“I would put the Boiler Room up against any restaurant in New York” – Will Forte
I can’t speak to Will Forte’s culinary credentials, but I totally agree with Forte’s opinion. Mrs. Nom and I have eaten the cuisine of a lot of famous culinary stars like Jose Andres and Joël Robuchon and would put the Chef Paul Kulik in the same ballpark. Chef Kulik’s fresh and innovative approach to cuisine is steeped in French techniques, bringing a classic fine dining flair to his modern rustic dishes. Chef Kulik has hosted James Beard Foundation dinners in New York, and was a James Beard Award Midwest Semi Finalist and has garnered a reputation as one of Omaha’s hottest chefs.
The Boiler Room is housed in a beautiful brick and steel room that formerly served as the boiler room of the Bemis Bag Company. The interior of the building was minimally restored, with the dining area located on a raised mezzanine catwalk overlooking the bar and open kitchen. The exposed steel and antique brick dining feels sleek and modern, but has a cozy warmth that comes from the industrialized elegance. The staff continues the elegant feeling, the maitre d’ setting the tone with a warm greeting, taking our coats and showing us to our candlelit table. Both times we have dined at the Boiler Room we have had the same table, a fantastic one directly overlooking the kitchen.
A visit to the Boiler Room should absolutely include a selection from the bar or from Boiler Room’s extensive wine list. The wine list was originally constructed by Master Sommelier Jessie Becker and features more than 500 different wines that can match the varied cuisine of Chef Kulik. The staff is knowledgeable about the wines and are able to recommend a wine for any occasion or meal. One of my personal favorite things about the Boiler Room are the amazing cocktails prepared by Clark Ross, the head barman. Clark fully embraces the craft cocktail trend, his classics like the Old Fashioned being named “Best in Omaha” and his original cocktails spectacularly balanced and nuanced, any mixers used are made in house with in season produce and all natural flavors. The bar is on the bottom floor near the kitchen, surrounded by the wine cellar and small tables where you can wait for your table to be ready. Watching Clark at work is a joy, his knowledge of flavor combinations and the history of cocktails a real plus to a cocktail buff like myself.
Both of our trips to the Boiler Room were in late fall and featured lots of late season harvest produce. On our last visit in November, we started with some cocktails from the bar, Mrs. Nom choosing the Pilfer while I chose the Mumbly Peg. The Pilfer came highly recommended by our server, is made with cognac, pistachio liqueur, yellow chartreuse, and finished with a dash of salt and water to open the flavors, was slightly sweet with an oily silky smoothness that surprised Mrs. Nom as the drink was served neat. The Mumbly Peg, small batch bourbon, house made peach liqueur, basque cider, and house apple bitters, was served over a huge block ice cube, had a fresh hint of fruit over the sweet burn of the bourbon. Both cocktails were well balanced and served as excellent aperitifs to get us ready for our appetizers.
We decided to share the Wild Nebraska Mushroom plate as our appetizers, opting to save room for dessert on this visit, as our first time we were both far too full to try the desserts. The mushroom plate featured locally foraged wild mushrooms, roasted kohlrabi and pork belly atop a bed of arugula. The nutty bite of the arugula was a nice counter to the earthy sweetness of the mushrooms and kohlrabi. A puree of roasted kohlrabi was creamy and sweet and made both of us immediately want to add roasted kohlrabi to our daily diet.
Our server brought us each a small roll of house made sour dough. They were trying a new recipe that evening and I hope they keep it on the menu, as the roll was excellent, sour and chewy with a perfect crisp crust. They served it with a good quality local butter similar in quality to a high fat European butter. While we were enjoying out rolls, we made a wine selection, choosing a 2010 Valpoicella Classico, a classic red with a rich fruity body, a fruity sweetness cutting the slightly dry finish and paired well with our entrees.
Mrs. Nom chose the T.D. Niche Farm Pork, a generous tomahawk cut pork chop accompanied by heirloom beans, braised parsnips and charred brussels sprouts. The pork chip was beautifully cooked, the meat moist and rich with flavor, the meat fine grained and fork tender. The white beans and braised parsnips had a deep earthy roasted flavor, the roasting process bringing out the sweetness of the parsnips and providing a nice base for the richness of the pork.
I choose the Bluff Valley Lamb Crêpinette with lentils and roasted heirloom carrots, roasted lamb shoulder and bok choy. The crêpinettes were flat rustic sausages made from ground lamb stuffed with with lamb loin. The lamb was fantastic, cooked to a perfect medium rare, delicate and tender. The beluga lentils were buttery and earthy and gave a deep richness to the lamb, while the sweetness of the roasted carrots and smoky roasted lamb shoulder layered flavor into a wonderful dish.
No meal is complete without a good cheese course, and the Boiler Room had an excellent selection on both of our visits. On this visit we chose two selections of cheese, Manon,a goat milk camembert from Nebraska, and Humbolt Fog, an ashed goat cheese from California. Along side the cheeses, fresh house made orange marmalade, candied pecans and local honey were a sweet fresh bite. Our server was again fantastically knowledgeable and steered us to some excellent selections of cheese, and his passion for good food and excellent service came out as he excitedly talked about the dessert and the cheeses. He even brought out a small sip of a port wine he felt would go with our dessert and cheeses so we could try the combination.
We finished the meal with coffee and a chocolate pot de crème. The pot de crème was made with dark chocolate, the ganache rich and slightly bitter from the dark chocolate, paired perfectly with the locally roasted coffee. The pot de crème was topped by a vanilla chantilly (whipped cream) and a citrus tuile, and a scoop of house made chocolate ice cream finished the dish. The dark roast coffee from Cultiva Coffee in Lincoln, cut the sweetness of the dessert and finished the meal in the classic French style.
The Boiler Room
Atmosphere: 5/5 – Unique industrial chic is sexy and elegant.
Service: 5/5 – Extremely personable and knowledgeable, the attention to detail and passion for the dining experience give the Boiler Room full marks.
Food Quality: 5/5 – Fresh local ingredients, expertly prepared.
Taste: 5/5 – Great cocktails, dishes that let the ingredients shine and great layered flavors make the Boiler Room a star.
Value: 4.5/5 – Good portion sizes and amazing dishes for a surprisingly reasonable price.
Overall:5/5 – Highly recommended! The Boiler Room might be the best restaurant in Omaha and should absolutely be on your list to visit. The excellent food, creative cocktails, impeccable service and great atmosphere combine to make each dining experience a memorable one.
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