Sunday, September 02, 2007

OM Restaurant, Harvard Square, II

Promptly at 6, we were led up to the second floor, the second "level of enlightenment," according to the restaurant's website. A quieter, more private setting.

[Continued from previous post, OM Restaurant, Harvard Square.]

We were led up the rich wooden stairs and emerged on the second floor. It had a very earthy, but sparse decor, with small clay and stone sculptures in nooks and crannies in the walls on, and a nicely lit centerpiece painting on the ceiling.

As we were seated at a clean, clothed table for two, the service started immediately. A bowl of herb-and-cheese seasoned popcorn, and warm bread were placed between us. It was refreshing to be attended to by a respectful, mature, well-dressed, and alert group of servers, some with the role of simply clearing the table when we had finished a course. A very smooth operation.

After ordering, we were given a complimentary amuse bouche, a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre to whet the appetite in anticipation of the main courses. Now, I had never had an amuse bouche, but had learned about them in a Top Chef episode, the cooking competition show on Bravo. I was excited to try one and see what the glamorous fuss was all about. I was expecting an amuse bouche to be a single bite of tasty solid food (as they were in Top Chef), but it came as a frothy light-green liquid in a shot glass. Described to us as a puree of cucumbers, Thai curry, basil, and other things I can't remember, we hesitantly sniffed, sipped, and smacked... the cucumbers made it oddly refreshing and light, the Thai Curry introduced a playful and sensual aroma into the back of the mouth and nose, and overall, the extreme saltiness curled the stomach and prickled the salivatory glands into second gear. I admit that it was beyond anything I had ever experienced because it was such a daring combination of completely separate ingredients (drinking a cucumber and curry shake, who wudda thunk??). A+ for originality.

After the majority of the amuse bouche was cleared away, without reproach from the staff I might add gratefully, the two starter courses came. The young greens salad with shallots and herbal "Banyuls" dressing, and fried cucumbers (notice a theme?) were delectable in their own unique way. I'm a fan of fried foods, although I am advised to stay away from them due to a particularly sensitive digestive system, and I can say that I am a huge fan of the fried cucumbers -- the batter was crispy on the outside, light on the inside, and the cucumber was juicy and soft. To top it off, the mayonnaise sauce was a stimulating compliment to the subtle flavors of the cucumber. I would go back again just for that!

The young greens salad was a bit more challenging in that the dressing was, again, infused with exotic herbal flavors that I had not experienced before. Had I been a little more fearless, I may have enjoyed it for its uniqueness and divergence from the standard "balsamic vinaigrette," but honestly, it left me feeling like I was eating from an aromatherapy garden. Soothing at first, but feeling drugged towards the halfway point. I gave it up for my sister to devour, while I finished off the fried cucumbers. Good deal.

Then the main course. Elephant Trunk Sea Scallops was presented in an artistic flourish of sweet English pea puree with basil and mint, luxuriating in a bed of smoked bacon, red onion, and mushrooms. What an unexpected combination of flavors, you say! Yes indeed. This was a thrilling plate because scallops are one of my comfort foods, and dipping the soft body into the thickness of the puree was grand. The contrast of seared scallop and sweet pea/sweet basil/refreshing mint was not so intimidating as one would expect. In contrast, there was balance and everything seemed to melt in your mouth. The aggressive flavors of bacon, onion, and mushroom served well to refresh the palate between bites of scallop, just to keep the party going, so to speak.

And indeed, it was a party. Stuffed and no room for dessert. I'll let my sister talk about that!

Overall, a positive dinner experience with many firsts. The next time I feel exploratory, I'll be sure to come back for new eats, and to meditate on the Buddha god.

For more information:
OM Restaurant
92 Winthrop Street
Cambridge, MA

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