As soon as you walk into A Foreign Taste, you feel transported to Europe. JT Agenor, sommelier, and Noelle Agenor, operations manager, are a father-daughter duo who share a love for food and traveling.
“We’ve never been in the restaurant industry before, so we all grew into our roles here and learned about the industry,” Noelle says.
The idea of the restaurant started when the two first traveled to Italy where they say they experienced exceptional food and wine.
“We gradually grew into our passion,” JT says. “And then taking that passion and turning it into this, is a dream come true.”
The atmosphere in Europe is something that stood out to JT and Noelle. The streets are filled with cafes and warm, cozy restaurants.
“There’s not a lot of that in Omaha,” Noelle says. “So, you come in here and you’re transported into an Italian Old-World place.”
When the restaurant first opened in 2020, it was a wine bistro with only small bites on the menu.
“We were unknown, so it would have been hard to open a full-dinner menu,” JT says.
The pandemic made it difficult to staff the restaurant, especially since COVID-19 restrictions limited to half-capacity. They also faced issues importing certain foods and wines.
The core of the menu was built over time and the inspiration came from the two traveling internationally for over a decade.
“That sparked our curiosity into wine and what birthed this idea,” Noelle says.
The menu is one-of-a-kind and features food and wine from different regions including Italy, France, Spain, South Africa and Australia.
“Those are all countries that we have visited and just fell in love with their European wines,” JT says.
JT explains the difference between California wines and European wines is that while California wines are more approachable, European wines are meant to pair with food.
“Omaha itself is such a huge California wine city,” JT says, “and we wanted to pivot and bring something fresh and educational.”
JT also says the secret to the perfect pairing is making sure your wine complements your food and vice versa. A lot of the wines in the restaurant cannot be found anywhere else in Omaha.
“My goal is not to tell people what to drink, but to expand their pallets and be open-minded to try something new,” JT says. “And 99 percent of the time, they end up loving it.”
The six-course tasting menu is something that the restaurant specializes in, a European tradition.
“Presentation is something that we really hone in on,” Noelle says. “So, your food is going to look like a piece of art essentially.”
The menu changes once a month and recently featured an egg yolk raviolo stuffed with ricotta, brown butter and candied walnuts. Other items on the recent tasting menu include fresh oysters, sweet potato soup, beef bavette, and seared scallops.
“We use a lot of local produce and a lot of fresh and clean ingredients like you have in Europe,” Noelle says.
Some of the fan favorites that Chef Gabriel Bowser notices are the South African roasted duck prepared with barley, caramelized onion, mushrooms, kale and shallots as well as the butter-basted filet topped with roasted root vegetables, confit potatoes and carrots.
“Our chef’s techniques and skills have really perfected the dishes and brought them to life,” Noelle says.
Chef Gabriel says his creative process consists of imagining the flavors in his head. He looks at all the different ingredients on the wall and pictures them coming together in a dish.
“I think it’s very artistic to be able to take the raw ingredients and transform them from beginning to end,” Gabriel says.
The duo says they see a variety of different diners that come to the restaurant. Some diners are in their upper 20s, others are in their 70s and everything in between.
“We offer something on the menu for every generation,” JT says.
The restaurant only seats 15 tables, which makes it more of an intimate setting, but still a comfortable, fine dining experience.
“When people walk through this door, we hear the gasp, we see the jaws drop,” Noelle says. “It’s visually something that I don’t think any other West Omaha restaurant has.”
When the food is served, the server details the ingredients and techniques within the dish to help educate diners not only on the food but also on the wine.
“We want to build that relationship,” JT says. “We want to build that camaraderie with our guests to become a staple in West Omaha.”
Some of their daily specials feature a half-priced bottle of wine on Wednesdays, which allows customers to try wines that aren’t featured on the menu.
On Thursdays, the restaurant offers a three-course menu that consists of a super salad, an entree, dessert and a glass of wine, all for $35 a person.
“We’re a small team of people,” Noelle says. “So, the level of care that you will receive when you’re serviced here is unmatched.” ◆