"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Monday, December 20, 2010

Omai - December 16, 2010

A Vietnamese restaurant in Chelsea meant that the dinner was set on a course – Destination: Failure. No, no one else picked Omai but I: Sometimes, I cannot resist the urge to play a game of chance with myself – Me against The Reasonable Me. You should try it, too: More often than not, you are your own best opponent, a match in every way, or, the worst enemy for knowing your every move. This game can be quite entertaining and, occasionally, enlightening; and let us hope that such game is seldom frightening. In this case, the die was cast and stopped onto Omai.

Ninth Avenue felt like the end of earth when you are running late on a December evening. After disentangling from my layers and futilely warming my hands against the frail table candle, the only available jasmine tea was called in. One sip, my dining companion bemoaned: “I taste chemical.” I took a sip and I stared in bewilderment: Chinese medicine would have been my first answer. We conducted subsequent tasting and testing to solve the mystery of this unfathomable repulsiveness; however, we only could confirm the thorough impotability of this strange liquid.

Shrimp Ravioli Topped with Aromatic Herbs and Fried Shallots

The sight of ravioli, which should have been more aptly described as rice crepes, revived my spirits after the disastrous experiment of tea. Good food always firmly establishes me in a positive mood for a few hours; therefore, the prospect of good food is like showing the substance to an addict. The thin layers of rice crepes encased bean sprouts and chopped shrimps in a ratio of 8:1. Hence, to be truly correct, the name of this dish should have been Bean Sprouts Rice Crepes with Shrimp, Topped with Herbs and Shallots. Despite the misnomer, the herbs were sprightly, the rice crepes springy, and the bean sprouts crunchy. The fishy, tangy and sweet nuoc cham worked its charm and made the crepes into appetizing pouches of flavors.

Grilled Eggplant with Ginger and Lime

Drizzled with oil and grilled to a nice suppleness, the charred eggplant was coated in a sweet and spicy ginger-lime dressing. Stimulated by the ginger, my appetite was awakened to finish off more than my own share of eggplants.

Steamed Seabass with Clear Noodles and Napa Cabbage

Tender, delicate, and flaky, the seabass was steamed skillfully. The unobtrusive medley of napa cabbage, red peppers, clear noodles and shiitake mushrooms was sautéed with a hint – well, a rather obvious hint – of butter and soy sauce. It was a mild accompaniment, but it was not, by all means, bland.  In fact, it was a melee of mildness with varying depth: The watery sweetness from the napa cabbage, the brighter sweetness of the red pepper, the aroma of shiitake, and the clear noodles, which had absorbed the butter and soy. Each ingredient released a squirt of subtle flavor to accompany the fish. Moreover, the use of butter was rather ingenuous as it enhanced the milkiness of the seabass.

Address: 158 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Phone:  (212) 633-0550

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