2010-05-20 / Cuisine

My, oh my! O’mei’s a Chinese restaurant worth raving about

Lovers of authentic Chinese food rejoice! Mark Cheng’s in the kitchen and what he’s producing is inspired and inspiring.

You’ll find no crab Rangoon, chow mein or egg foo yung on his menu. Instead, there are pork fried dumplings, Peking duck with house-made pancakes and seven variations of prawns. Everything I tasted was exceptional.

But let’s start at the top. O’mei occupies a well-appointed space that previously held Harvest Moon in Tamiami Square, next to Sam-Bucco Bistro and a few doors away from Naples Tomato. The dining room is a study in elegance: a well-stocked, illuminated wine rack covers much of one wall, plush banquettes and thickly upholstered chairs invite patrons to settle in and relax, tables are covered in spotless white linens, and tall glass vases hold pretty dried wheat stalks and fresh sunflowers.

The service staff is as on point as any I’ve seen in top restaurants around the city. Servers are well acquainted with the menu and willingly advise those who are unfamiliar with the offerings. I heard people at three tables around me marveling at the food and service. If they were listening, they’d have heard the same conversation at my table.

Above: Mark and Mary Cheng are the owners of O'mei Chinese Cuisine. Left: This scallion pancake is a classic Chinese appetizer. KAREN FELDMAN / FLORIDA WEEKLY Above: Mark and Mary Cheng are the owners of O'mei Chinese Cuisine. Left: This scallion pancake is a classic Chinese appetizer. KAREN FELDMAN / FLORIDA WEEKLY The wine list includes quite a few worthy varieties, almost all of which are available by the glass or bottle. My companion tried a glass of B.R. Cohn Silver Label cabernet sauvignon, while I found an excellent sake, Ty Ku Junmai Ginjo, an Oregonian product with lovely peach and lychee notes and just a hint of spice.

The only down side of eating at O’mei is limiting yourself to just a few of the many tempting items on the menu.

W e finally settled on the scallion pancake ($4.95) and salted pepper calamari ($7.50) for starters.

Below: A trio of sauces add flavor to salted pepper calamari, one of the creative appetizers served at O’mei Chinese Cuisine. Below: A trio of sauces add flavor to salted pepper calamari, one of the creative appetizers served at O’mei Chinese Cuisine. The calamari dish might not sound all that intriguing, but what arrived at our table certainly was. The chef had breaded tubes of calamari and fried them to golden perfection, topping them with lots of toasted garlic and onion. The squid was tender and had plenty of flavor on its own, however, at our server’s suggestion, we ordered a selection of sauces — chili pepper, plum and sweet and sour — and found that each enhanced the squid

in its own way.

The pancake was crisp and golden brown, studded with pieces of scallion. We tried out the various sauces on it, too, and found they worked as well as they did with the calamari.

The entrée selection offers a broader than usual choice of seafood, including Maine lobster, salmon, grouper, sea bass and seven variations of prawn. We felt compelled to try at least one prawn dish, so we ordered the one with mango sauce ($15.95). We also asked for Chilean sea bass ($19.95) and a dish of string beans ($7.95).

The plump prawns shared the plate with bright chunks of ripe mango and bits of red pepper that added a little spice. A layer of pine

nuts finished off this lively dish.

The Chilean sea bass was sliced and then assembled in two rows, one with a subtle garlic sauce and the other with a heartier black bean sauce. I liked

that the black

beans had

been ground

to a fine consistency,

providing

flavor without the bulk that might have interfered with the delicate texture

Return to top