Ombu serves up delicious variety

by Lindsay Craven

Ombu serves up delicious variety

As a recent college graduate, trips to fine-dining establishments are a treat I enjoy only on rare occasions. While I do love pigging out on Cup’O’Noodles and instant mac and cheese, I really enjoy going out and trying new cuisine in a setting other than my living room. Ombu’s description as wood-fired fusion caught my attention and after hearing rave reviews from friends and family, I knew I had to try it. After a long evening of performing my maid-of-honor duties and shopping for wedding décor, my friend Tamara and I head over to Hanes Mall Boulevard and take our seats at Ombu around 9 p.m. The entrance is elaborate, with large door handles in the shape of foliage. The dining room is dimly lit and glows orange and gold. A very modernist vibe fills the room and the walls are a warm yellow. Unique lighting hangs from the ceiling and the shape and flow is very tribal. Our server Nicole approaches the table and fills our glasses with water and ends up spilling quite a bit on the floor, a common occurrence throughout the night. She is very friendly and helpful with her suggestions for each course of our meal. We opt for the crab dip to begin and I order a cup of the velvety lobster saffron bisque garnished with blistered sweet corn and crème fraiche. As we wait we notice the glass divider between our booth and the bar. The glass is intricately designed and has the appearance of water. The restaurant is fairly empty for a Friday night — only three other tables are filled besides ours.

A plate of toasted pita bread accompanies the dip and the two combine exquisitely. The dip is rich and creamy but is not overbearing with seafood taste. Nicole returns with the lobster bisque and takes our entrée orders. I choose the wood oven-seared grouper with sweet potatoplantain hash with haricot verts and sweet chili gastrique. Tamara orders the roasted vegetable ravioli with carrot fennel coulis. I take a bite of the lobster bisque and find myself in heaven. It is rich and creamy and the crème fraiche gives it a slightly tangy bite. All of the ingredients combine to perfection and my bowl is empty within minutes. After a short wait our entrees arrive and we are met with two portions of beautifully plated food. My grouper is perched atop a bed of French green beans and a mound of sweet-potato plantains. I was apparently not paying attention to the description of the plantains as I was expecting the traditional banana plantains. Tamara is served a long plate of tender vegetable-filled ravioli and the burnt-orange carrot fennel sauce drizzles across them and a serving of asparagus. Being slightly picky eaters, we realize that she won’t be eating her asparagus and I would not make it down to my sweet potatoes. As I bite into the grouper I am met with tangy spices. While it is not as delicious as the lobster bisque I eat over half of it and enjoy most of the crisp green beans. I have a bite of Tamara’s ravioli and enjoy the unique sweetness of it. The ravioli is tender and the blend of vegetables inside mix well with the carrot fennel sauce. We only eat a little over half our meals to save room for dessert. I choose the flourless chocolate torte with chantilly cream and chocolate ganache; Tamara goes with Nicole’s suggestion of the restaurant’s signature desert billed as the 8th Wonder of the World. Dessert arrives quickly and the portions are fairly hefty. We decide we definitely could have shared but dig in regardless. My torte is quite sweet but was brought down nicely by the cream. A few berries decorate the plate and those too add to the rich flavor of the chocolate. The 8th Wonder of the World is definitely the star dessert though. The plate consists of a pecan and walnut brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache and caramel. The dessert is rich and the brownie melts in your mouth, offset by the ice cream. Despite the temptation neither of us can clean the dessert plates and we wait for the check with our stomachs somewhere between ecstasy and misery. The costs for the meals are very reasonable. With an appetizer, soup, seasonable entrée and dessert on my menu I only owe $55; a fair price for a great meal, wonderful service and pleasant atmosphere. Ombu is secluded in a fairly new shopping center off Hanes Mall Boulevard, but this hidden gem is definitely the place to go if you are looking for some fine dining without the high prices. Ombu; 615 St. George Square Ct., Winston-Salem; 336.293.4346;

The lobster bisque at Ombu bears the flavor of creme fraiche. (photo by Lindsay Craven)