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Feb 14, 2007 09:54 AM

Opus Tasting Menu Review

Checked out the hype at Opus last night and my wife and I each had the 3 course tasting menu; I also had the wine pairing.

Simply put, the restaurant space is warm and inviting and has a casual upscale feel to it. Nuff about that.

Our tasting menu started off with the savory panna cotta; the salty and sweet flavors worked well together and would be the flavor theme for all of the remaining dishes. My wine pairing was a sweet sparkler from Italy.

Next was a plate split with hamachi on the left and a fried fish fritter (on a stick) with a tomatoe carraway sauce. This was by far the weakest of the courses. The hamachi was obviuosly pre-sliced and left in a very cold refrigerator until the order was placed; I've never had sashimi that cold in my life. The fritter was a fritter. Wine pairing was a verdicchio, again from Italy.

Next was a play on bacon and eggs. An egg shell filled with bacon, soft cooked egg and creme fraiche. What's not to like here? The pairing was another white, a soave from Italy.

Next was a soup course. Hazelbut broth with small dices of foie gras and grape. At first, the hazelnut seemed to taste overwhelming, but combined with the foie gras, the flavors melded together nicely. The pairing was a white bourgogne; I tried to get more info from our server, but to no avail, more on that later.

Next was our first protein and the best of all the courses. A sauteed john dory fillet with small bites of sweet potatoe, beet, a strange root I didn't recognize with a huckleberry gastrique. Utterly delicious. Again, like previous courses, sweet flavors were paired with salt and savory. I don't remember the wine pairing on this one; probably because the fish was so good.

Next was a chicken dish, I believe the waiter called it "milk fed" chicken; still stumps me when I think about it. In addition to the "fried" chicken cutlets, there were green beans and a surprise on the bottom of the stack, a sauteed veal sweet bread. A very pleasant dish, but nothing special. Wine pairing was a nero d'avola.

For dessert, a very light chocolate cake topped with a sliced strawberry, cream and roasted almonds that must have been dusted with black pepper and cumin. Very flavorful and light and the perfect end to our meal. Wine pairing was a dessert wine, not a muscato, but similar.

Out of 10, I'd give this meal a 6. The chef gets high marks for being daring with his unusal flavor combinations that work for the most part.

I think the chef has loads of talent, but my criticism is the food lacks polish and refinement. The service is very amature and is my biggest complaint. Our server was very amiable, but in terms of understaning cuisine and especially wine, he was clueless. He could not describe a wine beyond saying, "here's a verdicchio". OK, from what year, what producer? Why is this a good pairing with my dish?

Granted, I'm a little nutz about wine, but still, if you're offering a fine dining menu option such as a tasting menu with a wine pairing, your staff has to be knowledgeable about the product.

Another criticism, was the pace of the meal. Our first four courses came out one after the other. Literally, we had just a few minutes of rest. That tells me the tasting menu isn't really "spontaneus"; it's all on deck ready to plate. And, I was hoping we would get different courses which is common at other restaurants when you order the tasting menu.

All in all, Opus gets points for an electic dining experience and it's an exceptional value. I can't think of anywhere else were you can get a 7 course tasting menu for $30.

I wish Opus luck.

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  1. The service seems to vary. I agree about the lack of info on the wine; in some cases it was impossible to tell what it was due to the server's accent. Our courses didn't come out nearly as close together, however, we had plenty of time inbetween to relax. It was my boyfriend's first tasting menu and he was a bit restless even with the three course one! We had the milk fed baby chicken too -- I thought chickens ate grain, but whatever. It was tender but as you say, unexceptional. It is nice to hear, however, how even though we had a similar menu two weeks ago, there were different touches and different dishes each time. We went last night for the "Baco night" -- these were very tasty $8 flatbreads, although the service in the lounge was even more scattered. We had the spicy lamb & chorizo baco, the pork belly one and the fish one which was tasted like a Mexican fish taco. It's a fun and reasonable way to sample the restaurant, but beware the cigar smokers in the lounge.

    1. I was there last night too, for bacos at the bar. This my second Tuesday in a row at Opus, last week my boyfriend had the bacos while I had the exact same "spontaneous" tasting as you. I too ordered 3 courses and ended up with 7 (quite a strain on my jeans since I had already eaten half a baco). I loved the food with one quibble that the egg was a little overcooked to my taste. I prefer a runnier yolk. I read a couple of reviews here yesterday from two different posters who both had the same dishes, so my guess is that the tasting is not spontaneous at all.

      Overall, I enjoy Opus very much and find the value unbeatable. I may just end up there again next Tuesday, as those bacos are unbelieveably delicious!

      1. We had a completely different experience from you. Like a polar opposite. We also had the 3 course with the wine pairings. Our waitress told us all about the wines, the region, why she paired them with each course and at the end she was nice enough to write them all down for us since we enjoyed them so much. We spent 2.5 hours there with a lot of spacing in between each course. We also asked to have different courses and the chef accomodated us so we tasted many different dishes. We loved Opus. I think you should give it another shot. Also, the milk fed chicken was our favorite dish, the chicken was so buttery and fresh. We truly had a great meal at Opus and can't wait to return.

        1. vinosnob, i believe i was there as well and had the same meal to a T, except for an additional course and the substitution of shrimp for foie gras in the soup.. we got a round of dungeness crab salad that was to die for. however, since i am allergic to crab, they provided me with a zesty beet salad that helped cleanse my palate.

          sorry to hear that the service you experienced was not up to par, however, our server was fantastic. everytime she brought out a wine, she would explain what region it was from, what we should expect and the reason why the wine was paired with the particular course. she was extremely amiable as well. i guess it really is luck of the draw when it comes to service.

          all in all, my friends and i had a wonderful meal with the egg shell w/ bacon and the milk fed young chicken w/ delectable sweetbread "croutons" being the highlights. as a matter of fact, my friends and i are still exchanging emails with one another to try and go back and partake in the chicken before they are out. josef mentioned he received 40 from his supplier/purveyor.

          as for timing, we were in at 8pm and finished the meat at 11:45pm. i can't say that the meal was rushed and we had plenty of time to gush/chat about the dish we polished off before the nexct one arrived. i gotta say, timing was damn good.

          vinosnob, i gotta agree with you that $30 is a phenomenal deal for the dining experience. although the wine parings added another $25, it was definitely worth it........

          chowpatty, i really need to make it out on a tuesday and partake in baco tuesdays. they look soooo freaking good.

          1. I did the paired 3 course on Monday night. The restaurant was more crowded than I had ever seen; there was an Incubus show going on at the Wiltern. Even after the show supposedly started, the dining room was still about 1/2 filled and service was subsequently much slower compared to the second half of our meal. I had the same complaint with the yellowtail sashimi as the OP -- first slice was thick and super cold, just on the edge of being frozen. I let the other two slices sit for a few minutes and they tasted better than the first, but were also more thinly sliced. This is the second time I've had the 3 course and also the milk-fed chicken. The first time we had this dish, my dining companions and I were joking that our table had a hidden microphone because we thought that chicken was such a conservative choice for the tasting menu, and within minutes the Chef was at our table explaining how special these chickens are. In fact, we apparently had the last of the batch as only twenty were sent to the restaurant. This was two weeks ago, and two nights ago, I had the chicken again. I didn't mind it as I enjoyed the dish, but I was a bit skeptical of the "you're getting a special treat" speech as we got the same description at both meals. He told us that the chickens are fed only milk for a few weeks (?) in the "traditional French method," not that I know anything about that. We had a really nice crab salad as well as thai snapper over some root vegetables. The dessert was a chocolate cake with vanilla anglaise and pomegranate seeds; I thought the cake was dry and dessert overall unremarkable. Our server was pretty attentive and generously topped off our wine glasses a few times. I still really want to try baco night, or a meal with more courses to experience more variety.