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Omira is a meat-lover’s dream, but enjoy the salad bar, too

Omira Bar and Grill is a meat-lover’s paradise, but an ordering strategy is needed. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Omira Bar and Grill is a meat-lover’s paradise, but an ordering strategy is needed. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Omira, the Brazilian-style grill tucked into a quiet shopping center at Cerrillos and South St. Francis, offers an imaginative twist on traditional steakhouse fare. We thoroughly enjoyed a recent mid-week dinner and will happily return, albeit with a slightly different dining strategy.

Omira’s specialty is grilled meat, of all varieties, offered on a prix fixe, all-you-can-eat basis.

So, for $28.50 for dinner (or $17.95 for lunch), expect to be offered everything from German sausage to Tokyo-style beef, interspersed with tidbits of grilled pineapple, grilled and meat-stuffed grape leaves or deep-fried cod, plus variations on grilled chicken and pork. Filet mignon and leg of lamb are included at dinner; for both meals, a sumptuous and scrupulously fresh salad bar also awaits.

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On an arctic night just before Christmas, we were pleased to be ushered into a comfortable booth within toasting range of the wall-set ornamental gas fire. Water and wine were forthcoming, and we were invited to help ourselves to salad.

Omira does provide the basics of what we’d call an all-American salad bar: iceberg lettuce, trimmings ranging from tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes to hard-boiled eggs, bacon bits and sunflower seeds, plus a half-dozen dressings to choose from.

But there is also so much more! We skipped the traditional and moved on to the extensive array of already-prepared offerings. These ranged from Omira’s interpretation of Caesar (with a dressing a little too unassertive for our taste) to the currently fashionable chopped raw kale with balsamic vinaigrette, a Greek salad and an Asian interpretation of cabbage slaw.

Special mention goes to the spinach salad with dried cranberries and grapes. The Asian slaw was nicely laced with nutty sesame oil and just the right hit of red-pepper heat.

The Greek salad included feta, in addition to onions, cucumbers and tomato. Also on offer: a variety of fruit melanges, pickled mushrooms and mozzarella cheese balls, as well as several pasta-and-vegetable combinations.

Be sure not to miss the bite-sized, herb-and-onion-flavored rice-and-potato balls next to the hot dishes. Omira’s online menu advertises sweet potato soup and Caribbean-spiced beef stew as hot selections on the salad bar, but the night we dined, the options were Brazilian black-bean feijoao and a hearty green chile stew.

Both looked delicious and there were warm rolls to accompany. But we were saving ourselves for the meat. (Omira offers diners a salad bar-only option, $11.95 for lunch or $17.95 at dinner.)

After demolishing our salad selections, we lit the little electric table lamp that signaled we were ready for the main course. A waiter promptly arrived bearing a saber stacked with thin-sliced medallions of nearly rare beef flavored with salty-sweet teriyaki marinade – the Tokyo beef. We accepted them happily.

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More sabers followed, as long as our lamp was lit. We enjoyed a couple of slices of German-style smoked sausage, tiny pork bits wrapped in bacon and dusted with Parmesan, deep-fried cod morsels in a fruity glaze and “fusion dolmas” – ground, herbed beef wrapped in grape leaves. Interspersed, we savored slices of grilled steak and deliciously moist, medium-rare prime rib.

No longer possessed of young and voracious appetites, we were at this point stuffed, so we turned off our table lamp. Too bad, because a few minutes later, we spotted saber-spitted roast lamb making the rounds.

Next time, we thought, we’ll turn down a few of the savory bits in an effort to save space for the lamb.

We might also be more judicious in our selections. My dinner guest liked the breaded, deep-fried cod, for example, and asked for more; I didn’t care for the sweet sauce and will pass next time around.

The bacon-Parmesan pork was good but, we thought, slightly over-done, as were the first steak slices that came our way. (Chicken didn’t appear in the rotation before we turned off our lamp, but the menu advertises jerk and Szechuan preparations, plus turkey.)

Besides limiting our meat selections, we thought we also might go easy on the salad offerings at first, the better to go back for variations as respite during the meat course. And, yes please, more of those potato fritters.

It was a struggle, but we valiantly rounded out our meal with dessert. Tiramisu and chocolate mousse torte were the night’s choices. Both were excellent, although we clearly favored the tiramisu, nearly demolishing the large portion between us.

Omira was pleasantly half-full the night we dined: crowded enough to be festive, but quiet enough for low-key conversation. We appreciated the clean-lined, contemporary decor, as well as the booth seating (and, of course, the gas-flame fireplace). The service, as you would expect in a place where the main course is served table-side, was nicely attentive.

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