7M Chef Aron Mackevicius likes to take normal comfort foods and add his own little twist to it.

 “7M Grill offers a comfort fusion menu,” says Front of House Manager Robyn Davis.

One of his most popular dishes is his Caribbean chicken. He takes a coconut chicken breast and serves it over cilantro rice with black bean and corn salsa on the side and a mango jalapeno cream sauce on top of it along with curried bananas.

That particular dish has been on 7M’s menu since day one. Another popular pick is Mackevicius’ coffee dusted salmon which is paired with a sriracha risotto and has a mango guacamole on top, drizzled in white chocolate cream sauce.

Chef Mackevicius comes up with many of these amazing dishes by consulting his customers through a program he calls Wednesdays at 1.

Taste and talk

Davis explained that the chef comes up with three new specials each week. On Wednesdays at 1, they invite the public to sample these dishes and customers then offer the chef feedback on what they liked and what they think could be improved after they finish the tasting.

Reservations are required to attend and the tasting is limited to 10 people at a cost of $10 each. Davis said each week guests get to sample a beef dish, a seafood dish and something from 7M’s other category. In the past this has included duck, quail, pork and Cornish game hens.

“The focus group gets to try everything. After chef tells us what we are eating, we kick him back into the kitchen while we eat. During the tasting, I ask the customers what they are thinking, what they like, what they don’t like, what they would do to improve the dish. And when we are finished eating, we bring the chef back out and give him feedback on the dishes that were sampled,” says Davis.

She says 7M wants feedback on everything from the aesthetics of the plate to the flavors on it.

She also says the chef is good about listening to what the focus group says and he changes dishes according to what they say. Recent tastings featured dishes such as brandy mushroom beef tenderloin, chicken poutine and seafood verde jambalaya.

Adventurous cuisine

Davis says 7M doesn’t want to offer the same steak and potatoes or the same wines as the restaurant down the street, so they do a boutique-y menu with boutique-y wines and food.

She changes the wine list frequently and starts every tasting with a glass of new wine. So in addition to getting opinions on the food, Davis asks about the wines as well. She says 7M always wants to find those reasons for people to want to come back to their restaurant.

Davis says she sees lots of repeat tasters and lots of new ones, which makes it a nice mix for the restaurant.

7M rarely repeats these specials, but if a particular dish ends up being extremely popular in the restaurant there’s a good chance it will end up on the next season’s menu. Davis says 7M changes its menu twice a year with a spring/summer menu and a fall/winter menu.

Davis and Mackevicius sit down every six months and go back through all the specials to see what did well and what wasn’t popular.

“Sometimes he will take a dish and swap out the vegetables with more seasonal choices. So if we have a special with summer veggies that we want to use on our fall/winter menu, he will replace these vegetables with things like sweet potatoes and squash,” says Davis.

Specials run Wednesday night at 5 till Tuesday at close. 7M also offers half price bottles of wine on Wednesdays

Davis says 7M sees their Wednesdays at 1 program as their own little episode of Chopped.

“Food shows are popular right now. Everyone is into being a foodie. People love to be heard and it’s fun for chef to hear what guests think of new dishes. Customers love interacting with chef and enjoy being a part of putting a dish together,” Davis says.

7M Grill,15808 West Maple Road, Suite 10, Omaha, NE 68116, 402.614.4100, http://7mgrill.com/

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