Gastronomic Fight Club SM

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Around the World in 80 Blocks

posted by snekse
24th Street Building
The United States is often called the melting pot of the world. Many cultures living together under one roof so to speak. Yet outside of places like Berkeley CA, the diversity in most cities is segregated into little cloisters. Out of these enclaves come neighborhoods that get labels like Chinatown, Little Italy and Spanish Harlem. And of course in each of those, you'll often find the best of that region's cuisine.

24th Street - Omaha, NE

Paul and Nick

The Longest Street in the World

In Omaha, 24th street not only connects South Omaha to North Omaha, but it also connects many cuisines to one another. You can take a culinary tour around the world by starting at one and working your way towards the other. And that's what we did.

With the company of Paul Kulik (Executive Chef; The Boiler Room) and Nick Strawhecker (Executive Chef; Dante Pizzeria Napoletana), we started just South of the South Omaha Main Street Historic District and ate our way up past the Near North side. We sampled Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, Barbecue and Soul Food with some good old Midwestern fried carp and beef jerky thrown in for good measure - all in about 4 hours.

For some people, wandering into a random ethnic restaurant and ordering something unfamiliar is a bit terrifying. I'm here to tell you to just let go; don't be afraid. If need be, ask for help. As long as you avoid your allergens, nothing is likely to kill you. And if it tastes gross, so what. It's just food. Order something else. The point is you don't have to travel to eat exotic foods. My bet is that there's something on a menu in town that you've never had before. It could be something as simple as a Mexican mole to something as exotic as bird's nest soup. Just get out there and explore what your city has to offer.

Exploring the Cuisine of Omaha

So let's take a look at some of the things we discovered during our trek.

Seafood Cocktail
How would you like to start your morning off with one of these each morning? El 7 Mares is open at 10 am each morning and specializes in seafood from a distinctly Mexican perspective. We asked our waitriss what their specialty was and she pointed us to the La Campechana Pescado Cocteles. This massive goblet was filled with a a nice tomato broth similar to a gazpacho with piles of shrimp, calamari, octopus and oysters. This was much sweeter then cocktails any of us had tried in the past and was a great way to begin our day.

Next we headed to Joe Tess Place for their "Famous Fish" which just happens to be fried carp. I wish we had good things to say about this odd delicacy, but the fish left a lot to be desired. We'll leave it at that. They do offer Schlitz beer, which could be seen as a bonus in some circles :-)

Tacos at Taqueria Tijuana
Putting that memory behind us, we headed to our most anticipated destination of the day - Taqueria Tijuana. Many a debate is often had about where to find the best Mexican food in Omaha. Many of our trusted friends have told us about the amazing tacos at Taqueria Tijuana, yet none of us had been yet. Cut to the chase: A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! There was some very colorful, passionate language used, but I'll paraphrase and just say "That's a damn good taco". I think the phrase "Best Taco in Omaha" was also used. Oh, and I know we got 4 different tacos, but those statements stand across the board.

Laos Thai Market
Pay. Jump in the car. Head down the road. Laos Thai Market. Another place I've heard I must hit. A spot that's half market, half restaurant with no real line between the two. An incredibly small kitchen is tucked in the back with residential refrigerators for coolers. The entire place is run by 3 people. Presumably mom and grandma in the back cooking and cleaning with the son waiting tables in the front. Unfortunately that killed our time line taking over 20 minutes to get our green curry with chicken. It was *almost* worth it. The curry was spicy, clean and balanced - not at all cloying with coconut milk.

Back in the car to see what else we can find. A quick drive-by Shang-Hai Garden Chinese & Mexican food for a laugh, but no food. Then a pit stop at Stoysich House of Sausage for some jerky that Paul had been calling "meat butter". Opps, that was Wohlner's Grocery that had the "meat butter". Nothing wrong with the Stoysich jerky though. Next place.

Doro Wat
Here I elected to cheat just a tad. The International Cafe is a 1/2 block off of 24th Street, but how do you pass up the opportunity to have East African food in Omaha? Don't be thrown off the trail by the "House of Gyros" tagline. Inside are the goods. Falafel, Sambusa, something called Mendase and more. We ordered the Doro Wat on Injera. We quickly dug into the braised chicken in a nice rich red sauce. You'd swear has tomatoes in it, but you'd be wrong. The injera here was rather delicate, so forks are not a bad idea. Keep in mind that being Muslim requires prayer through-out the day, so be prepared to wait if you go during one of these times.

Southern Boys Cafe
For our last stop with the full crew, we sought out the Southern Boys Cafe. Not much to look at on the outside, but the inside is plastered with character. Pictures, posters and the guitar in the corner give you a fast idea about the owner in case you don't get a chance to meet him. We got a chance to talk to the owner and I think the place is appropriately named. We ordered ribs and fried okra, but were easily talked into getting the fried catfish as well. Everything was excellent. The ribs were unique with just a ton of flavors going on. The okra was some of the best I've ever had.

At this point, Paul and Nick both had to head back to "the office". I chose to carry on since there were a couple more places I wanted to check out.

I was told I should stop at Chef Mike's Community Cafe. Since Thursday's are soul food day at Mike's, who was I to argue. It was not what I was expecting it to be. Don't expect a restaurant. Instead this is basically a cafeteria. My stomach was getting full and I had other stops I wanted to make, so I decided to pass. If you think I made a mistake, leave a comment and tell me how great the place is.

Bills BBQ Omaha
Back in the car and continue up 24th to a place I haven't been to in years. I was a little proud of myself for knowing of a barbecue place that one of the members of Greater Omaha Barbecue Society hadn't heard of. Not to mention a little funny since the person in question happens to share the same name as the location in question. Granted the place is called Bill's BBQ, Liquor Store and Gas, so not being a dedicated barbecue joint might have something to do with the oversight. Waiting for your 4 bone ribs while people get rolling papers, alcohol and Starbursts is a little amusing. I should also mention, in case it wasn't clear, this is not a restaurant. There are no seats, no counters, and certainly no hostess. You walk up to the barred window, order your food and go. It's not the best BBQ in Omaha, but it's not bad and worth a slight detour if you're in the area.

Sage Bistro
My final stops for the day actually weren't on 24th Street. I popped up to the Institute for Culinary Arts at Metro Community College to drop off some of Bill's barbecue to some friends. If you haven't seen their new building yet, get out there ASAP. It's amazing. I believe Omaha will become a destination school for those entering the culinary field because of the incredible work put into this new facility. And if you haven't been to Sage Student Bistro, change your dinner plans soon. This is one of my favorite places to eat in Omaha.

By now it was time to head home. Since my wife didn't get a chance to join me, I wanted to bring home some dinner. What did I bring her? Some of the Best Fried Chicken in Omaha from Time Out Foods at 30th and Pinkney. A good Southern style fried chicken with a nice crunch and a spiciness that adds a little zip, but is not overpowering. The potato salad and coleslaw were both tasty as well.

It was a long day and a food coma ensued, but it was completely worth it. Hopefully our journey will inspire others to really investigate all their town has to offer and uncover some special gems that are worth the trek. Eat well.

Special Thanks To...
Foodbuzz for funding our tour.
Paul Kulik and Nick Strawhecker for joining me.
Food & Spirits Magazine from whom I borrowed this idea.
All the restaurants that we visited for just being there.

Apologies There was supposed to be video to go along with this post. I'm still trying to get the technical difficulties worked out on that one.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Best-ter-est of Omaha Restaurants Award Winners - 2009

posted by snekse
Best-ter-est of Omaha 2009
We've closed the polls and tallied the votes. Once again a lot of great local restaurants took many top spots, while national and regional chains didn't fare as well in most categories. Several categories had big changes, several where very dispersed in votes and the new categories this year, especially the broad categories towards the end, were fascinating to see (I love the Most Overrated category).

Voter turn out was not what we were hoping it would be, but that's a bit of a dilemma. We don't publicize much beyond our readers in order to keep the results of a higher quality. Finding really good food requires us to lean on those who are really passionate about food. We figure if you heard about this poll through our limited promotion and felt moved enough to vote, then you were a true foodie. This was always meant to be a poll for foodies, by foodies, so thank you to all the foodies who voted. We hope you enjoy the results as much as we did.

Some quick notes about our notes. By some categories, you might see a [NOTE] in brackets that gives you some insight into that category beyond the winners ranks. For those, we urge you to take a look at the raw data to get a peek at all the votes. You'll also see the same kind of notes by individual restaurants. This is to give you an idea of how things have changed since last year and/or key you into decisive wins.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2009TM

Best American Bistro in Omaha [All Local]

Best Appetizers in Omaha [Big Changes]

Best Bagels in Omaha

Best Bar-B-Que in Omaha

Best Breakfast in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Buffet in Omaha

Best Burrito in Omaha

Best Chinese Restaurant in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Coffee Shop in Omaha

Best Desserts in Omaha

Best Family Restaurant in Omaha

Best French Fries in Omaha [All Local?]

Best French Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Fried Chicken in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

  • Jack & Mary's
  • Chi Town Chicken (Tie ~ 2nd) [NEW]
  • Millard Roadhouse(Tie ~ 2nd)
  • Time Out Foods (Tie ~ 2nd) [NEW]

Best Greek Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

  • The Greek Islands
  • Katie's
  • Jim & Jennie's Greek Village

Best Hamburgers in Omaha [All Local]

  • Dinker's
  • Stella's
  • Louie M's Burger Lust [NEW]

Best Hot Wings in Omaha

Best Indian Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

  • Jaipur
  • Mother India [NEW]
  • India Garden
  • NOTE: Though there were clear vote winners, this was still a highly divided category.

Best Italian Restaurant in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Japanese Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Korean in Omaha [Low Vote Count; All Local]

  • Han Kuk Kwan
  • Korea King
  • Korean Food Restaurant

Best Mexican Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; Big Changes; All Local]

Best Onion Rings in Omaha [No Clear Winner]

Best Pasta in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Pizza in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

Best Sandwiches in Omaha

Best Seafood in Omaha

Best Soup in Omaha

Best Steak House in Omaha [Contentious Category]

Best Sunday Brunch in Omaha

Best Sushi Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Thai Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

Best Restaurant in Omaha for a Business Lunch

Best Restaurant in Omaha for a First Date [All Local]

Most Romantic Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Most Overrated Restaurant in Omaha

Most Underrated Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best New Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Chef in Omaha [Low Vote Count]

Best Restaurant in Omaha

NOTES AND COMMENTS: Since the form fields were free form, we tried to interpret the results as best we could (e.g. We might count Radial Cafe towards Lisa's Radial Cafe). If you'd like to double check our work, feel free to look at the raw data. No member of the GFC team voted. Since this was such a small sample size and some of the categories were so close, some of the results would be different if our votes were counted.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2010TM

Of course we plan to do this again next year, so please leave comments below with your thoughts about what you like and don't like about the categories, results, promotion, etc.... We would like to include some "Best Dish" categories, but I think the votes would be so unique that we wouldn't have a clear winner for any category. I'm very open to ideas around this. Here are a couple of examples that came out in the voting.
  • Big Horn Mountain BBQ: Beef Brisket
  • Upstream: Smoked Gouda & Blonde Ale Soup (x3)
  • Upstream: Tomato Basil
  • Mai Thai: Tom Yum Gai Soup
  • McFoster's Natural Kind: Roast Tomato Soup
  • Jaipur: Mulligatawny Soup
  • Grisanti's: Tomato Tortellini Soup
  • McFoster's Natural Kind: Sweet Potato Fries
  • Taste: Sweet Potato Fries
  • Smashburger: Smashfries (w/ Garlic and Rosemary)
  • Barrett's Barleycorn: Kitchen Sink Burger
  • Dinker's: Haystack Burger
  • Ethnic Sandwich Shop: The Irish Coned Beef Sandwich
  • Hiro: Husker Roll
  • Chinatown: Veggie Fried Rice
  • Whole Foods: Creme Brulee French Toast
  • Dixie Quick's: Oatmeal & Ice Cream
  • Mark's Bistro: Bread Pudding
  • Dario's: Banana and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Closing Thoughts

For the most part, I'm very pleased with the results and I think they are a good representation of the Omaha food scene and the spots that foodies tend to favor. Next year we might try to clean up some of the categories, or at least define them better. I'd like to find a way to get restaurants like Peru, Mucho Gusto nominated for something, but it, like many other restaurants, don't fit well into any of our current categories really. One thing that I noticed while looking at the results is that there are some great opportunities for restaurants to step up and fill some voids. Categories that were dominated by chains or just plain didn't have many votes would be a good place to start. So if you had been planing on opening a Korean soup-and-sandwich shop or a breakfast spot offering a burrito-on-a-bagel, you might have something going for you.

On a personal note, while looking at the results, I realized the need for us to cover the Omaha restaurant scene more. Though I've been to well over half of the places on this list, we've reviewed just a fraction of them. Maybe you can help us with that problem.

On a related note, we'd like to send out window clings to all of the restaurants you see above. If you make window clings or know someone who does, contact us. If you're a person who would like to help us design our decal, contact us. If you are a business owner who would like to offer something to the winners (such as Joe Frost from Elify who will be offering free online strategy consultations), contact us. If you just want to contact us, contact us :-)


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peru, Mucho Gusto - Omaha NE - Review

posted by snekse
"Peru, Much Gusto? Are you sure you read it right? A Peruvian restaurant in Omaha?"

Peru Mucho Gusto, Omaha NE
Those were basically the words I used when my co-worker told me a Peruvian restaurant opened in Omaha. It just really caught me off guard. I'm not sure why. I mean we have an Ethiopian restaurant which I was sure was going to be the last cuisine to make it's debut here. But my curiosity was peaked to say the least. Sure enough, within a week we were on our way to try and find the place (thanks in part to an online Entertainment book coupon).

When we got there, the interior looked like most small locally owned ethnic restaurants. It was sparsely decorated with that kind of "temporary residence" kind of look. It's not really a concern to foodies, but I had to mention it.

Before this meal, I'd only been to one other Peruvian restaurant, La Furia Chalaca in Oakland, CA. Therefore I am far from an expert on Peruvian cuisine, but given that the chef/owner Raul Atencio is from Peru, I think it's a safe bet to assume the food is fairly authentic. Though they try to source everything locally, the fish and some of the spices are flown in from Peru when a good substitute cannot be found.

We started off with the Papa Rellena. Cooked mashed potatoes are formed around seasoned beef, eggs, raisins and Peruvian spices, then deep fried and served with a spicy salsa criolla. Being a potato dish, and a fried one at that, I enjoyed this dish. My wife did not. It was too spicy for her palette - a reoccurring theme throughout the meal.

Yucca Frita at Peru Mucho Gusto
We also got an order of Yucca Frita (Fried Yucca) that was served with a creamy garlic "Mojo" (I think?) sauce. The yucca was a little hit and miss. Some of them seemed under done in the middle requiring some water to get them down. The outsides were pretty much all hit. I ended up eating a couple like corn on the cob to get those crisp outsides and tender fluffy insides together. And the garlic sauce was all miss, at least for us. We were told this stuff is like ketchup in Peru and people put it on almost anything.

For our entrees, we asked our waitress for guidance. She ended up recommending some of the dishes we were considering anyway, so we ordered the Lomo Saltado and the Ceviche De Pescado. They were out of the Seco De Carne Con Frijoles (beef cooked with Inca corn beer) that I wanted to try.

Lomo Saltado is a dish we had before. It's pieces of ribeye sauteed with onions, tomatoes and french fries, served with steamed rice in case the fries aren't enough carbs for you. It's a little odd to see the fries basically stir fried with the beef then doused with a broth, but it's actually a good dish. The seasonings give the dish a little kick, but as I said, that's the norm. Unfortunately the beef wasn't as tender as I'd expect ribeye to be. It might have something to do with how it's prepared as it has almost a steamed appearance.

Cevice at Peru Mucho Gusto
If you're bothered by the spice in the Lomo Saltado, stay far away from the cevice. The bountiful fish on your plate certainly won't leave you hungry - if you can finish it all. I was unsuccessful at that task. The fish is marinated in lime juice and Peruvian chilies. This made it really spicy and really acidic. It was very enjoyable, but palette fatigue set in about half way through.

As we finished we had a chance to talk to owner Mimi Atencio. She and her entire staff were extremely friendly and helpful. Service can often be a problem with places just starting out, but it didn't seem to be an issue here. In talking to her, we learned they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights. We also learned, after inquiring about the Asian influence on the menu, that Peru had a large population of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Much like Hawaiian food, Peruvian food has adopted many of their ingredients and techniques. I'll have to try the fried rice next time.

Rating: 82+

Peru, Mucho Gusto
77th & L St. (Ralston)

7755 L St. (Map)
Ralston, NE 68127

Phone: (402) 932-0049

Email: Peru.Muchogusto@hotmail.com

HOURS:
  Open daily from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
  CLOSED MONDAYS

Peru, Mucho Gusto on Urbanspoon
RELATED LINKS:
Chef Chat: Myriam Atencio from Peru, Mucho Gusto

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Omaha Coupon Book helping the Omaha Food Bank

posted by snekse
In June we mentioned that The Omaha Food Bank was to become the primary beneficiary of our charitable efforts at Gastronomic Fight Club. This is the first step towards that mission. We have partnered with the Savings Sidekick Omaha Coupon Book to make the Omaha Food Bank one of the available charities on their site that can benefit from sales of the discount books. When selected as the donation recipient the Omaha Food Bank will receive *at least* $10 from your $20 purchase. When purchased through the link below, they will get $11! And of course you get the benefit of not only helping the Omaha Food Bank, but you will also get those nifty BOGO coupons to a good number of Omaha restaurants.

Help the Omaha Food Bank
Buy the 2010 Savings Sidekick Omaha Coupon Book

Omaha_Coupon_Book_Savings_Sidekick_2010_buythebook

We thank you for helping us support the Omaha Food Bank. If you have other ideas of how everyone can help, please submit your ideas in the comments below.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Where's the best Mexican food in Omaha

posted by snekse
I am constantly amazed at how often this question comes up. Omaha has a surprising number of good Mexican restaurants, but most of the one's that seem to get recommended are not "the Best Of". If someone tells you the best Mexican restaurant in Omaha has several locations, they probably don't get out enough. The same would go for any location West of 60th street, save a couple a unique places like Rivera's. In general, it is really hard to go wrong with any of the Mexican restaurants on 24th street between L Street and Q Street. There are also a couple of restaurants in Q Street between 30th and 36th that are pretty good. Beyond those, Nettie's, Howard's, Riveria's and Guaca Maya are all solid choices.

The winners of our 2008 "Best-ter-est of Omaha" awards were Alvarados, El Aguila, Guaca Maya and La Mesa, but honestly, I think a lot of people (including myself) haven't fully explored the South Omaha area. Without doing so, I don't think one can declare a "Best Mexican Restaurant" in Omaha, only recommend what's been the best they've found so far.

With that said, I'll be updating this map with the places that I've tried, or have heard from trusted sources, that are some of the restaurants in Omaha to find truly great authentic Mexican cuisine (though I reserve the right to include any Latin American restaurants).

Map of the Best Mexican Cuisine in Omaha

I also encourage everyone to share your favorite spots. I'll use those recommendations as my TODO list when trying to decide where to eat next.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants 2009

posted by snekse

Restaurant magazine has just released the 2009 list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants. The awards were based on 4,185 votes cast by 837 restaurant critics, chefs, restaurateurs and other qualified restaurant experts. You can see more about the voting process on the website.

Ferran Adria’s culinary mecca, El Bulli, and Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant once again top the list.

Michelin 3-star restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, owned by the Hell's Kitchen chef, failed to make the top 100 which is surprising since it was 13th on the list last year.

Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant dropped 7 notches to #12 and was beat out by it's New York cousin, Per Se, which took 6th place.

Grant Achatz from Chicago breaks into the top 10 with Alinea. Manresa squeaked in at #93. The United States had 8 restaurants in the top 50 and 12 restaurants in the top 100. Not bad when you consider this list of compiled of the greatest restaurants in the world and is bound to have a slight European bend. This can probably best be seen in the fact that Les Creations de Narisawa was the first Japanese restaurant to make the list, yet Japan racked up an insanely high number of Michelin stared restaurants last year.

More insight to come. Keep checking back. In the mean time, here are the top 50 restaurants in the World.

1 El Bulli, Spain (=)
2 The Fat Duck, U.K. (=)
3 Noma, Denmark (+7)
4 Mugaritz, Spain (=)
5 El Celler de Can Roca, Spain (+21)
6 Per Se, U.S. (=)
7 Bras, France (=)
8 Arzak, Spain (=)
9 Pierre Gagnaire, France (-6)
10 Alinea, U.S. (+11)
11 L’Astrance, France (=)
12 The French Laundry U.S. (-7)
13 Osteria Francescana, Italy (New Entry)
14 St. John, U.K. (+2)
15 Le Bernardin, U.S. (+5)
16 Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville, Switzerland (+11)
17 Tetsuya’s, Australia (-8)
18 L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, France (-4)
19 Jean Georges, U.S. (-2)
20 Les Creations de Narisawa, Japan (New Entry)
21 Chez Dominique, Finland (+18)
22 Ristorante Cracco, Italy (+21)
23 Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany (+12)
24 D.O.M., Brazil (+16)
25 Vendome, Germany (+9)
26 Hof van Cleve, Belgium (+2)
27 Masa, U.S., (Re-entry)
28 Gambero Rosso, Italy (-16)
29 Oud Sluis, Netherlands (+13)
30 Steirereck, Austria (New Entry)
31 Momofuku Ssam Bar, U.S. (New Entry)
32 Oaxen Skaergaardskrog, Sweden (+16)
33 Martin Berasategui, Spain (-4)
34 Nobu U.K. (-4)
35 Mirazur, France (New Entry)
36 Hakkasan, U.K. (-17)
37 Le Quartier Francais, South Africa (+13)
38 La Colombe, South Africa (Re-entry)
39 Asador Etxebarri, Spain (+5)
40 Le Chateaubriand, France (New Entry)
41 Daniel, U.S. (=) - Make a reservation
42 Combal Zero, Italy (Re-entry)
43 Le Louis XV, France (-28)
44 Tantris, Germany (+3)
45 Iggy’s, Singapore (New Entry)
46 Quay, Australia (New Entry)
47 Les Ambassadeurs, France (-2)
48 Dal Pescatore, Italy (-25)
49 Le Calandre, Italy (-13)
50 Mathias Dahlgren, Sweden (New Entry)

Rounding out the top 100 restaurants in the world:
51 Zuma, China
52 Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, U.K.
53 Spondi, Greece
54 L’Arpege, France
55 L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, China
56 Hibiscus, U.K.
57 Aqua, Germany
58 Le Gavroche, U.K.
59 Chez Panisse, U.S.
60 Les Amis, Singapore
61 El Poblet, Spain
62 Maison Pic, France
63 Cafe Pushkin, Russia
64 Le Meurice, France
65 Bukhara, India
66 Varvari, Russia
67 Schauenstein, Germany
68 RyuGin, Japan
69 La Maison Troisgros, France
70 Wasabi, India
71 The River Cafe, U.K.
72 Enoteca Pinchiorri, Italy
73 Le Cinq, France
74 Allegro, Czech Republic
75 Quintessence, Japan
76 Restaurant Dieter Mueller, Germany
77 Geranium, Denmark
78 Caprice, China
79 Jardines, South Africa
80 Amador, Germany
81 Biko, Mexico
82 L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon U.S
83 Fasano, Brazil
84 Mozaic, Bali
85 Obauer, Austria
86 Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee, France
87 L’Ambroisie, France
88 Maison Boulud, China
89 De Librije, Netherlands
90 Babbo, U.S.
91 Maze, U.K.
92 Zuma, U.K.
93 Manresa, U.S.
94 Pier, Australia
95 De Karmeliet, Belgium
96 Aubergine, South Africa
97 Bo Innovation, China
98 Rust en Vrede, South Africa
99 Del Posto U.S.
100 Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, UAE

Special Recognition Awards

Reader's Choice:
Chef's Choice: Noma, Denmark
Breakthrough Restaurant: Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley
Lifetime Achievement Award: Joël Robuchon (details)

The S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants

List of Restaurant's 1-50
List of Restaurant's 51-100
Best Restaurant in The Americas: Per Se (USA)
Best Restaurant in Australia: Tetsuya's (AUS)
Best Restaurant in Asia: Les Creations de Narisawa (Japan)
Best Restaurant in Africa & Middle East: Le Quartier Francais (South Africa)
Best Restaurant in South America: D.O.M. (Brazil)

RELATED LINKS:
The International Agenda for Great Cooking
-By Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and Harold McGee


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Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 James Beard Nominees Announcements

posted by snekse
James Beard Logo
Nominees and special honorees for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today. UPDATING AS THE NEWS COMES IN!!!

Once again, good luck to chef Colby Garrelts of Bluestem who was nominated in the BEST CHEF: MIDWEST category. Hopefully third time really is the charm. Unfortunately none of the chefs from the Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota region made the cut, but considering the competition, I'm not surprised. Regardless, congratulations to the following chefs for making the semi-finalists list: Jennifer Coco, The Flatiron Cafe, Omaha, NE; M.J. Adams, The Corn Exchange, Rapid City, SD; George Formaro, Centro, Des Moines, IA; Enosh Kelly, Bistro Montage, Des Moines, IA; Steve Logsdon, Basil Prosperi’s Lucca, Des Moines, IA.

And this year's Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ella Brennan of the Brennan Family of Restaurants, which includes Commander’s Palace.

2009 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards

OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR AWARD

A working restaurateur, actively involved in multiple restaurants in the United States, who has set uniformly high national standards as a creative force in the kitchen and/or in restaurant operations. Candidates must have been in the restaurant business for at least ten years.

Tom Douglas
  Tom Douglas Restaurants
  Seattle, WA
Keith McNally
  Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Morandi, Pastis, Pravda, and Schiller's Liquor Bar
  NYC, NY
Richard Melman
  Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
  Chicago, IL
Drew Nieporent
  Myriad Restaurant Group
  NYC, NY
Stephen Starr
  Starr Restaurant Organization
  Philadelphia, PA

OUTSTANDING CHEF AWARD

Presented by All-Clad Metalcrafters
A working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. Candidates must have been working as a chef for at least the past five years.

José Andrés
  Minibar, Washington, D.C.
Dan Barber
  Blue Hill, NYC, NY
Tom Colicchio
  Craft, NYC, NY
Suzanne Goin
  Lucques, Los Angeles, CA
Paul Kahan
  Blackbird, Chicago, IL

OUTSTANDING RESTAURANT AWARD

A restaurant in the United states that serves as a national standard-bearer for consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere, and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least ten consecutive years.

Babbo, NYC
  Chef/Owner: Mario Batali, Owner: Joe Bastianich
Boulevard, San Francisco
  Chef/Owner: Nancy Oakes, Owner: Pat Kuleto
Fore Street, Portland, ME
  Chef/Owner: Sam Hayward, Owner: Victor Leon and Dana Street
Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL
  Chef/Owner: Frank Stitt
Jean Georges, NYC
  Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Owner: Phil Suarez

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

A restaurant opened in 2008 that already displays excellence in food, beverage, and service and is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.

The Bazaar, Los Angeles
  Chef/Owner: José Andrés, Owner: Sam Narian and Philippe Starck
Corton, CITY
  Chef/Owner: NAME, Owner: NAME
L2O, Chicago
  Chef/Owner: Laurent Gras, Owner: Richard Melman
Momofuku Ko, NYC
  Chef/Owner: David Chang
Scarpetta, NYC
  Chef/Owner: Scott Conant

RISING STAR CHEF OF THE YEAR AWARD

A chef age 30 or younger who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to have a significant impact on the industry in years to come.

Nate Appleman
  A16, San Francisco, CA
Sean Brock
  McCrady's, Charleston, SC
Johnny Monis
  Komi, Washington, D.C.
Gabriel Rucker
  Le Pigeon, Portland, OR
Michael Solomonov
  Zahav, Philadelphia, PA
Sue Zemanick
  Gautreau's, New Orleans, LA

OUTSTANDING PASTRY CHEF AWARD

A chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads and who serves as a national standard-bearer for excellence. Candidates must have been pastry chefs or bakers for at least the past five years.

Gina DePalma
  Babbo
  NYC, NY
Kamel Guechida
  Joël Robuchon
  Las Vegas, NV
Pichet Ong
  P*ong
  NYC, NY
Nicole Plue
  Redd
  Yountville, CA
Mindy Segal
  Mindy's HotChocolate
  Chicago, IL

OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE AWARD

A restaurant that displays and encourages excellence in wine service through a well-presented wine list, a knowledgeable staff, and efforts to educate customers about wine. Candidates must have been in operation for at least five years.

Bin 36, Chicago
  Wine Director: Brian Duncan
Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
  Wine Director: Andy Chabot
Le Bernardin, NYC
  Wine Director: Aldo Sohm
Patina, Los Angeles
  Wine Director: Eric Espuny
Picasso at Bellagio, Las Vegas
  Wine Director: Robert Smith

OUTSTANDING WINE AND SPIRITS PROFESSIONAL AWARD

A winemaker, brewer, or spirits professional who has had a significant impact on the wine and spirits industry nationwide. Candidates must have been in the profession for at least five years.

Dale DeGroff
  Dale DeGroff Co., Inc.
  NYC, NY
Merry Edwards
  Merry Edwards Wines
  Sebastopol, CA
Garrett Oliver
  The Brooklyn Brewery
  Brooklyn, NY
John and Doug Shafer
  Shafer Vineyards
  Napa, CA
Julian P. Van Winkle
  Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
  Louisville, KY

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD

A restaurant that demonstrates high standards of hospitality and service. Candidates must have been in operation for at least the past five years.

Daniel
  NYC
  Owners: Daniel Boulud and Joel Smilow
Emeril’s New Orleans
  New Orleans
  Owner: Emeril Lagasse
La Grenouille
  NYC
  Owners: Charles Masson and Giséle Masson
Spiaggia
  Chicago
  Owner: Larry Levy
Vetri
  Philadelphia
  Owners: Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin

BEST CHEFS IN AMERICA

Presented by American Express®
Chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Each candidate may be employed by any kind of dining establishment and must have been a working chef for at least the past five years. The three most recent years must have been spent in the region where chef is presently working.

BEST CHEF: PACIFIC (CA, HI)
Jeremy Fox
  Ubuntu ~ Napa, CA
Douglas Keane
  Cyrus ~ Healdsburg, CA
Loretta Keller
  Coco500 ~ San Francisco
David Kinch
  Manresa ~ Los Gatos, CA
Daniel Patterson
  Coi ~ San Francisco

BEST CHEF: MID-ATLANTIC (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Cathal Armstrong
  Restaurant Eve ~ Alexandria, VA
Jose Garces
  Amada ~ Philadelphia
Peter Pastan
  Obelisk ~ Washington, D.C.
Maricel Presilla
  Cucharamama ~ Hoboken, NJ
Vikram Sunderam
  Rasika ~ Washington, D.C.

BEST CHEF: MIDWEST (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Isaac Becker
  112 Eatery ~ Minneapolis
Gerard Craft
  Niche ~ St. Louis, MO
Colby Garrelts
  Bluestem ~ Kansas City, MO
Tim McKee
  La Belle Vie ~ Minneapolis
Alexander Roberts
  Restaurant Alma ~ Minneapolis

BEST CHEF: GREAT LAKES (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Koren Grieveson
  Avec ~ Chicago
Arun Sampanthavivat
  Arun's ~ Chicago
Bruce Sherman
  North Pond ~ Chicago
Michael Symon
  Lola ~ Cleveland
Alex Young
  Zingerman's Roadhouse ~ Ann Arbor, MI

BEST CHEF: NEW YORK CITY (FIVE BOROUGHS)
Michael Anthony
  Gramercy Tavern
Terrance Brennan
  Picholine
Wylie Dufresne
  WD-50
Gabrielle Hamilton
  Prune
Gabriel Kreuther
  The Modern

BEST CHEF: NORTHEAST (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT)
Rob Evans
  Hugo's ~ Portland, ME
Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
  Arrows ~ Ogunquit, ME
Michael Leviton
  Lumiére ~ West Newton, MA
Tony Maws
  Craigie on Main ~ Cambridge, MA
Marc Orfaly
  Pigalle ~ Boston

BEST CHEF: NORTHWEST (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Maria Hines
  Tilth ~ Seattle
Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez
  The Harvest Vine ~ Seattle
Ethan Stowell
  Union ~ Seattle
Cathy Whims
  Nostrana ~ Portland, OR
Jason Wilson
  Crush ~ Seattle

BEST CHEF: SOUTHEAST (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Hugh Acheson
  Five and Ten ~ Athens, GA
Linton Hopkins
  Restaurant Eugene ~ Atlanta
Mike Lata
  Fig ~ Charleston, SC
Bill Smith
  Crook's Corner ~ Chapel Hill, NC
Bob Waggoner
  Charleston Grill ~ Charleston, SC

BEST CHEF: SOUTHWEST (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT)
Paul Bartolotta
  Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas
Sharon Hage
  York Street ~ Dallas
Ryan Hardy
  Montagna at the Little Nell ~ Aspen, CO
Claude Le Tohic
  Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
Andrew Weissman
  Le Rêve ~ San Antonio

BEST CHEF: SOUTH (AL. AR, FL, LA, MS)
Zach Bell
  Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court ~ Palm Beach, FL
John Currence
  City Grocery ~ Oxford, MS
John Harris
  Lilette ~ New Orleans
Douglas Rodriguez
  Ola ~ Miami Beach, FL
Michael Schwartz
  Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink ~ Miami

2009 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Awards

Arnold's Country Kitchen
  605 8th Ave. S., Nashville, TN?
  Owner(s): Jack and Rose Arnold
Meat-and-threes—that’s what Arnold’s Country Kitchen is all about. Owner Jack Arnold, who favors overalls and bow ties, has been in charge with his wife, Rose, since 1983, and it’s his fried green tomatoes, creamy banana pudding, and made-to-order cornbread that keep Nashville residents coming back for more. Patrons love his succulent roast beef and crisp fried chicken, too, but many are just as likely to forgo the meat and go all sides—that’s how good Jack’s freshly made dishes are. Frequented by country stars, downtown business-types, and ordinary folks looking for an affordable and delicious meal, Arnold’s is among the best Southern plate lunch spots in the nation.

Breitbach's Country Dining
  563 Balltown Rd, Sherrill, IA
  Owner(s): Mike Breitbach
In business since 1852 and touted as Iowa’s oldest bar and restaurant, Breitbach’s Country Dining has been owned and operated by the same family for five generations. Love for Breitbach’s goes well beyond a hankering for the restaurant’s excellent fried chicken, bacon-wrapped pork chops, and mouth-watering pies. This adoration was put to the test on Christmas Eve 2007, when a fire destroyed the eatery’s original building. Faced with the daunting task of starting over, the community rallied around the eatery and a slew of volunteers pitched in to rebuild the restaurant, doing so in a record 69 days. Unbelievably, less than six months later, the restaurant burnt to the ground again. Spirit unbroken, Breitbach’s is once again being rebuilt and will soon be serving its signature dishes to hungry regulars.

Mustache Bill's Diner
  8th St & Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ
  Owner(s): Bill Smith
These days, the food at diners is all too often of poor to middling quality. But not at Mustache Bill's. For over 35 years, owner Bill Smith has made everything on the diner’s menu from scratch—refusing to buy anything premade. It’s the homemade, straight from the heart cooking that makes Mustache Bill’s a must-stop destination on the Jersey Shore for both the fishing community regulars and the summertime beach-goers. From roasted-that-day turkey, ham, and beef to legendary pancakes and hand-cut home fries, it is no surprise that the crowds are huge: Mustache Bill's does 1,000 covers on a typical summer day, and it's only open 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Totono's
  1524 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn, NY
  Owner(s): Lawrence Ciminieri
A stone’s throw from the Cyclone, Totonno’s has been serving amazing Neapolitan-style pies for over 80 years. In 1924, one of New York’s first master pizzaiolas, Anthony “Totonno” Pero, left his job making pizzas at Lombardi’s to open a Coney Island pizzeria, and Totonno’s has been in his family ever since. Lawrence Ciminieri, the fourth generation now in charge, hasn’t strayed from the original recipe—each pizza is made with imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, fresh, locally made mozzarella, yeast, flour, salt, and not much else. The last—and perhaps most important—component is the oven. Totonno’s original coal-fired oven creates a distinct and flavorful char on the crust that cult pizza lovers crave.

Yank Sing
  101 Spear St, San Francisco
  Owner(s): Vera Chan-Waller
Henry Chan has made it his life’s work to “uplift dim sum.” At San Francisco’s Yank Sing he has been serving dim sum classics like har gow and Shanghai dumplings alongside newer innovations like phoenix shrimp and cabbage salad with honeyed walnuts to thousands of diners every day for over half a century. His mother opened Yank Sing’s original Chinatown location in 1958. Even as a young man, Henry knew what the restaurant needed to do in order to set itself apart, expand its appeal, and reach a larger audience. By moving to the financial district and creating a more upscale atmosphere, Yank Sing became a favorite among San Francisco’s movers and shakers and a must-visit restaurant for tourists. Now a third generation is at the restaurant’s helm. Henry’s daughter Vera Chan-Waller is in the kitchen every day, ensuring that Yank Sing maintains its high standards and traditions—and keeps growing along with the Bay Area’s vibrant food culture.

COOK BOOK AWARDS

American Cooking
Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited by Arthur Schwartz
Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker
Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Hall Foose

Baking
BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley O. Corriher
Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker
The Art and Soul of Baking by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet

Beverage
The Harney and Sons Guide to Tea by Micahel Harney
The Wines of Burgundy by Clive Coates
WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine by by Stephen Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss

Cooking from a Professional Point of View
Alinea by Grant Achatz
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide by Thomas Keller

General Cooking
How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman
Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook by Martha Stewart
The Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild

Healthy Focus
Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta: Recipes from the World-Famous Spa by Deborah Szekely and Deborah M. Schneider, with Jesús González
EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook by Philip A. Ades, M.D. and the editors of EatingWell magazine
The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger

International
Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen
Southeast Asian Flavors by Yuji Wakiya

Photography
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal
Decadent Desserts
Haute Chinese Cuisine from the Kitchen of Wakiya by Yuji Wakiya

Reference and Scholarship
Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson
The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
The Science of Good Food by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss with A. Philip Handel, Ph.D.

Single Subject
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan
Mediterranean Fresh by Joyce Goldstein
The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas

Writing and Literature
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Shark's Fin Soup and and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop
Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef by Betty Fussell


OTHER MEDIA AWARDS


Newspaper Feature about Restaurants and/or Chefs: Monica Eng/Phil Vettel(Chicago Trib), Katy McLaughlin (WSJ), Tom Sietsema (The Wash Post)

Newspaper Feature w/o Recipes: Monica Eng (Chicago Tribune), Kristen Hinman (Riverfront Times), and Craig LaBan (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Newspaper Feature w/ Recipes: Rebekah Denn (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), David Leite (New York Times), Kathleen Purvis (Charlotte Observer)

Newspaper Food Section: Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post

Magazine Feature Writing about Restaurants and/or Chefs: Ruth Reichl (Gourmet), Alan Richman (Departures), Anya von Bremzen (Food & Wine)

Magazine Feature with Recipes: Edna Lewis (Gourmet)*published posthumously, David Dobbs and John Ash (EatingWell), James Peterson (Saveur)

Magazine Feature Writing w/o Recipes: Alan Richman (GQ), Patricia Sharpe (Texas Monthly), Monique Truong (Gourmet)

Restaurant Reviews: Jonathan Gold (LA Weekly), Adam Platt (New York Magazine), and Tom Sietsema (The Washington Post)

Nutrition/Food-Related Issues: Barry Estabrook (Gourmet), Mark Adams, et al (New York Magazine), Rachael Moeller Gorman (EatingWell)

Food-Related Columns: Dorie Greenspan (Bon Appétit), Corby Kummer (The Atlantic), and Laura Shapiro (Gourmet.com)

Writing on Spirits, Wine, or Beer: Jon Bonné (San Francisco Chronicle), Jay McInerney (Men’s Vogue), Alan Richman (GQ)

Website Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurant, or Nutrition: Chow.com, Epicurious.com, and Gourmet.com

Multimedia: Ruth Reichl (Gourmet.com): Gourmet Cookbook Club and The Test Kitchen; Mike Sula (Chicagoreader.com): Whole Hog Project

Food Blogs: The BA Foodist, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Our One-Block Diet

MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: Celia Barbour (O, The Oprah Magazine), Aleksandra Crapanzano (Gourmet), Alan Richman (GQ)

Television Food Segment: ABC News, Nightline: Platelist, CBS News Sunday Morning: In a Pinch, ABC 7 News Friday Night Special: Hungry Hound

TV Show: Lidia’s Italy: Sweet Napoli; Château Dinner: A French Food at Home Special; and We Live to Eat: New Orleans’ Love Affair with Food

Web/Radio: Living Today (MSL Radio): José Andrés; Graperadio.com: Thomas Jefferson & Wine; Leonard Lopate (WNYC): 3-Ingredient Challenge

Video Webcast: School Lunch Revolutionary (Chow.com), Art of Blending (Graperadio.com), Savoring the Best of World Flavors (Ciaprochef.com)

Restaurant Design: Thomas Schlesser (Publican), Thomas Schlesser (Bar Boulud),and Philippe Starck/Bruno Barrione/Theresa Fatino (The Bazaar)

Restaurant Graphics: Jason Pickleman/Donald Madia (Publican), Denise Korn/Javier Cortés/Bryant Ross (Corner Office), Steven Solomon (Terroir)

The 2009 inductees into the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage are: David Burke, John T. Edge, Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Betty Fussell, Clark Wolf

You can read more details on the James Beard Foundation Awards website.

RELATED LINKS:
2008 James Beard Award Winners
2007 James Beard Award Winners

Grant Achatz: Alinea
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes
Grant Achatz' Alinea Book

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Join us at Sage Bistro

posted by snekse
It that time of year again. ?There's one for you, nineteen for me. 'Cause I'm the taxman?

Some of you will be getting a nice rebate check and want to do your part to help stimulate the economy. Others will be feeling the hurt and are looking to pinch some pennies. Luckily we can do both at a place like Sage Bistro.

So join Gastronomic Fight Club, The Foodies of Omaha Discussion Board, some of our fellow Omaha Food Bloggers and other foodies in general for some great food and an even better time! [Note: Sage does not have a liquor license, but you can bring your own wine which they can serve.]

Prix Fixe by Student Sous Chef, Betty Gomez

five layer dip
avacado
cilantro salad
fresh corn chips

coquille st. jacque
carnitas

langostine thermador
lobster "tamales"
broiled tail
black bean & cactus nage

dessert
TBD

Event Details

Date: Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Time: 6:00 PM - Meet and Greet; 6:30 PM - Dinner
Cost: $28 plus tax (Non-alcoholic drinks included)
Place: Sage Bistro
Address:
  N 30th St & Fort St. (map)
  Metro's Fort Omaha campus
  Building #10
  Omaha, NE 68111
Phone: (402) 457-2328

R.S.V.P.

You can R.S.V.P. using this form or on Facebook (Please don't double up). I'll leave the form open until about April 8th. We can only accommodate 80 people, so don't wait too long to reserve your spot. After you R.S.V.P., make sure you add the event to your calendar.The RSVP window for this event has closed. Thanks to everyone who could make it.

See you there!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

REVIEW: The Boiler Room Restaurant - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse

Expectations

The Boiler Room Restaurant Omaha NE
When we made our reservation, I had no intention of writing a review for a restaurant that had just opened it's doors. They had only been open for 2 days when we went, so we weren't expecting a whole lot. What we got is likely to be a our new favorite restaurant in town.

To be honest, I was worried about the Boiler Room before they opened. Being outside of the main Old Market quad blocks, I wasn't sure they would get enough traffic to keep their doors open. I no longer think that's going to be a problem. I think they set the bar high enough that people won't forget about it, and those not in the downtown area will be willing to make the trek beyond just those special occasion nights.

Unfortunately my first impression wasn't exactly favorable. Parking was difficult, even on a Thursday night. We ended up in the parking garage on Jackson Street. They might want to start offering parking validation if they're unable to find another solution.

As we stepped into the restaurant, I was reminded of how cool the inside is. One of the first things one will notice is the general layout. The main dining room is situated above the bar and kitchen with an open view to both. It provides great visual interest complemented by the exposed brick and support structures. I think they did a good job of mixing the historic patina of the original space with the more modern elements.

The other thing that is hard to miss is the gigantic photographic prints on the walls. The still lifes, altered to look much like paintings, feature various food items in various states of preparation. For example, our table was situated in front of a work displaying a pig's head on a table with some flowers. Though my wife conceded that it was a nice picture, she could have done without a large eye socket looking at her all night.

As we were seated, I was surprised by two things. First the chairs - which I'm still undecided about. When you first sit down, they tilt back very quickly and deeply. I felt as if I was going to get dumped on the floor, though no such thing was going to happen. Butt cheek muffin top, however, did happen. The actual seat is rather shallow and doesn't align with the back of the chair, so if you're sitting back all the way, expect some hang over. That said, the chairs were very comfortable for the almost 2 hours we were there.

Table setting at the Boiler Room
The second thing that surprised me was seeing the white tablecloths. I was under the impression that The Boiler Room was going to be a little more casual. The dress and interaction of the wait staff confirmed I was a little misguided. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm glad I didn't show up in a T-Shirt and tennis shoes. On the flip-side, I would have felt over-dressed in a suit.

The service was about what I would expect for a restaurant that's only been open for two days. Most of the issues we had were minor and were overshadowed by some pleasant surprises in how attentive the service was.

To help with the service, The Boiler Room has brought a Master Sommelier into the fold. The wine list is large with an emphasis on French producers. Having a sommelier to assist in navigating such a list adds an extra dimension that some diners will really appreciate. The wines that Jesse Becker picked for us were excellent and complemented our dishes well [2007 Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling, 2005 Domaine De Fonsainte Corbières]. And though I didn't take a look at their cocktail menu, you may want to since I know chef Kulik is trying to do some interesting stuff in that area.

The Menu

crudo of sablefish
We started off with the crudo of sablefish ($8). The buttery sablefish was laced with braised or grilled radicchio, shavings of a delicious piave de vecchio cheese and a drizzle of tomato oil. This was a nice way to start the meal. It was clean and light, though it took awhile to figure out the correct portion of radicchio and cheese to accompany the sablefish without overpowering it - thus loosing the delicate flavor of the fish. The most impressive thing about this dish was that it was one of the weaker dishes of this meal! I'd rate this dish about an 86/100.

honey glazed pork belly
Our other appetizer was probably the strongest dish of the night. The june farm honey glazed pork belly ($10) was cooked almost to perfection. I say almost because one of the bottom meat fibers was crisped so well that it almost pierced my tongue. I did like how the bottom was crisped though, while the fat layers had rendered and the other layers of meat were tender and succulent. It provided a nice contrast in flavors and textures. To further the complexity of flavors, pickled crimini were served atop the pork belly. The acid from these very tart mushrooms provided a great foil to the unctuous pork fat. I'd venture to guess this was a trick chef Kulik picked up while staging at Avec in Chicago. The dish was finished with an intensely flavorful cauliflower puree that is one of the best I've had. It wasn't overly creamy or mounted with obscene amounts of butter, so the essence of cauliflower was really all you tasted. And I have to also mention the sauce on the plate - it tasted exactly like the roast duck in Oakland's Chinatown - yumm. I'd rate this dish about 93/100.

risotto
About the only misstep we saw from the kitchen was my wife's risotto ($18), parts of which was undercooked. The kitchen re-made her risotto which came out much better the second time. In fact, it was one of the better risotto's we had ever had. Creamy, tender, but nowhere near runny. And surprisingly, they replaced the entire dish. It would have been easy, and possibly justifiable, for them to place her original brisket in the replaced risotto, but they sent out a new piece. The very large hunk of brisket was very beefy, and dare I say, briskety tasting, though the very outer layer seemed a little dry to me. My wife also noted that the 2nd bowl seemed to have more risotto in it, but less truffle oil scent. The risotto was finished with a fried egg and braised kale.

Pork Collar
While the kitchen remade the risotto, my wife and I dug into the milk braised pork collar ($19) that I ordered. The generous section of pork was served with parsnips and charred Brussels sprouts swimming in a nice broth, while eggplant caviar rested on top of the collar. One of the first things we did was to try the eggplant caviar on it's own. It was bitter and not very enjoyable, but then we tried it with the pork collar. To my delight, I thought it actually enhanced the pork collar and made it more enjoyable. My wife didn't completely agree, but did find they went well together. Mixing the seeds into the broth and pulling apart the collar made a wonderful stew of sorts. Oh, and Brussels sprouts are just under utilized - period.

saffron panna cotta
We decided to skip the cheese cart and head straight for dessert. Sadly, they only had one dessert on the menu the night we went. Funny enough, it was the one dessert that my wife has stated is too difficult to find in Omaha: panna cotta. The rendition for the night was a saffron panna cotta with jun farm prairie honey and blackberries ($6). This was an interesting dish. Again, neither of us cared for the flavors of the panna cotta on it's own, but with the sweetness of the honey, it was very enjoyable. It was also executed very well. Often panna cotta gets too much gelatin that turns it into something else entirely. The Boiler Room got theirs right, at least on this night.

Final Thoughts

I can honestly say that I was very surprised - on several fronts. As I said, the table settings and service wasn't quite was I was expecting, but that's not a big deal. The clientele will dictate the service down the line and from what we saw, the clients seem to want to keep the food upscale, but the vibe relaxed. Of course, relaxed is a relative term. The vibe I saw was coffee house with pan roasted monkfish.

The best surprise was the food. It was just their second day being open to the public - are you kidding me? Yes braising and roasting can be very forgiving techniques, but the execution of every dish was done very well. Even more impressive were the dishes put together by chef Kulik. Minimal basic ingredients combined with intelligence and prepared simply. Occasionally you'll see something slightly exotic thrown into a dish to add a needed unique dimension, but I doubt you'll ever see a laundry list of luxury ingredients for a single dish. Chef Kulik seems more focused than a lot of chefs are able to force themselves to be.

A final parting observation. My wife has a saying about Blue Sushi: "It's where all the pretty people go" - referring to the trendy label mongers that frequent the West Omaha location. She also came up with a similar saying for the Boiler Room: "It's where all the intelligent pretty people go" - referring to the smartly dressed young professionals and artistic types in the crowd. I think it fits and I can live with that.

DISCLOSURE: I knew both Chef Paul Kulik and Jesse Becker before this restaurant opened and they knew we were coming in that night, so it is possible our experience was not typical, but I do not believe that to be the case.

Rating: 93+

The Boiler Room - Make a Reservation
11th & Jones St. (Omaha Old Market)

1110 Jones Street (Map)
Omaha, NE 68102

Phone: (402) 916-9274


Hours of Operation
  Open Tuesday through Saturday
  Closed Sunday through Monday
  Kitchen ~ 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
  Bar ~ Open until 1:00 am

The Boiler Room on Urbanspoon

RELATED LINKS:
Chef Paul Kulik Video Interview
Jesse Becker joins The Boiler Room
OWH Review

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