A few years ago it would be hard to believe that Omaha would be home to one of the top three greenest restaurants in America, let alone a James Beard Foundation award semi finalist. In the past you would have to visit cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco to find restaurants and chefs with accolades such as these, but The Grey Plume has been in the national spotlight since the day they opened in 2010.
Chef/Owner Clayton Chapman has racked up more James Beard nominations than any Omaha chef in history. “Farm to Table” and “Eco-Friendly” restaurants are quite common in many large American cities, but in Omaha it’s still a relatively new phenomenon. The Grey Plume takes all of this to a new level with the close collaboration Chapman has with his growers and ranchers.
The restaurant is quite handsomely designed with a formal but still comfortable feel. White tablecloths and velvet-covered bench seats give the restaurant a plush, luxurious look.
Great care was taken in the design to use reclaimed and recycled materials as well as special low-energy kitchen equipment with a small carbon footprint. The artwork featured around the restaurant comes from local artists, as does some of the plateware made from recycled wine bottles.
Chef de Cuisine John Engler’s menu is constantly changing, but on a recent visit I saw several dishes that fondly recalled previous visits. My dining partner and I started off with one of my favorites, the Duck Fat Fries ($9). As the name implies, these crispy hand-cut fries are fried in duck fat and served over aioli with a farm-fresh egg on top. The combination is incredible. We also tried the Smoked Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi ($12). This beautifully presented appetizer features pumpernickel bread crumbs which provide flavor as well as texture. It also has a cherry purée and fresh leeks. I am certain I will be ordering this one again. Next we tried the Cold Potato Soup ($9). This concoction had a velvety cream texture and was garnished with truffle powder that gave it a great umami boost. We also had the Heartland Organics’ Spring Greens Salad ($8), a nice light salad featuring local mixed greens, feta cheese, radish, and lavash with an olive oil dressing. For entrees I had the Morgan Ranch Wagyu Beef ($36). It featured perfectly cooked “petite filet” or teres major cut. The dish also had some oxtail, tongue, and an amazing sausage, all from Morgan Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska. A light demi glace sauce, shaved asparagus, shiitake mushroom, and Yukon gold potatoes made this dish a delicious combination. My dining partner tried Plum Creek Farm’s Chicken Roulade ($27). This moist chicken was served with baby bok choy, snap peas, farro, and a savory strawberry puree—another stellar entree. For dessert we had TGP Hand Crafted Chocolates ($13.50) and the Ice Cream Trio ($8.50). The ice cream dish consisted of a trio of scoops: salted caramel, orange chamomile, and sorrel. The sorrel, at first, seemed an odd flavor for ice cream, but I was instantly hooked.
At times in the past I felt that the service at The Grey Plume was perhaps a bit stuffy and overly formal. Servers sometimes make your head spin with their immense knowledge of food and wine while using French words and terms that most diners have never even heard of. But this was not the case on this particular evening. Our server was friendly, humorous, and casual, but provided excellent service. He went out of his way to explain the dishes to my dining partner using layman’s terms. He also earned extra points on his wine recommendation of an exquisite French bordeaux that went perfectly with my Wagyu beef.
There is no doubt in my mind that The Grey Plume is one the best restaurants in Omaha. Unfortunately my income bracket does not allow me to frequent places in this price range often enough. But don’t relegate this special place to birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. You owe it to yourself to experience The Grey Plume, the hot spot that has so deservedly received so much critical acclaim all across America.
The Grey Plume, 220 S. 31st Ave.
402-763-4447 or thegreyplume.com
Service=3 1/2 /5 Stars