Omi Korean Grill and Bar Gets Props for Location and Atmosphere but its Food Fumbles

I found myself on an eating mission last week with Cathy, my ever present best friend in gluttony. After some random driving around, we found ourselves at the Super H Mart shopping center in Carrollton. It was destined to be, as we have had a long overdue date with Omi Korean Grill and Bar.

Having tried to dine at the restaurant several times already, something always deterred us. The shopping center, with its abundance of eatery options, has several distractions. On several occasions, we would start out with the intention of eating at Omi, but would either fill up on Mozart pastries beforehand or succumb to the siren call of the Super H Mart food stalls.

Despite my resolve to dine at Omi, I still was hesitant. I've long heard lukewarm reviews of the restaurant from several of my Korean friends. The resounding consensus was "It's OK, but there are better." From a Korean food novice point of view, I can't really argue with their knowledge and experience. It would be like the person who has only tried a few Vietnamese restaurants debating me where the best bowl of pho can be found.

We arrived in time for Omi's lunch special menu, for which I was grateful. Korean barbecue is not cheap, so I was thrilled to see a variety of lunch platters for less than $10. From the outside peering in, it's hard to imagine that Omi's interior would be so sleek and pleasing to the eyes. Their bar area exudes a lounge-y hangout vibe, while their dimly lit dining room consists of large, appealing booths. Because we were dining at the restaurant during the afternoon, we opted to sit in the naturally lit atrium area.

Service, like in most Korean restaurants, was extremely friendly. And like in most Korean restaurants I visit, the staff spoke to me in Korean.

Tangent: It's a long standing joke amongst my family and friends that I look super-Korean. To the untrained eye, what's the difference? However, every time I return home to Vietnam, at least three cabbies will try speaking to me in Korean. Why am I writing about this? Because once again, Cathy had a great big laugh at my expense when the wait staff was shocked that I wasn't Korean. Whatever.

Let's move on to the food, shall we? From the lunch menu, we ordered the Korean BBQ Shortribs Bento, Spicy Roasted Chicken, and because Cathy had yet to try it, the Dol Sot Bibimbap.

While waiting for our feast to arrive, we snacked on Omi's selection of banchan. Served with every meal, I could fill up on these complimentary side dishes alone. The standout, amongst the plethora of small plates was the marinated dried squid. Sweet, salty, and chewy, the squid was a light, but flavorful amuse-bouche for what was to come.

Although a Google search netted me no support of this, according to the restaurant's menu, "omi" represents the five tastes of sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty. For a restaurant that is defined by their promise of flavor, all of the dishes we ordered at Omi were surprisingly subtle compared to those of past Korean restaurants I've visited. If I had never tried Korean food in my life, Omi would have been a perfectly pleasant introduction to the cuisine. Because I have eaten at other Korean restaurants, I could understand why my Korean friends had dismissed Omi. While all the food we tried was "good," nothing we tried popped out as extraordinary. There lacked a depth of flavor and pungency necessary for a truly mind-blowing dining experience.

With that being said, the prices for lunch were reasonable, and we left satisfied and full, especially considering the banchan. Cathy delighted in the sizzling stone bowl bibimbap, and we both enjoyed the sweet spiciness of the gojuchang (Korean fermented chili paste) marinated roasted spicy chicken. The sauce for the chicken was greasier than I prefer, but the dark meat chicken was tender. The Korean short rib BBQ tasted fine and was seasoned with the traditional marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. However, the meat would have been more flavorful had it been seared or browned a bit longer.

Considering Omi's prime location, attractive atmosphere, and proximity to Super H Mart are all causes for a revisit, based on food, alone, if I were to suggest a Korean restaurant for out of town visitors, Namoo or Seoul Garden still are the better bets. Based on the superficial, admittedly, Omi is an enticing dining destination. Now that I've gotten it out of my system, though, I can move on to trying all the other alluring, albeit not as aesthetic, dining options in the Old Denton Koreatown, as my search for delectable discoveries continue.

Omi Korean Grill and Bar
2625 Old Denton Road,

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