Our Gourmet: Oh, did we have a great dinner at O in Concord
During a walk around downtown Concord, if you blink you might miss O Steaks and Seafood, which is located in the same building as Red River Theatres. But it is most definitely worth seeking out for a truly enjoyable dining experience.
When you walk into O, you are immediately struck by the vast space inside. To the left is a large bar space with a view of downtown.
To the right, where we were seated, is a more dimly lit space, sizeable but with an intimate feel. Although the lighting there added to the romantic mood, we did find ourselves straining a bit to read the menu.
What is especially appealing about the dining area is that the tables are nicely situated so you don’t feel like you are encumbering on someone else’s space. We appreciated the contemporary vibe of the steakhouse — similar in style to what we found at Demeter’s in Portsmouth a few weeks ago.
The menu features steaks and seafood, natch, in several different preparations. It was tough for us to choose, as it seemed impossible to make a bad choice. This is a comfortable position to be in, but we had to send our server away to buy us more menu time.
I eventually opted for the O Pops ($9), meatballs made of Kobe beef, bacon and bleu cheese and served on a stick so they resemble lollipops. While they were a bit on the dry side, they were full of flavor. You could taste each of the ingredients, and surprisingly given the natural saltiness of the bleu cheese and bacon, the seasoning was just right. The meatballs are plated in a small bit of sauce. It isn’t described on the menu, but it has a spicy kick, reminiscent of chipotle. It was delicious, and in retrospect, I should have requested more on the side so I could dip my meatballs. It was a flavor combination that is hard to beat.
The Dining Companion chose the Sweet & Sour Calamari ($9). We’ve seen calamari served with the more traditional tomato based sauces like marinara, however, sweet and sour was a first for us. The heaping portion came with an oversized serving spoon to drive home that there was more than enough to share. The calamari was drizzled with a Thai sweet and sour sauce with a chili paste that reminded TDC of General Tsao’s chicken. The calamari itself was cooked to perfection. After we ate our entrees, TDC kept going back to the calamari, so I know it was a hit.
On a business trip a few years ago I had the opportunity to try Chilean Sea Bass and it became a wonderful food memory. For the first time since that trip, I saw it again on the menu at O, so my choice of entrée was an easy one. The Sea Bass ($32) is served atop your choice of crab and asparagus risotto (my choice) or Mediterranean couscous and quinoa.
The fish was lightly seared and seasoned and as delicious as I remembered. The risotto was a bit salty but was creamy and studded with a good amount of crab. The combination of the risotto and fish was a bit heavy, sea bass being an oil-rich fish, but that didn’t stop me from eating most of what was on the plate.
TDC has recently become a big fan of Braised Shortribs ($23) so he wanted to see how O’s measured up. TDC was also sold on the dish by the Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Pudding which accompanies the meat.
The short ribs were braised in au jus and were fall-off-the-bone tender. While TDC enjoyed every bite, he found that they lacked some flavor that would have put them over the top.
The Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Pudding was worth the price of admission, however. The jalapeno pieces were sprinkled on top so that you could eat them in separate chunks or mix them right in. It was like eating spicy corn bread only with a soft and luscious pudding consistency.
We should note here that if you are hungry, O serves a number of side dishes you can order alongside your entrée including lobster mac & cheese, au gratin potatoes, creamed spinach and sweet potato mash.
We passed on the sides because we wanted to save some room for dessert — in retrospect, a smart move.
TDC ordered the Liquid Chocolate Cake ($6), comprised of moist chocolate cake, filled and covered with chocolate sauce on one side, followed by a whipped cream border separating it from the rich French vanilla ice cream on the other. All together, TDC said, it mapped out as a complimentary mixture of hot and cold sweet sugary goodness, and he ate every bite.
I chose what I thought was the most unique item on the dessert menu, the Fried Oreos ($6). I’ve only seen Fried Oreos at carnivals and fairs, and I had never tried one. The five Oreos, battered and deep-fried, were piping hot, melty ooey gooey discs of chocolaty goodness. To cool them off I dipped them in the whipped cream and French Vanilla ice cream, also part of the dish. For something considered to be fair fare, they were more than fair and seemed right at home at O.
Overall, it was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in the past few years. The atmosphere and food was top-notch. The service was slow at times, which was not surprising because it was quite busy. That being said, we never felt rushed and we were able to take our time to have a leisurely dinner. That was a treat in and of itself.
We would make a special trip to Concord (or their second location in Laconia) for another meal, and maybe next time we’ll also take in a movie next door.
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