Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ahmad's Persian Cuisine

1009 Howard Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Open Tues - Sunday, 11:30am - 2pm and 5:30pm - 10pm; closed Mon
Ahmad's Persian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Potato and Peas Poloe ($7.95 lunch/$14.95 dinner):
Poloe means "rice with stuff," from what I can gather. 

Don't freak out, people. The stretchy, soft flatbread served with the hummus here isn't pita. It's lavash, which is basically the national bread of Iran and the surrounding lands. You know, they sure do have some silly political leaders -- but boy, can they make some flatbread.

Mast-o-kyar ($5.95):
Yogurt and cucumber sauce with mint.
Use the lavash bread as a spoon. 

Lavash might remind you of tortilla. The mast-o-kyar -- which is Farsi for "yogurt and cucumber" -- might remind you of tzatziki sauce. And the dolmeh appetizer is probably a bit like other stuffed cabbage dishes you've had in the past. But everything had its own subtle twist, as if it is made according to one dude's recipe book that he keeps in his head.

Falafel Sandwich ($5.95 lunch):
Three falafel balls, each drizzled with tahini, eat it with your hands.
(That's a haiku.)

I thought it a bit odd that the open-faced falafel sandwich came with lettuce dressed in something similar to Thousand Island, and the discs of falafel were heavier than some, possibly due to the fava beans in the recipe. The potato and peas poloe only had two pieces of potato and looked a lot like the mixed vegetable poloe I had the week before. Still, all was yum. The spiciness came on in a strong, even wave, and I got the sense they go through a lot of lemons around these parts, judging from the bright citrus flavors in many of the dishes. Perfect for summer. 

This Old Market fixture has been here a while, truckin' along quietly on a busy corner, a few wooden tables on the patio usually staying occupied. The "WC" sign over the restroom and the size and ambiance remind me of any and every falafel joint in Berlin. At lunch, the waitress handles the whole restaurant like a superstar, and I imagine Ahmad in the kitchen, plating the food he loves to share, and maybe even painting those beautiful grill marks on the lavash, one by one. This place is off the chain. Kinda makes me feel like going on a trip to the Middle East. Oh wait, nevermind... 

Dolmeh ($6.95):
"Cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, vegetables, lentils
and topped with tomato based sauce, delicately seasoned." 

Mixed Vegetable Poloe ($7.95 lunch, $14.95 dinner),
in a lemon garlic sauce.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Thoughts (Rants)

Chicken Caesar Salad from Upstream Brewing Company Old Market ($11.99)

I've been to Upstream a few times, mostly by accident. On the last visit, someone ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad (Was it me? You'll never know.) and I was super turned off by the unstylish Land-o-Lakes pat of butter resting on the slab of brown Texas toast thing. I'm not a stickler, but at some price point there should be no more packaged condiments on the plate, and definitely not sitting on the food. It's like if J. Coco served their pommes frites on a bed of McDonald's ketchup packets.

Fried Cheese Curds from Crescent Moon ($5.95)

I don't really dig these mini deep fryer baskets. Is that supposed to be cute? Are you trying to remind me that fried cheese curds are deep fried, as if I've forgotten? Might as well serve it with some soybean oil dipping sauce too, eh? The little fryer basket makes it very difficult for me to conveniently forget how unhealthy this stuff is, which is really a shame.

Pastries from International Bakery, 24th and P St (50 cents each)

I was totally stoked to check out International Bakery. Actually, I hadn't planned on it at all, but I was en route to taco time and got distracted by the smell of delicious baked items wafting through the air. Unfortunately, none of the things I tried tasted even remotely like what I thought they would, in a bad way. I'm sure my nose will highjack me into going here again, but next time no custard-filled horn for me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pitch Pizzeria

5021 Underwood Avenue
Omaha, NE 68132
Lunch Tues-Sat, 11am-4:30pm, Dinner Mon-Sun, 4:30pm to close
Pitch Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

13" Margherita pizza: San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil ($13)

Dundee residents, act cool. Not only is Conor Oberst opening a new bar on Dodge Street, but Pitch on Underwood Ave just had a celeb sighting last weekend: the man, the myth, the Bono was there wining and dining. Since Bono lives and breathes cool, I figured the "coal oven pizzeria" was overdue for a visit.

The only seating available at 7:30 on a Monday evening was two high top bar stools facing the street, which had the feel of outdoor dining without all the car exhaust and bugs. The space was a little tight; just make sure you like the person you're with.

Roasted Brussels sprouts: garlic, pancetta, grana cheese ($6)

Dundonians have cautioned me for some time that the crust is extremely thin and crispy, so I was basically expecting sauce and cheese on a Saltine. The reality is that the crust was just right: chewy and powdered with flour on the bottom, with a one-inch perimeter of browned exterior to give it some character, and the occasional crust bubble. On the classic Margherita pie, there was nothing really "standout" about the sauce and cheese; it was just plain good. This is all-purpose pizza, good for getting all Euro about it and eating with a fork and knife, or for munching on in front of the fridge in your underwear.

On the whole roasted rainbow trout entree, the French green lentils were rather al dente, which suited my taste, but I wondered whether that was on purpose. It was advertised as a whole fish, but in the end, "Excuse me ma'am, where's my fish tail?" didn't seem like a necessary question. The dish was popping with rich flavor that managed not to overwhelm the trout, and I thought the messy pile presentation was kind of interesting. It was fun to eat.

I commend our server for mostly leaving us alone, and though the restaurant was full, her timing was perfect. It's great to visit a popular restaurant that's also deserving, but I'm kind of pissed they didn't really give me much to pick on. Pitch is a crowd pleaser, good for Bonos and regular humans alike.

Whole roasted rainbow trout: caramelized apples, fennel, onions, French green lentils, sage walnut butter ($17)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fat in Europe

Demented Hot Dog Man

Now that last month's Eurotrip is over, I can still taste the sausage, and am kind of still feeling the hangover. I invite you to salivate over my photos, mostly of street food. It's important to remember, though, that there is no good Mexican food in these countries; jarred salsa tastes like rancid ketchup. So, 'Merka is still better... specifically South O.

Amsterdam and Rotterdam
Those right-wing Dutch folk are trying to push out all the zillions of high-as-a-kite tourists with their new laws. But for now, the sweet smell of weed still lingers on the street. (Actually, I think it's kind of gross. Sorry.) I don't need the help of THC to get the munchies, and luckily there's an automatiek around every corner to soften the razor sharp edge of a hunger pang, offering mostly traditional handheld Dutch snacks. It's the fastest fast food ever. 

Smullers near Amsterdam Centraal Station --
insert coins, extract chicken burger.

There's loads of excellent Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands, but if you're on the go, try a bami --
a breaded and deep-fried rectangle of thick, spiced noodles.

Giant warm stroopwafel --
sticky, caramel-like sauce sandwiched between two waffle cookies.

Remember that thing called "Occupy?" Still going strong here.

Kapsalon, a Rotterdam specialty (name roughly translates to barber shop):
fries, döner meat, melted cheese, salad and mayo.

Erasmus Bridge connecting the north and south of Rotterdam,
and the typical spring weather.

Two words: beer geek. That is what I was for the whole 24 hours in Belgium. 

Just your average convenience store:
Trappist ales, cherry lambics, and the go-to Jupiler (what you get around here if you just order "a beer").

Train stations have the best food. This waffle is no exception.

View from the top floor of the Magritte Museum

If I had any €€€, I would have dined here and had myself some fine Waterzooi -- traditional Belgian stew. 

Frites and mayo go together like peas and carrots.
Like peanut butter and jelly.
Like a beer and a cig.

Münster (and Enschede)
No, not like the cheese. That cheese comes from a little town in France with the same name. Münster is the town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany that I called home at one point. Known for its rainy weather and throngs of bicycles, Münster isn't exactly full of culinary excitement. Or any kind of excitement, really. Which is why, on Good Friday when everything was closed, we went to the Dutch border town of Enschede, along with hordes of other Germans. 

View from my friend's window. Sure ain't no bustling metropolis, but I guess it's ok.

Don't let the modest helping fool you, for I had three plates of
homemade schnitzel, salad with fluffy yogurt dressing and pan-fried potatoes.
Thanks to the Gorkes.

Pretzel roll with prosciutto. Everyday bakery items are divine.

Pommes Spezial --
curry ketchup, mayo, onions.
Can possibly curb your hunger til the next sausage fest.

This is what you get when you order coffee in Dutch. 

The oliebol is a Dutch doughnut that weighs the same as a baseball.
Wear all black on a windy day for the total effect.

My second favorite city in Deutschland, home of the biggest gay pride parade around and the most annoying/crazy Karneval street parties. On Easter morning I walked across town to the city's crowning glory, the Cologne Cathedral, where the rising sun was poking out from behind the church's gothic spires. Then I caught a train to Berlin. 

At Engelbät, the cozy creperie with endless possibilities.
Mine was filled with broccoli, almond slivers, tomato sauce, cheese, and pesto.
Wash down with a thimbleful of Reissdorf Kölsch.
And if you don't like Kölsch beer, don't say so too loudly around these parts. 

I once lived by the adage:
"A tomato-sauce-poppy-seed-stick a day will keep the doctor away."
Aka Knusperstange.

The Rhine river --
And a bridge with a bunch of "Love Locks" attached to it.
Who decided that a padlock was a good symbol of love? 


The sacred döner sandwich:
All hail to the spinning meat in the window, especially after a night of slamming Beck's.

This is not another NYC, despite all the flawed reviews from tired hipsters that say so. Berlin is unique. Berlin is magical. Berlin might as well be its own country, an aberration compared to the straight-laced complacency of most of the Fatherland. Even the color of the subway trains -- a hideous yellow not even fit for a limited-edition crayon -- is like nowhere else, not to mention the little Brandenburg Gate etchings on all the windows. 

East Side Gallery, where Smart cars and Coca-Cola trucks pass colorful remnants of the Wall. 

Bratwurst at Alexanderplatz, and the iconic Fernsehturm (TV tower). 

Waffle with Nutella, sandy sitting area of a Sunday flea market.
Makes total sense.

Beef Brisket from White Trash Fast Food, and a fish tank--
it was marginally cool. 

Street food fav, the Noodle Box --
bean sprouts, crispy onions, sometimes chicken. 

They like to eat arugula on pizza. Weirdos.

They also like to eat spicy salami on pizza. 

Shrimp tacos from Santa Maria in Kreuzberg --
they also have a Taco Tuesday with €1 tacos.
I think this place was specifically designed for Americans needing their Mexican fix.

Berlin is a falafel mecca.

The typical meal at home: tortellini with pesto and mozzarella tomato sandwiches,
and a tasty Rothaus Pils.

And with that, I headed to Tegel airport, a tiny building where you can still say goodbye right at the gate like in the movies, for the last time. In a few months it will be no longer in operation, and the new Berlin Brandenburg airport will take over. Yes, there are so many expats in this city that they actually need a new airport to handle the influx. With fingers crossed (or thumbs pressed, as they say), I smuggled a bunch of pretzels through security, which I froze and ate later. Catch ya later, Berlin. Try not to get too cool. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


1028 S. 74th Plaza (Shopping center just west of 72nd and Pacific)
Omaha, NE 68114
Lunch buffet Tues-Sun til 2:30pm, dinner every night from 5pm, closed Mondays

Round One

Buffets are kind of scary, don't you think? I'm not talking about how the guy in front of you could have just been scratching his butt before he handled the bread tongs. What's really scary is the "all-you-can-eat" factor, the suggestion that if you don't have thirds you're not getting the most out of your money. However, at Curri, my quest for over-satiation was finished early: the food, although tasty, was less exciting than I hoped it would be.

Most of the dishes were very tame with the spices, particularly the black lentils, and nothing was found to satisfy my masochistic need for something fiery hot. About half of the spread involved chicken, and the popular Chicken Tikka was one of the better choices. The chickpea and eggplant dishes were also favorites. (Apologies for the lack of proper names. As the dude behind me in line said, "I don't speak Indian.")

Biryani, chickpeas, lentils

Appetizer-wise, the potato pakora scored in flavor, but try to catch them right out of the kitchen before they cool off. Baskets of naan were brought to the table -- thicker and greasier than I've sampled before, but still quite good. The pala payasam rice dessert was worthy of that last bit of space in my stomach cavity: fluffy and not too sweet, I could eat this stuff for breakfast.

Despite the simple, elegant interior, black cloth napkins, full bar in the corner, and hovering, eager-to-please servers, the lack of tunes managed to make the place feel like a cafeteria. If there was any music on, it was on low, because all I could hear was the sound of folks happily chomping away. I shouldn't be surprised. This is a buffet, and I suspect their dinner service offers much more in terms of menu items and atmosphere. Check out Curri for one of the better buffets at feeding time (just $9.95 a person), but don't expect them to break out the fancy stuff til you go for dinner.

Never-ending naan

Pala Payasam dessert

The Line