Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Tucson Restaurant: OM – Modern Asian Kitchen

OM sashimi deluxe

Tucson restaurant: OM

OM is Tucson’s newest taste sensation. Its tagline is modern Asian kitchen. You won’t find any lettuce wraps or fried eggroll here and that’s a good thing.

But what you will find is exciting flavors that linger in your mind days after eating the fine food. OM is the kind of experience that friends tweet about or send teasing photos through their Blackberries reflecting the magical nuances of first bites.

I like to disclose. In today’s screwed up political landscape, let’s be transparent. Myself and other food media types and VIPs were invited to an OM tasting. Who did I recognize? Let’s see there was Tucson Guide, Tucson Lifestyle, Circle of Food, Tucson on the Cheap, and Tucson Food Dude to name a few of the most important plus a chef/restaurateur and his entourage from a Midtown boite.

Who was that woman wearing a silver metallic mini dress and strappy silver shoes? She looked positively Hollywood-ish and ignited the stark, monochromatic decor with flash and dash.

But enough about the people and their fashion or lack there of, let’s talk about the food.

We tasted many samples. Some of my favorites included the five-spice pork sliders. I previously thought the sliders at the Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton were the best but move over as now the five spices awakened my senses along with a separate side of sesame fries with ginger wasabi aioli.

A parade of sushi and sashimi rolled to and from the table as well as trays passed by busy waitstaff asking if we wanted to taste this and that. Yes, we did. Everything was fresh and perfect.

For entrees we shared the grilled shrimp chop salad with Yuzu sake vinaigrette. All four of us (a database programmer/outstanding cook, bartender/yoga instructor, food/travel/pet writer & author, and myself-writer/greyhound activist) applauded the refreshing flavor of the citrusy Yuzu paired with shrimp, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Everyone liked the wok-tossed udon noodles but nobody remembered exactly what flavors were in the subtle dish.

It’s possible nobody remembered because we consumed many glasses of really good champagne, a bottle of 2009 Lapostolle “Casa” Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley), and a bottle of 2008 Shoofly Shiraz, McLaren Flat, South Australia. The two writers stopped drinking at some point but our guests did not.

But back to the food, glorious, modern Asian food…the chicken rice beheld pan-roasted chicken, ginger rice, and classic ginger condiments from Malaysia.  The OM spicy pork loin is said to be a signature dish and what makes this dish so unusual is the lemongrass risotto and dash of chili sauce.

Although I liked them all very much, my favorite aside from the shrimp salad is the ginger marinated beef tenderloin with sesame mashed potatoes, broccolini, and shitake demi-glace. All the flavors melded together like an apex of adulation.

My compliments to the chefs. John Kujundzich, executive chef of OM, recently came from the AAA Four Diamond-awarded Hotel ZaZa in Houston, Texas, to oversee OM’s kitchen. Since arriving in Tucson, he has been integrating seasonal flavors to the menu along with sushi chef Yuki Watabe, who has worked at Benihana and Sakura and owned Yuki Sushi.

Other menu items that pique my interest but have yet to be eaten are Sapporo braised beef short ribs, XO shrimp & scallops with Mandarin fried rice and roasted mushrooms, shrimp and yellow curry bisque, lamb samosas, soft & crispy duck salad and more, more, more.

“We are taking a modern approach to Asian cuisine,” said owner Allen Yap. “At OM, we’re blending distinct and vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia, while using classic French techniques and presenting them with a distinctive, contemporary flair.”  And it works!

OM is located in the former Neo of Melaka location on 1765 E. River Road and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and until 1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. OM also has a progressive happy hour menu, offering specials on sushi, starters, beer, wine, and featured cocktails under $5, daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Hooray for late night dining, a Tucson rarity.

Phone: (520) 299-7815 or check out the particulars on the website.

(photo credit: Ditte Lokon)

  1. That chopped shrimp salad sounds divine. And open ’til 1 am – bonus! Tired of getting kicked out of Tucson restaurants at 10 pm 🙁

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