food was bad, it just wasn't good enough to justify the drive and the higher (at that time) sushi prices. The prices have come down, but the food's about the same. Everything is good, but nothing is excellent. I applaud their effort with the Spinach/Shitake Potstickers, but the night we went, there was no stick to the pot. Despite the lack of crunch, the flavors were decent and the honey garlic dipping sauce paired really well. The mussels were prepared in a pretty basic manner, but I was hoping to see more of an Asian flair to them. Also, the quality of some of the mussels seemed a bit questionable. The very large crab cakes would disappoint the true connoisseurs in the crowd. Shredded crab meat is mixed with a spicy stuffing, pan seared and served with a miso remoulade. I'm not a hard core crab caker, so I didn't mind the preparation and enjoyed the remoulade. And finally the Sake Maki was just a basic salmon sushi roll. Nothing special. But a $3.50 Sake Maki, well that's a little special (at least here in Omaha). For that reason, I would return to Blue, but probably only for happy hour.

Finally I should talk a little about the ambiance for those of you who have never been to any of the three restaurants discussed above. It should tell you something by the fact that you rarely hear someone talk about Roja, Bianco or Blue and not talk about the decor, the wait staff, the clientèle, the logo designs, etc; AKA, the vibe. You can quickly get an idea of what they're talking about by clicking over to the respective websites. That glossy, slick, sleek, sexy, modern feel is the same you'll find in their restaurants. Some people adore it, some people abhor it. I just wanted to make you aware of it.

That's it. Happy Fourth of July Hour! Now go out and celebrate the Red, White and Aoi. See you next year when we do our fondue review of The Melting Pot :-)

Roja Mexican Grill
168th & Center

Rating: 78

17010 Wright Plaza (map)
Omaha, NE 68130
Phone: (402) 333-7652

Hours of Operation
Monday — Sunday:
  11:00 am — Close
Happy Hour
Monday - Friday:
  3:00 pm — 6:30 pm
Roja Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Bianco Ristorante Italiano
132nd & Maple

Rating: 89

13110 Birch Drive (map)
Omaha, NE 68164
Phone: (402) 884-9500

Hours of Operation
Monday — Saturday:
  4:00 pm — Close
  4:00 pm — 9:00 pm
Happy Hour
Monday - Friday:
  4:00 pm — 6:30 pm
Bianco Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

Blue Sushi Sake Grill
144th & Maple

Rating: 84

14450 Eagle Run Drive (map)
Suite 240
Omaha, NE 68164
Phone: (402) 445-2583

Hours of Operation
Monday — Saturday:
  11:00 am — 10:00 pm
  5:00 pm — 9:00 pm
Happy Hour
Monday - Friday:
  4:00 pm — 6:30 pm (? - Call First)
Friday - Saturday:
  10:00 pm — 12:00 pm
Blue Sushi Sake & Grill on Urbanspoon

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