Living in Omaha for an extended period of time can numb the tastebuds for ethnic foods. Tastes and smells such as Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese and Greek are replaced by constant exposure to Quiznos Subs, TGI Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s and other run-off-the-mill American food chains.
Yes, we have made occasional visits to P.F. Chang’s and to our local Mongolian Grill in the past few months, but that’s about it. Once in a while we have tried to explore ethnic stuff out there in the downtown, but on the whole we have pretty much surrendered ourselves to the pre-dominance of food chains, fast food joints in and around the city, considering unique ethnic restaurants quite a rarity here in Omaha.
One day, I suddenly heard about Mediterranean Bistro from my husband who had a number of lunch appointments over there with his boss and colleagues. He is the one who normally swears by spicy, succulent food; and when he seemed impressed, I had no doubts that it was definitely worth a try. Some days later, I looked at their website that boasts of the restaurant as ‘one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets’. I asked some friends here; some of them said it’s a favorite local standby for them.
Quite a number of weekends we tried dining out at this hidden gem of West Omaha, but almost always lost track in the dark. The small, apparently unimpressive building nestled inside a quaint old plaza is definitely not to be remembered for any charm, aesthetics or ambiance, unless you really step inside.
But if you do, these are what you have. Cozy interiors and an old-style décor with comfortable booths where you can relax, a fireplace to sit by and a guitar player strumming soft music in the background (if it is a weekend dinner you are planning), and most importantly, luscious Persian, Greek and Mediterranean delicacies to befriend your taste buds with. What you wouldn’t have here: overtly decorated settings, sparkling art-covered walls or an exotic patio for outdoor dining fun. But the food almost compensates for all of it.
If you are mesmerized by the smoky aroma of ethnic kabobs, this is the place for you. These flame-cooked meat delicacies come in all varieties—plain Chicken kabobs served with grilled vegetables, exotic Chicken Sultani kabobs combining one skewer of kubideh kabob (made with ground beef) and five pieces of Chicken kabob, scintillating Caspian lamb kabobs marinated and grilled to perfection, served with grilled vegetables, cucumber yogurt sauce and basmati rice.
Beef lovers are spoilt for choice, as they have the tempting Royal Kabob pieces along with the juicy aroma and taste of grilled tomatoes, the mouth-watering Shish kabobs (marinated beef tenderloin chunks cooked in open flame) which have been savored by millions of foodies in the streets of New York.
We were absolutely in love with their roasted red pepper hummus, tahini & garlic, served with pita bread. The scrumptious Baba Ganoush appetizers (Mediterranean delicacy made of roasted eggplants, tomatoes, garlic and seasonings served over a bed of creamy yoghurt sauce) , and the rich, creamy Persian Barley soup made of a concoction of barley, lentils, rice, spinach & herbs was unique and delicious.
For the main course, we indulged in their ‘Fesenjun’ (Chicken in pomegranate sauce) served with rice and also in the mouth-watering Moroccan Chicken, made with seasoned, grilled Cornish hen served with almond-raisin basmati rice. Was the dinner an expensive one? Well, sort of, looking at the quantity of food served (in the range of $ 11.50 to $14.95 per entrée). But we had a grand dinner that we loved and would like to remember.
If you are not really a lover of spicy food, if you do not have the time to relax and are only there for a quick luncheon or have to rush elsewhere, it may not be the ideal option. The restaurant is pretty slow-paced in serving. Rather it is the experience of savoring the exotic food bit by bit which is the real essence of ‘Mediterranean Bistro’. The experience will probably stay with you for a while.
For those interested, the address is: Mediterranean Bistro and Wine Bar at 1712 North 120th Street, Omaha, NE.