If beets are on the menu, I’m ordering them. A beet dish I tried during an August dinner at Au Courant Regional Kitchen was the best I’ve had in a long time. The plate of roasted and marinated beets, thyme aioli, and thin-sliced speck (a smoked ham) was made even more delightful by the juicy sweetness of cantaloupe—bright orange, glistening cubes of compressed cantaloupe with the most sublime texture and flavor.
Other dishes my dining partner and I sampled, from starters to mains, were equally impressive, well-executed, and beautifully presented. And they reflected the restaurant’s commitment to offering diners the best of what’s in season.
“We’re sourcing the absolute best products we can get our hands on,” says chef and co-owner Benjamin Maides, who works with area farmers and producers to find the freshest ingredients. “Our menu changes weekly so we can really adapt to what’s available locally. I need to be really in tune with what’s coming out of the ground.”
The Swiss-born, Omaha-raised chef has worked at a number of local restaurants as well as establishments in Italy, Colorado, and California (including the award-winning Bouchon in Yountville, California). Maides and local restaurateur Carlos Mendez opened Au Courant in November 2016 in the former España spot near 61st and Maple streets, in the heart of Omaha’s Benson neighborhood. The warm and welcoming space—with wood floors, high ceilings, a plethora of plants, and walnut tables built by Maides—combines rustic and elegant elements.
The restaurant’s dynamic menu is divided into four sections—amuse-bouche, aperitif, pasta, and protein. My favorite amuse, the Chovie’s egg, is a soft-boiled egg with a creamy, satiny yolk. The halved egg was set atop crisp, tender green beans with crème fraîche and topped with crispy purple potato chips. Think of it as a deviled egg, but exponentially better.
Both the egg and a slightly briny and sweet Beausoleil oyster from New Brunswick were perfect little bites to prime the palate. Another amuse featured local organic potatoes—crispy, golden-brown wedges served with dijonnaise, bits of bacon, and julienned green apple.
The kitchen also excels at pasta, all made in-house. Mushroom gnocchi with braised oxtail, heirloom tomatoes, and shaved pecorino Romano was perfectly pillowy and tender with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. A plate of agnolotti (a small, stuffed pasta similar to ravioli) with taleggio, roasted and pickled corn kernels, and pistachios was rich without being heavy. Pickled ramps added bright acidic notes that balanced the sweetness of the corn.
The night we dined, octopus and black bass were among the protein options. Served alongside chorizo and potato, the octopus was tender, delicately sweet, and slightly smoky. The black bass filet—flaky and moist with super-crispy skin—arrived atop a bed of yellow squash, zucchini, and some lovely tiny yellow tomatoes.
Guests who can’t decide what to order may want to consider the chef’s tasting menu, a six-course meal for $55 per person that highlights some of the staff’s favorite dishes.
Maides says he’s pleased with the response from the community since Au Courant opened its doors two years ago. The goal isn’t to be the best restaurant, but to offer the best food at the best price. “We want to get rid of the notion that a quality dining experience has to be really expensive,” he says.
An inviting atmosphere, well-made cocktails, and top-notch service are all reasons enough for repeat visits to Au Courant, but the refined yet approachable menu is the real draw.
Au Courant Regional Kitchen
6064 Maple St. | 402-505-9917
Food: 4.5 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 4 stars
Overall: 4 stars
Visit aucourantrestaurant.com for more information.
This dining review was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.