Mmm… Bibimbap. That pretty much sums up my experience at Omma, the new Korean restaurant that recently opened on Bernard Street, in Outremont where Senzala used to be. It’s only the second Korean restaurant I’ve ever been to but I have a feeling I’ll be visiting a few more very soon. Omma, which means mom in Korean, is more expensive that you would probably expect a typical Korean restaurant to be, but then again, it has a better décor, service and all-around ambiance too. In fact, the place is cute as a button! And you know what? Not only did it allow me to discover a classic Korean dish in a restaurant I actually enjoyed being in (let’s face it, we’ve all been to a few dingy Asian restos - anyone been to Qing Hua lately? Yuck!), but it’s left me craving bibimbap since last Friday.
So what the heck is bibimbap anyways, you ask? It’s basically a rice dish that comes with your choice of beef, chicken or tofu, marinated and sautéed veggies and an egg on top. It is accompanied with a spicy red chili sauce called “gochujang”. The bibimbap is served in a very hot stone pot that creates a crust of rice that’s much, much more appealing than it sounds. When you mix all the ingredients together, I swear the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. The egg yolk does its binding magic, the veggies add freshness and the sauce… Ahhh, the SAUCE. I’m salivating right now. With a side of kimchi, bibimbap is my new poutine – impossible to eat with restraint. My poor, poor friend. It was all gone before she knew what happened.
The other dishes we tried at Omma were good although not anywhere close to being as memorable as the bibimbap. We got the ball rolling with two appetizers: steamed beef dumplings and fried squid.
The dumplings, in my view, were just alright. Nothing to write home about and certainly no competition for Qing Hua (best dumpling place in Montreal, although I strongly recommend take OUT). Still, very acceptable.
On the other hand, I thought the sam bap galbi – our other main dish – was quite interesting. It’s a sizzling plate of thinly sliced short ribs served with lettuce, rice, kimchi (think pickled veggies with some extra funk) and sauce so that you can assemble your own wraps using the lettuce in lieu of flatbread. A lot of fun and great taste, although I would have liked a little more meat on the bones. It’s messy, but that’s half the fun.
A note about tea. Omma offers an extensive selection of fine teas that impressed the tea-enthusiast dining with me that night. She decided I should try the oolong and she would get the white jasmine. Unfortunately, the kettle water wasn’t anywhere near hot enough to properly infuse the tea… We were bummed, especially given our expectations. If you go and want great tea, make sure to let them know you want very hot water. In the staff’s defense, the place was packed that night and I think they’ve been a little overwhelmed with their unexpected popularity.
The bottom line on Omma
On the + side: The décor and ambiance is about a million times better than what I would normally expect at a Korean BBQ place in Montreal (say like La Maison Bulgogi, for example…). It makes for a pleasant night out instead of a quick pit stop to fill your belly.
On the – side: There’s a price for better ambiance…
Good for: Someone who isn’t familiar with Korean food and might be intimidated by a more authentic restaurant (pff…not me, though ;-)). If you already know and love Korean food, please read my fellow blogger’s take on Omma over on Shut Up and Eat. For my next bibimbap, I’m definitely asking Jason to recommend the restaurant!
Price: $55 for entrée, main, ½ bottle of wine, tax and tip. Not overly expensive, but not cheap either.
Would I go back? Yes, but only after trying bibimbap at another Korean restaurant to compare.
Check out Omma’s menu on Facebook.