When I first met Anass El-Omari and his wife Susana Herrera several months ago, I was hopeful that their plan to completely revamp not just the look of the clubhouse at Lexington Oaks Golf Club, but also the food served there would work out for them. After all, we have plenty of chain restaurants in Wesley Chapel, but we have so few non-chain, sit-down, mom-&-pop restaurants in our area with great food.
Well, if you haven’t tried Omari’s Grill & Bar at Lexington Oaks yet, I hope the pictures on this page and this short writeup will convince you to go check it out.
Anass, who is originally from Morocco, was trained at the world-renowned Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris, France, and just from the sauces he has been serving alone, his extensive training and experience is obvious.
Anass met Susana in her native Colombia, where she was working as a TV network news anchor for RCN Television (Radio Cadena Nacional) in the Colombian capital city of Bogota.
About two years ago, his varied business interests (including banking software) brought their family (they have two children together) from Colombia to Florida, first to the Grand Hampton community in New Tampa and eventually, to Wesley Chapel, where he ended up buying the Lexington Oaks golf course and restaurant, a change of ownership that took place about a year ago.
“We were planning to just buy a small vacation home in Epperson, because of the lagoon, but the kids loved it here, so this is now home.”
Oh Yeah, The Food!
The lunch and dinner menus at Omari’s Grill may be somewhat limited, but there’s no doubt that all of the dishes Jannah and I have sampled together so far have been outstanding — and Anass is always coming up with daily specials.
My favorite items on the dinner menu are the flounder almendrine, which I thought I had shown in my Nibbles & Bytes column before, and the Chef filet.
For only $14.99, the flounder is sautéed in a Mediterranean-style butter sauce, with large chunks of fresh tomatoes. The 6-oz. filet ($20.99) is super tender and served with a fresh basil and white wine cream sauce. It was served with two fresh asparagus spears and we also enjoyed a side of cheesy baked broccoli.
I also love the fresh pear and brie cheese and the calamari appetizers and the Cajun chicken pasta with onions, peppers and salami in a semi-spicy Cajun cream sauce.
Although I can’t indulge in any of the multiple shrimp and lobster options on the menu because of my accursed shellfish allergy, Susana says her favorite dish on the menu is the lobster pasta, which is linguine served with generous chunks of lobster in a ginger cream sauce, with a touch of garlic and white wine.
The special on our most recent visit was a super-thick cut of amazingly fresh mahi-mahi, served with a mango salsa that added a delicious touch of fruit without being overly sweet.
Although dinner currently is only served at Omari’s Grill Wednesday-Friday, it is open for lunch every day except Monday and the lunch menu features plenty of your favorite sandwiches, including Anass’ take on the classic Cuban, a Cajun chicken sandwich with bacon and cheese (of course), a Philly cheesesteak, classic BLT, as well as burgers, wings, a Buffalo chicken wrap and even shrimp tacos.
I’ve only sampled Omari’s catering-style food for lunch when I’ve visited the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel, which meets for lunch at Omari’s every Wednesday at noon. Anass and Susana don’t only host the club, they’re also members and say they look forward to getting more involved with the Rotary’s service projects, especially since the Lexington Oaks golf course is getting ready to close for renovations for three months shortly after this issue reaches you.
“While the greens are being resurfaced,” says Anass, “we will be really focusing on the restaurant side. We’ll do a lot more menu specials and host more special events.”
Speaking of special events, Susana says that the Easter brunch held last month “completely sold out.” But, despite lots of requests, Anass says he will not repeat the brunch special for Mother’s Day, so he and Susana can spend her special day together.
“I haven’t had a day off in 243 days,” he says. “But, I’ll be thinking about new specials.”
Oh, and before I forget to mention it, you should always save room for dessert at Omari’s Grill. All of the desserts are homemade, including an authentically French creme brulee and the totally decadent New York-style cheese cake shown in the far right photo on this page, which is served with fresh strawberries and a chocolate sauce that has other ingredients Anass wouldn’t share with me. “The sauce is a secret,” he says with a smile.
Omari’s also caters to families with an affordable kids menu (nothing more than $5) and there is a beautiful covered patio that can seat about as many people as the inside dining area, which features a premium, full-liquor bar with very reasonable prices.
For more information about Omari’s Grill & Bar (26133 Lexington Oaks Blvd.), call (813) 907-7270 or visit LexingtonOaksGolf.com and please tell Anass and Susana I sent you!