26 May 2008 @ 11:12 AM 

Do you like Vietnamese food?  I do.  I like it a bunch.  I have been a fan of Kim San and Saigon for years.  I was wandering around West Omaha looking for a place to eat.  I had the family in tow and we wanted to try something different.   We drove past what used to be the shell of the old “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” out on West Center road.  On the building was “O Mai”, hanging on the wall.  My wife looks over at me and says “Oh, hey.  I got a mailer on that place and I wanted to try it.”

Not being one to deny my wife anything and liking Vietnamese food myself, I pulled into the back of the building.  We meandered the wooden walkway in between the two buildings toward the front.  We noticed that there was a crew dismantling the remains of the old “Moe’s” that was recently closed.  Then we looked left into O Mai’s.  We noticed it was empty, save a lone child sitting at a table eating.  We looked at the open sign then looked at each other, wondering if it was really open.  We opened the door and let ourselves in. 
I had been into the place when it was “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger”.  It was the quintessential 50’s, retro-look wannabe.  Now, the gleaming chrome was replaced by earth-tone greens and yellows.  It was elegant and pristine.  It was very clean and nice.  We stood looking around and soon we were seated. 

We ordered appetizers and drinks and waited for a while.  Eventually they came out and brought our appetizers.  It was a little awkward because they didn’t take our order until after we were finished eating our appetizers.  Now…   We had a few kinds of spring rolls and a fried roll of some sort.  There was also squid in the form of a calamari (fried).  Oh my god.  They were so good.  I REALLY loved the Calamari and they had a bbq pork spring roll that was just awesome. 

So after we put in our order for our dinner, we started the long… arduous wait for our food.  I ordered a seafood, tomato, noodle soup (No, I don’t remember which one..  Look at the menu.. Sheesh)  Once of my daughters ordered this noodle dish, the other ordered Pho, and my wife ordered this grilled chicken dish.  The older boy ordered fried rice and the other ordered a seafood pho.   Now, as we sat there, some guy walks in.  We’re sitting at our table, the only people there, and some very large man, walks in, doesn’t wait for anyone to seat him, and takes a slow leisurely stroll around.   Ok, it wasn’t leisurely.  It was freaking creepy!

So this guy takes a seat and the waitress gets him all settled in.  My wife and I actually got shivers from this guy, but we blew it off and went back to our own conversation.    So we waited there. Our food started coming out, one plate at a time.  Me, then two kids, then another…   I mean it REALLY took a long time.  5 of the 6 dishes came out.  Our fried rice was at least 15 to 20 minutes from the first dish coming out.  The waitress tried to play it off, but 15 minutes is 15 minutes.

That being said, and the service being slow… The food blew me away.  My noodles were cooked perfectly, the soup had great flavor and was very much on my radar of flavors.  My wife’s chicken, was so awesome, I wanted to take it and run off with it.  My daughter’s noodle dish was so good.  It was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were cooked but crisp. 

So, back to my soup:  I have had allot of seafood soups from Asian restaurants in my life.  One thing I always had problems with was the randomness of the fish bits, and the funky shrimp.  This time?  The flavors melded together and there wasn’t anything funky in it.  It tasted great and I sucked down the entire bowl.  After that, I turned my attention to all the dishes the kids didn’t finish.  The Pho that my daughter was eating was excellent.   There were a different kind of noodle with her dish that had a great flavor.  The meat in the Pho was tender and flavorful.  My youngest son’s Seafood Pho left me wishing I had a full order of that as well.  So..  That being said… and the service what it was…  I now have to officially rate this place.

Pluses:  The food was fantastic, the best Vietnamese food I have ever had.  Elegant and delicious, and left me wanting more.  The décor was beautiful.  The new chairs really fit with the theme and the place was spotless.   The prices were awesome and you got a great value in each meal.

Minuses:  The service was slow.  Not bad… just ridiculously slow and having your dinner for a family of 6 come out piecemeal was frustrating.

Overall Impression:  This place is a diamond in the rough.  This is one of those well kept secrets of Omaha.  I ask that you take a moment to go in here and eat.  Keep this place open.  You will not be sorry for the experience.  I am hoping they can pull it together and become one of the great restaurants of Omaha.  I plan on going back as many times as I can!

~The Omaha Critic

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 26 May 2008 @ 11:12 AM

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 30 Oct 2007 @ 4:26 AM 

It’s been a while since I posted anything.  I have been out to eat a few times recently and I have yet to actually SAY anything about it.  So much for being an ACTIVE critic.  That being said, I managed to go to Saigon recently.  It was on a Thursday and my wife was out of town.  I decided to take the gaggle of kids out for dinner.  As it so happens, they yet again couldn’t decide what they wanted for dinner.  Some were kicking around fast food and as usual, the youngest was whining for Sushi.  Not that I mind eating at Hiro, but I wasn’t (and don’t tell Sammy) in the mood for Sushi.  So as we were driving around, I decided that I hadn’t been to Saigon in a long while.  It was time for a re-visit.

If you have never been too Saigon in Omaha, it had to have been a diner at one point.  The layout screams greasy spoon.  It has been retro-fitted with bamboo and other interesting oriental lanterns and pottery.  The interior is a nice avocado and the tables are rattan.  Not bad.  It gives you an idea that you’re not in for typical “Ameri-Oriental” fare.

 Please understand that I had the demolition crew with me, so at least 25% of my attention was diverted to “sit down”, “put that down”, “stop that”, and “Do you want to go sit in the car?”.  So, I am going to ease up on some things this time around. (Not too much mind you.  I still have to protect my culinary integrity.)  Let the review commence!

As I pull up, I notice that there are a few cars there.  For me, I have noticed that Saigon is never that busy.  There is always someone there, but the place is never teeming with full tables.  Yeah, tonight was busy.  Busier than I have seen in… in…  well, ever.  Every section had at least 2 or 3 tables with people in it.  So I stand there with the kids waiting to be seated.  It took a bit as I saw the only waiter in the place running back and forth between tables.  When he had a moment he came and sat us.  He handed us menus and he was gone.  We then waited.

We then waited some more.

Finally he came over.  He took our drink order and I kind of slid my food order in.  I ordered 2 orders of Vietnamese egg rolls and an order of spring rolls.  The kids, if I remember right (I should write this down) ordered Pho, Seafood Pan Fried Noodles, Some beef dish, and Shrimp Fried Rice.  I ordered the “74 B” which is their curried squid.  After I said that, the waiter suggested that I order some calamari.  As he put it “We have really good calamari.”  Sure!  Hit me with an order.  He entered his order into his PDA and off he went.  Then we waited.

After some time he showed back up with 4 cans of soda, ice in glasses and my very weak iced tea.   The waiter left and more people began to filter in.  I watched him seat people and dart in and out of the kitchen.  We waited some more.  Eventually, an order of spring rolls, an order of calamari and a single order of egg rolls came out of the kitchen to our table. (Yes, as a matter of fact I did order two.)  The troops and I attacked in full force.  The poor squid never knew what hit them. ;)  The squid was lightly battered, crisp, and hot.  They were served with a peanut sauce that was fantastic.  The spring rolls, were tasty and when fueled with the sauce from the calamari, were real good.  You could tell that they were made earlier in the day as they were not quite fresh.  They weren’t bad by any means, but they had that “I have been exposed in a fridge for a little bit” texture to them.  I’m a little bummed because I never got a chance to try the egg-rolls.  The kids nuked them before I got a chance. (Hence why I wanted 2 orders…)  My drink was empty and my appetizers were gone.  What did I do next?  I waited.  I waved him down once and got another tea, but then I got to wait some more.
Eventually the food came out.  It smelled divine.  I love curry and I adore squid.  Here we are and I had two awesome things mixed together.  I have to say I was ecstatic.  It was a brown sauce, with a mild curry overtone.  the sauce reminded me of a curry/beef/oyster sauce with a little sweet to it.  It blended perfectly with the onions, rice, and squid and by the time I was done, I wanted to lick the plate.  What I tasted of the kids food was very, very good. 

Overall impression: I liked it.  Ok, I loved the food.  It’s reasonable and the portions are good.  The decor is eclectic, and it’s pretty clean.  It’s been around a while so they must be doing something right.  When you look around, there were several oriental families there, so the food must be right.

Plusses: The food was very good.  The portions were good size and I felt I got a good value.  The sauce lingers in my mind and I want to go upstairs and make squid and curry because of it.  It was very tasty.  They server was very friendly without being annoying.  The kids loved the food too.

Minuses: There was a single server that was running his butt off.  I think he was a little overwhelmed.  This caused the service to be SLOW and I had to knock off some points for waiting and having to ask for my tea refilled.  If the service had matched the food, I would have given the place a higher rating.


~The Omaha Critic

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 30 Oct 2007 @ 04:33 AM

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