TIPSY Talk with Chef Omar Ben-Hammou of Soho’s ‘Her Name Was Carmen’

Chef Omar 2

As the one-year anniversary of one of Soho’s most lively hot spots is upon us, we decided to check out Her Name Was Carmen and indulge in everything that it has to offer; from the food, to the drinks, to the music and dancing. As Manhattan’s only upscale Latin American restaurant, it’s an experience not to be missed. Come for the food and drink, and stay for the dancing!

Over the past year, the combination of outstanding culinary expertise and an exuberant social scene has cemented Carmen’s stance in the industry as a restaurant that draws the “it crowd”, as celebrity guests such as Karlie Kloss, Ashley Graham, Lala Anthony and Babba Canales have all eaten at Carmen over the last few months.

To celebrate the past year, Chef Omar Ben-Hammou, of Lima, Peru, and
formerly of Le Bernardin in NYC, has unveiled a brand new menu including succulent seafood dishes accompanied with new impressive vegetarian options. With that being said, we decided to sit down with Chef Omar Ben-Hammau and discuss his culinary influences, history, techniques, and signature dishes. We then ate, and man was it GOOD!

Chef Omar Ben-Hammou

We also got the opportunity to wine and dine with Carmen’s Wine Director & Sommelier, Yuval Bar-Kokhba. Each dish was accompanied with a glass of wine, which just added to the experience. Yuval knows what’s up! More on that to come…

Check out our TIPSY Talk with Chef Omar Ben-Hammou, along with some of the dishes that we tried…

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TIPSY Diaries: Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Your history? The current market? Location?

Chef Omar: My inspiration is found everywhere – moments, places, meals or sometimes, even people. However, most of the time it comes from food that I want to work with, or a flavor I have tasted in the past that I want to recreate or use.

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TIPSY Diaries: In your opinion, what is the most important lesson when creating/cooking a dish?

Chef Omar: There are many lessons that are learned when creating a dish, but for me the biggest is balance and consistency.

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TIPSY Diaries: Do you have a signature dish that you enjoy making? (either at Carmen or at home) and what is your favorite thing to eat?

Chef Omar: Personally, I like to make dishes that are sentimental and remind me of home – So, I often make “arroz con chancho”, which is a topical dish from my mother’s hometown in the north of Peru.

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TIPSY Diaries: Is there a difference between the Latin dishes here in the states as opposed to Latin America?

Chef Omar: Yes, and ingredients are different too, so it is often hard to get the same result. Sometimes, you need to adapt flavors to the clientele over here in the States.

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TIPSY Diaries: When creating the menu for Carmen, what inspired your dishes? Why did you choose what you chose to be on the menu?

Chef Omar: I am inspired by the local products and flavors of Latin America – mostly from Peru. It was quite challenging to create a menu that combines contemporary New York food with Latin roots, but we dedicated a lot of time into perfecting this menu and we are very happy with the end result.

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TIPSY Diaries: What is your style of cooking?

Chef Omar: My mantra is “Less is more”, sometimes simplicity is key when creating a menu, you don’t want the customers to be overwhelmed when ordering. I think the new menu will be a testament to that, each dish is simple yet succulent and flavorful

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It was now time to indulge, and indulge we did! Chef Omar has created a menu for the restaurant that combines seafood with flavor inspirations from Latin American countries. Dishes like the Oysters, the Salmon Crudo, and the Tuna Mojama are prepared with incredibly fresh ingredients that are detailed with flavors that enhance them. The Hamachi Tiradito exemplifies the upscale Latin American-inspired cuisine that Her Name Was Carmen has to offer.

Here’s the rundown of what we ate…

Charred Tomato (smoked almonds, sundried tomatoes, watermelon radish, & tomato water)…

Charred Tomato

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Spinach Salad (truffle vinaigrette, shallots, & herbs)…

Spinach Salad

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Hamachi Tiradito (avocado, jalapeno and olive oil emulsion, & rice crackers)…

Hamachi Tiradito

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Truffle Pasta (truffle butter & lemon confit, clams, & parmesan) – WOW! Hand-down one of my favorite pasta dishes. Ever.

Truffle Pasta

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White Chocolate Panna Cotta

White Chocolate Panna Cotta

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