Om Restaurant | Lounge
92 Winthrop St., Cambridge | 617-576-2800
When Om arrived five years ago, it was as though a Tribeca lounge (with prices to match) had materialized out of whole cloth in tweedy Harvard Square. The restaurant’s Zen design, international DJs, Asian-fusion cuisine and lavender cosmos were straight out of Sex and the City. Several chefs later, Om has retained those dated trappings: Downstairs, the dim lounge hosts a clubby set enjoying colorful cocktails and naan pizza, while upstairs, stone Buddhas serenely observe diners tucking into their momos. But while the decor hasn’t changed, the menu has benefitted from an update, thanks to New York transplant chef Patricia Yeo. After the South End’s Ginger Park shut
its doors last year, Bobby Flay’s former protégée is heading the kitchens of Om and its sister restaurant, Moska, slated to open this fall in Central Square.
Ginger Park fans will find much to like on Om’s new rotating menu. Yeo’s recent cooking tour of Southeast Asia means there’s a heavy emphasis on street food, especially among the appetizers. Not surprisingly, that’s where her cooking shines with bold flavors and the liberal use of ingredients like fish sauce and chilies. Thai fried chicken ($14) stood out with its shrimp paste and red curry honey glaze, lending the thigh and leg meat a superb umami dimension. Unfortunately, the duck balls ($14), a Ginger Park favorite, were laced with a five-alarm green curry that had me gasping for water. In contrast, a Vietnamese imperial roll ($12), like so many of the dishes featuring crab, tasted bland and unremarkable. The daikon, pear and edamame salad ($9) was a refreshing, crunchy palate cleanser of thinly sliced radish, Asian pears and a sweet vinaigrette. Om’s signature plate, the momos and dumplings ($14), made an ideal group appetizer. It came with four kinds of dumplings (chicken, mushroom, crab and pork) and three sauces (Dijon mustard, carrot ketchup and a chili soy). Of the sauces, the carrot ketchup, with its bright orange color and undercurrent of spice, was the most compelling, but the dumplings were standard fare you could get for a lot less in Chinatown.
Though appetizers were on the pricey side, their cost corresponded with generous portions. Unfortunately, that formula didn’t hold with the main courses, which abandoned street food for fusion. Thirty-five dollars seemed mighty exorbitant for a lobster lo mein that contained few noodles or shellfish. A tamarind-glazed wild salmon ($28) was expertly cooked, on the rare side, but a sauceless spring roll and vinaigrette-free cucumber salad detracted from the flavorful fish. The best main was trout roasted in banana leaf ($26), which came lathered in a pungent fish sauce and green curry. Enhanced by smokiness from the grilled leaf wrapper, the dish was a welcome return to the confident flavors of the first courses.
Desserts ($6 each) were also inconsistent. The panna cotta was a delicious, dense dark-chocolate pudding, but the signature sticky-rice fritters tasted overcooked and were underserved by an overly tart passion fruit purée. An accompanying coconut sorbet, at least, lent some sweetness. As might be expected in a restaurant with a popular lounge, cocktails are reliably tasty, especially the Jetsetter No. 5 ($10), Om’s version of a Sazerac. I also had a smooth 14 Hands cabernet sauvignon ($9), which paired well with the eclectic offerings—even the salmon— without overpowering them.
When dishes worked at Om, their assertiveness was a revelation, but more often than not, the menu played it safe. Hopefully, with more fine-tuning, Yeo’s offerings will embrace the bold, adventurous, street-fare side of the menu.
Thai fried chicken
Momos and dumplings
Trout in banana leaf
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 5-10 pm; Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 11:30 am-3 pm
Credit Cards: Yes
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Parking: Valet and garage