There are some chefs who engender good will that has you rooting for them even if reviews are mixed. Patricia Yeo is one of those for me. She seems to maintain poise which calls to mind the name of the serene Harvard Square spot that she's landed in, while her ride could not have been that easy. She "arrived" elsewhere working with famous chefs in well-loved spots then moved to Boston and is just getting her groove back after taking over the Banq space in the South End. Ginger Park (as she remade Banq) was visually stunning but cavernous space to fill, particularly in a down economy. We dined there and found a couple of the dishes transcendant, drinks thoughtful and complementary to the cuisine. But before we could make it back, the venture closed. I have no inside info on that departure and the subsequent whispers about where she'd land or what she was about to open, but I'm happy to have sampled some of her food on two occasions now, at Om.
Om is a chant that yogis repeat to help center themselves and achieve a state of grace, peace, a sense of being at one with the universe. Indeed, the space in Om Restaurant is entered through a leafy square.
Once inside, you're greeted by a waterwall, and buddhas and Asian art surround the dining room.
Upstairs, we were seated near the wall of glass looking out over the square. I love that feeling of being suspended, just above the fray, which is how you feel seated near floor to ceiling glass. Troquet is another place where sitting near a window totally enhances an already fine meal.
A group of us were invited to sample the lunch menu and chat with staff who described the menu as "American-Asian, as opposed to Asian-American." This probably explains the club sandwich and chopped salad mixed in with items like momos and Pad Thai. The menu changes every couple weeks and they try to source from local vendors, more local items appear on the dinner menu. For those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there are several dishes marked to note their suitability and on the dinner menu the majority of dishes are GF and servers are trained to point out to diners which dishes are not.
Menu items were originally built around the theme of rivers in parts of Asia that the chef has traveled to. So you'll see "Mekong" and "Red River" on the Thali or lunch trays designating the tradition from which that item is derived. Now, the menu carries items from many different traditions, sometimes together in one dish, as with the dumpling assortment which is a must-have for anyone who appreciates dumplings, and who doesn't? The dipping sauces here shine as brightly as the perfectly executed momos, gyoza, and wonton.
These dumplings were gorgeous. Perfectly crispy-bottomed gyoza, flavorful momos, wonton without a hint of oil. The dipping sauces were so good they were practically spooned out of the cups.
This is the Pad Thai "thali" which is an Indian name for a complete lunch plate. Pad Thai (packing a nice punch of tamarind), mixed greens, dumpling, insanely good dipping sauce, cookies. (Look at the colors on plate and think of the new MyPlate.gov eating healthy guide.)
This green papaya salad was delicious as it was gorgeous.
For the miso-glazed salmon Chef Yeo uses my favorite Copper River salmon. Here it's served over a refreshing salad of cucumber, jicama and sprouts. (This went so fast I didn't get a bite!)
Gingerbread and pear, cream. Judging by the oohs and ahs this was delightful.
All in all, the strengths we loved at Ginger Park were in evidence here at Om. I felt she was at her best with the truly Asian flavors and items. The sauces show a skilled hand at balancing flavors, including the all-important sour which American food too often lacks.
Her new restaurant, Moksa is slated to open in the fall. Moksa is Sanskrit for Destiny and sounds like a place we are destined to love: rooftop garden, Izakaya style food (Japanese tapas to accompany drinks), aiming for a moderate price point
This Om lunch (and the prior patio cocktail hour with stunningly good lamb skewers) was a "Foodie-Fest" as guests included Will McAdoo, The Boston Foodie, The Passionate Foodie, Richard Auffrey, Athena Yang (Forays of a Finance Foodie, whose forays will soon include Philadelphia), and Leah Mennies of Feast.
Plus: easy to access via public transport; serene setting (ask for window table); gluten free options.
Picks: order the clearly Asian dishes to experience properly deep and balanced sauces, dumplings, fish and poultry are strengths, save your fried food calories for this place, skip 'em elsewhere. Go with a group and order many items to share. Don't overlook the drinks.