Friday, February 19, 2010

Dinner at Ombu

It's not fair to review a restaurant after only one visit, so this is not a review.  Besides, I'm not a restaurant critic, although I can be critical.  Tonight I took my husband to Ombu for his birthday.  For anyone not familiar with Ombu, it is located on Hanes Mall Blvd. across from Wal-mart.  It is an attractive brick building with a patio and fireplace.  It is just as elegant inside with both tables and booths.  We were seated next to the kitchen, which wouldn't have been my choice because it was brighter, hotter and noisier.  However, it proved to be entertaining and enlightening to see how the kitchen was run.  I commented to my husband that I doubted it was like this at Applebee's, and he agreed it probably wasn't.

Jen was our server, and she did a very nice job.  She was knowledgeable about the menu, and when I questioned her about the serving temperature of their red wine she admitted that it was not climate controlled, but served at room temperature.  While it was comfortable for humans, it's not so good for the wine.  She said she would like for us to share our thoughts on this with the chef, as he takes customer's comments to heart.  Chef Joseph Monteiro is the Executive Chef as well as a partner in the restaurant.  He came to our table to hear our thoughts and  relate his concerns over not having the proper storage or cooling capacity for the wines.  And Ombu does have an extensive wine list.  His task would be much simpler if it did not.  It is apparently something he thinks about often.  

We placed an order for lobster and gruyere fritters with poblano pepper jelly and chives, and gave the red wine a try.  After all the only place we ever get it at the correct temperature, at least in this town, is at home.  Jen brought us samples of "The Bitch" grenache from Barossa.  It was light in body, similar to that of a pinot noir, but full of flavor like you would expect from Australian wines.  We enjoyed it in spite of the temperature so we each ordered a glass.  I suspect another 8-10 degrees cooler would have made a pleasurable difference, though.

Soon our fritters arrived.  They were crispy, golden mounds of spicy sweetness combined with the gooey cheese, and of course the lobster.  The lobster was not extremely obvious among the other flavors and textures.  They were quite good, but I would have liked a little more heat and a little less sweet in the sauce.

The restaurant didn't appear too busy when we arrived for our 7:00 reservation, but picked up steam as time went on.  The kitchen was slammed, and Chef Joe was keeping everyone in line and things moving.  Shortly we got our orders.  I had the Scottish Salmon with truffle potato au gratin and almond Thai basil butter.  Hubby ordered the divers scallops with smoked tomato grits, pancetta and cilantro hollandaise.  There were four large scallops on individual beds of the grits and pancetta.  They were topped with caviar.  Now this was the first experience of caviar for either of us, and  I've got to say, I didn't  care too much for it.  If asked ahead of time if I thought I would like it, I would have replied, "probably not".  I would have been right.  It was not so much as to upset the dish or the eater, but it's not something we'd want again.  It had the mouthfeel of so many little black seeds popping like tiny bubble wrap.  The salmon and scallops were cooked perfectly, and the portions were generous.  I even remarked that my salmon was large enough to split.  I usually buy enough for 6-oz. portions for each of us.  This must have been about 10 oz.  The only issue with the food was that the scallops were not served on a "hot" plate like my salmon, and were maybe not as hot as they could have been from the get go.  We let them know this for future reference.  

This was a very nice experience, and we saw first-hand a chef who cares about the food and wine he serves, and we saw him in action.  The wait staff were all friendly and competent.  I would give Ombu a thumbs up rating.  We had heard really good things about Ombu from friends, and they were right.

I cannot comment on the dessert.  I declined to even look at the menu since I was so stuffed.  Did I mention the complimentary bread and butter?  Yum!  It was all good.  Would I go back?  Yes!  

Now to make this evening even better, Ombu is one of the area restaurants listed with restaurants.com which sells restaurant gift certificates on-line.  I had purchased a $25 gift certificate during one of their special offers for just $2.  

Bottom line, I recommend this restaurant especially for special occasions.

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