When I moved to Omaha five years ago, I have to admit, Benson scared me a little bit. Lots of hole-in-the wall bars, and that crazy maternity shop with the world’s largest bra in the window. However, recently, Benson is buzzing. You can almost feel the tingling in the air – change is a brewing and new businesses are adding a light to the area. A major reason for that new glowing sensation is Lot 2 Restaurant and Wine Bar. Since its opening two months ago, I have heard people starting to talk about it more and more. It was time to see it for myself.
Walking in, you feel a sense of natural beauty to the restaurant. Its light walls and large window are balanced well with the dark wood of the benches and chairs. You feel like this is the place you could go for a romantic dinner or a fun night out with friends. It appeals to all. There is now an outdoor patio as well for guests to dine, though we decided to stay inside and see what the ambience was all about.
We started our meal with a half-board of cheeses and meat. One major regret that I have is that we didn’t get a full board. The three items we chose were the buttermilk blue cheese, the brie cheese and the tete de cochon (a pork pate-like meat). It was served with pickled carrots and onions, light and crispy toasted baguette from Le Quartier, spiced nuts, tomato jam and Dijon mustard. We returned the board to our waitress completely bare. The cheeses were flavorful but not overpowering and were complimented perfectly with the roasted garlic, pickled vegetables and spiced nuts.
Following the cheese board, we ordered the Arancini appetizer. The menu makes it seem as if the elements of the dish are separate, but luckily our waitress informed us the appetizer was more like a croquette. Being a massive fan of croquettes, I was thrilled by this new information. The appetizer is butternut squash, house fennel sausage, and mascarpone cheese, served on top of a walnut pesto. It is a one bite dish and it’s crunchy outside and creamy inside made me once again regret ordering just a half portion. The risotto was cooked perfectly and didn’t have the gummy taste that can happen when risotto is overdone. The bite of sausage inside brought the dish up even one more delicious level.
For our main dishes, something important to know is that my husband and I are carnivores. And by carnivores, I mean that no meat is safe in our company – we adore all things equally - cow, pig and even duck. When I had interviewed Lot 2’s Chef Joel Mahr a few months back for a Chef Chat, he mentioned that he was proud of his use of seitan in his vegetarian dishes. Seitan is a mixture of vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast that you make into a ball and poach. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical to try it. However, when we ordered the Seitan Curry, served with jasmine rice, chick peas, peas and cauliflower, I was pleasantly surprised. Initially the taste is something like a cross between sausage and tofu. However, after a few bites, you quickly realize how it flows perfectly with the rice and curry flavorings and
you are fooled into believing you are eating meat. The curry flavoring is mild but still packs a bit of heat to add a new dimension to the dish.
However, I couldn’t leave the restaurant without actually eating a meat main dish though. I went for the classic Steak and Frites. One of my favorite dishes to order at a restaurant, yet it seems that few can actually create a strong and flavorful dish. I’m happy to say that Lot 2 can rest assured that you make a steak and frites that France would be proud of. The flatiron steak was cooked to my request, and was only enhanced by the delicious garlic aioli sauce. This sauce is one that you will find anything at your table to dip into it. By the end of the meal, I was considering dipping chick peas from the curry dish into it just to have more of its taste. The rosemary infused French fries were light, crispy and even better when dipped into the house made ketchup. The refreshing kale salad was a great balance to the meal when you were looking to take a break from the heavy meat and potatoes and refresh your palate a bit.
These days, I’m no longer afraid of the streets of Benson. I’m actually slightly addicted to the area. And if the nights aren’t your thing, check Lot 2 out for brunch on Sundays. With the success of their dinner, I can only imagine the great way you can start your Sunday morning.