Last night I visited a new Cambridge hot spot, OM Restaurant & Lounge.
I have to admit I was impressed at the start, when I pulled back the heavy, intricately carved wooden door and entered into the sultry, street-level lounge, the Zen Den. It was very dark inside, with one wall covered with a soothing waterfall, the bar backlit with soft blue lights, and a low seating area looking out into the Harvard Square area. But two things in particular really won me over: (1) a track from Kevin Yost's One Starry Night was playing in the background, and (2) their extensive cocktail menu includes a French Martini called Hotel Costes, in homage to DJ Stephan Pompougnac and his beloved home turf in Paris (my favorite!).
The cocktail menu really was quite impressive. OM subscribes to an aromatherapy theme: if the alcohol doesn't loosen you up and clear your mind, the scented herbs they add to the drinks will (lavendar, ginger, and basil among others). I had the delicious "Fred & Ginger," which was infused with - you guessed it - fresh ginger and a candied piece perched on the rim.
Upstairs, OM has a full dining room, decorated with authentic Buddhist sculptures and hand-made paintings by the owner's father that reflect their Tibetan heritage. Brightly lit (too brightly lit, in my opinion), it was in stark constrast to the lounge downstairs. The tables are spaced well apart, which is usually a welcome feature among urban spots that typically cram in as many tables as possible, but here it just made the dining room feel sparse. Upstairs lacked all of the warmth that downstairs oozed.
The "fusion" menu was good, but marred by its presentation...evidence of a chef that is simply trying too hard. My "Deconstructed Caesar" was just that - all the fixings for a Caesar salad, lined up neatly on my plate in separate piles (An egg still in it's shell, a stack of sliced potatoes, a few spears of asparagus, and one heart of romaine) - requiring me to mix the ingredients myself. My main course of Chicken Confit was more straightforward, accompanied by a side of fingerling frites; both were tasty but not particularly memorable. Dessert consisted of an olive oil cake with a ginger float (more ginger!). One truly unique - and simple - accompaniment was the dish of truffled parmesan popcorn that was supplied instead of the typical bread basket.
Overall, I really enjoyed the lounge and would go back there in a heartbeat; the Boston area can always use another swank night spot. Save the dining for a better spot, though, like Sandrine's Bistro around the corner.