There is a level of ambition here [in Nebraska] like the vast prairie that surrounds it, but it is kept in check by humility. As Executive Chef Paul Kulik of Le Bouillon in Omaha pronounces, “[We’re] the best kept food secret in America.”
Everything around me screams French bistro— the black and white checkered floor at the bar, dark wood chairs and wrought iron lamps. Housed in an historic former fruit and vegetable warehouse in the old market district, the white painted brick walls are simply adorned with watercolour paintings and an enormous, kaleidoscopic tree by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
But don’t let the French décor intimidate, there is an atmosphere of warmth here, no stoic waiters and silver cloches. “This restaurant pays homage to the part of France that’s closest to Omaha, the southwest region. It’s a French country sensibility, but with our own spin,” says executive chef Paul Kulik.
Le Bouillon excels at French country cuisine like the toast topped with creamy roasted squash, ricotta, tart green apple and chili that begins my dining experience. This is followed by a bowl of steamed wild mussels in cider, fennel onion jam, foie gras butter and scallions, a dish that makes double dipping de rigueur. An array of southern French dishes follow, like the Spanish tortilla with salt cod and caramelized onion, duck hearts and arroz a la plancha with shrimp a kind of crisp rice dish folded over like an omelet that brilliantly marries with a glass of Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie.