Omaha has two James Beard semifinalists

Breaking food news this morning: Omaha has two James Beard semifinalists.

Congratulations to Ben Maides at Au Courant Regional Kitchen and David Utterback at Yoshitomo.

Both Yoshitomo and Au Courant have become staples of the new guard of restaurants turning Benson from a bar neighborhood to a food destination.

Au Courant, 6064 Maple St.

Maides opened Au Courant in 2016 with business partner Carlos Mendez in the former location of España. Before that, Maides worked at Avoli, in Dundee, and co-ran the Old Market’s Market House until it closed as a result of water damage from the nearby fire at M’s Pub.

Maides serves a five-course chefs tasting menu that remains one of the best deals anywhere in Omaha, and often serves some of the freshest, most creative dishes a diners can find in the city. The restaurant recently introduced an excellent brunch service.

Yoshitomo, 6009 Maple St.

At Yoshtomo, David Utterback is quietly pushing the Omaha restaurant scene forward. He’s invited several guest chefs, including Hiro Sato, one of the hottest tickets in Japan, to cook in Omaha. (Check out my Instagram highlights for a full series of images from their collaborative dinner.)

Utterback serves the city’s most innovative sushi, hands down, shipping top-notch fish and seafood to Omaha and then working his magic on it, aging, curing and otherwise playfully changing the food he serves, but never overpowering the quality of the product itself.

Before opening his own sushi restaurant, he ran the sushi program at Flagship Restaurant Group for many years.

If you haven’t yet dined at either of these places, you’re missing out on where Omaha’s food scene is headed. Good luck getting a reservation.

More on this as the news gets out today. Read the full list of semifinalists here.

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