September 08, 2011

Disappointing Dining in Omaha

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that our recent trip to Omaha featured a visit to an old favorite restaurant of ours, Indian Oven.  The next day, we took a break from a day of shopping to eat lunch at a restaurant we hadn't tried before, then went to Omaha's historic Old Market District for dinner.   I'd like to report that we had excellent meals that day and evening, but that is unfortunately not the case.

For lunch we stopped at another Indian restaurant, Tanduri Fusion.  It had gotten good reviews at a trip advisor website, so we decided to give it a try, not really expecting to find an Indian restaurant in Omaha that would top Indian Oven, but hoping for something that would still be both good and perhaps a bit different than what we could get at Indian Oven. 

Things started out pretty promising.  We ordered an appetizer sampler, which included two samosas (one meat, one vegetarian), vegetable pakora (battered and fried pieces of potato, eggplant and other veggies), chicken tikka (grilled bits of chicken) and papadam (crispy, flat wafers made from flour, ground lentils and seasonings), along with a delightfully tasty cilantro and mint dipping sauce.   All of the appetizers were quite good, and the papadam was an especially nice surprise.  Neither Juli nor I is usually a big fan of papadam, as most of the time it tends to be rather bland, but this example was full of flavor, in part due to lots of fragrant seeds (sesame, mustard and cumin, we think) being cooked into the papadam. 

If we'd just eaten the appetizers, we'd really have nothing bad to say about Tanduri Fusion.  Unfortunately, we were hungry, so we also ordered some main courses.   Juli had the gobi masala (a vegetable curry featuring chunks of potato and cauliflower), while I selected a lamb curry.   Both dishes were flawed in pretty much the same way.   Namely, they were way too hot.

Now, keep in mind, Juli and I are both fond of spicy food.  I cook a fair bit of spicy stuff, and we both like a lot of dishes from cuisines that feature hot peppers.   We can both handle a fair bit of heat, so long as the heat is an element of the seasonings, as opposed to be the sole or most prominent aspect of a dish. The latter, unfortunately, was very much the case with both of the dishes we purchased.   In both cases, the food was hot in a manner that completely overwhelmed the flavors of the vegetables, meat and other seasonings, and rendered the two dishes almost inedible.   The lamb was really moist and tender, so much that I'd say it was perfectly prepared if I'd actually been able to taste it, but in reality, all I really noticed was the heat.

After such a disappointing lunch, we decided to go somewhere really nice for dinner.  Omaha Prime is a very highly-rated restaurant in the Old Market, renowned for excellent steak.  We knew the dinner would be fairly expensive, but we wanted to really enjoy the meal, and expected that would be the case at Omaha Prime.  We each ordered a 14-ounce New York strip steak with sauteed mushrooms.  Juli got hers with a peppercorn sauce, while I selected a roasted garlic demiglaze.   The sauces were both fine, though Juli ended up liking my sauce more than the one she'd selected, and the mushrooms were incredibly good.  Sadly, USDA prime or not, the steak was nothing special.  It was quite flavorful, but it was also more than a little bit tough at the ends.   Honestly, I cook up much more satisfying steaks on a pretty regular basis, and at $38 a steak, we expected a lot better than we got.  While I can't say the meal was bad, it wasn't even close to being worth what we paid, and that made it among the most disappointing restaurant meals we've ever had. 

Juli here:  I want to add that the service and waitstaff at Omaha prime are wonderful.  Maybe we just got bad cuts of beef at this particular meal, but it really was painful to pay so much for meat we had trouble chewing!  I kept cutting mine thinner and thinner to make it chewable. 

After the disappointing dinner, we went walking around the Old Market District.  Mostly we just looked around, but we decided to have some ice cream for dessert.  We went to Ted & Wally's, which is a long-time fixture of the Old Market.   They make their own ice cream and feature an ever-changing range of unusual flavors in addition to more traditional choices like vanilla and strawberry.  Juli got a single scoop of black cherry ice cream, while I went with a double scoop of strawberry, both in waffle cones.   The ice cream was a fine example of a homemade ice cream, and I found mine quite refreshing, but it wasn't really anything special. 

Given our experience, we can't really recommend either Tanduri Fusion or Omaha Prime, and while the ice cream at Ted and Wally's was fine, it wasn't special enough to warrant a special trip.  We still managed to enjoy our weekend vacation to Omaha, but we couldn't help but be disappointed with most of the culinary part of our vacation. 

Juli again.  I think if a person had never tasted home-made ice cream, they would have loved Ted and Wally's...but we do make our own ice cream on occasion, so we weren't quite as impressed.  I liked Jeffrey's strawberry ice cream a lot more than my black cherry scoop.  That might have been because there were only 2 tiny bits of black cherry in my ice cream.  I like more fruit bits (and flavor) in my ice cream.

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