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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
i've had all these dishes before as well. the milk fed chicken is only available for a month or two.
the value is incredible. its actually jaw dropping. on the value scale alone, one has to give it 10 stars. i always leave feeling guilty i've paid too little
as far as the wine info, you can always ask to see the bottle and take your own notes, or simply ask for more info. im not sure you can compare. the servers at the places with service that you speak of get paid much much more than
I agree with the service variation, and I agree with modernist that you can ask for more info and they'd probably be able to tell you more (I personally prefer to let my palate guide my taste and not be bothered with excessive details -- if it's an exceptional pairing, I'll ask server for them.)
And the menu is pretty spontaneous to me (and more so than most of the other tasting menus I've had, which are laid out as a prix-fixe menu) -- the only thing that is pre-prepped are the amuses and maybe the apps and that's understandable, they're small bites and are eaten pretty fast -- it'll be a drag on the kitchen and lots of lag time for the diners if each of those small plates are prepped to order. But the larger plates seemed to be made to order and depends on your preferences/allergies/avoidances and whatever the chef had available and handy.
Yes, fully aware of how a kitchen operates, but considering the qaulity of ingredients and the attention to detail in other courses, I thought the line could spend the 1-2 minutes and slice the hamachi from the fillet at the time it was ordered rather than going the pre-sliced route.
As for the service, sure I could have asked, but that's not the point. A waiter that says, "here's another white from France..um, from somewhere called Borgund". So then I DO ask for more info (year, villages, etc.) and he comes back with "it's from Burgundy". Thanks. Whatever, it seems from other posts that the rest of the waitstaff is more capable and I got a lemon or perhaps someone new. It happens.
Great service to me is informative without being overbearing and anticipating questions from the diners i.e. if there's a special tell me the price, if both diners are getting the tasting menu then perhaps the chef will bring out different courses for each diner and basic wine service i.e know the region, producer, year and at least a one-liner on why it pairs with the course.
I'm definitely going again; I just hope it catches on.
Does anyone think the location might be a problem i.e. it's a "destination" restaurant?
Ah. well if you asked for more and all he came back with was just "Burgundy" as a reply, (your original post didn't indicate that), then I'd agree more about your lemony service. I believe when I went I got year, region and varietal (where applicable) for the wines.
I agree that great service is informative w/o overbearing, but different people have different thresholds of what they consider enough information or what's overbearing.
I think that you may have had a new waiter (maybe someone in training?) that night, as every waiter I have had there has been incredible knowledgable and well-informed about the wine and the food.
I had the chicken last week. It's hard to be impressed with chicken, no matter how it's prepared, but I have to say this simple dish really blew me away. The crisp, light skin and that moist, succulent meat...all three of us were moaning with delight (sorry if my R rated lingo is offensive to anyone!) as we ate it.
I believe Josef only had a small number (40?) out of the 200 milk-fed poussins that were available, and I think the other restos that got the remaining are far pricier than Opus.
Was there a secret chowhound dinner at Opus last night? I was there also, wanting to try the bacos. Made a reservation on opentable, got a call from Opus yesterday afternoon confirming the res, and it ended up being cancelled because I won't be in the main dining room. The host said bacos can only be ordered at the bar/lounge, which is by walk-in so I was welcome to come anytime. Between the bar and lounge, i chose the later (saw the big chairs!). The lounge is NOT smoke-free. It's considered open air patio, outdoor extension of the restaurant. It was quite cold in this area last night and I didn't appreciate the smoking. Looking back, I would've preferred the bar (warmer, smoke-free, livelier). My original plan was to order the 3 course tasting plus bacos but not dining in the main room threw me off. Ended up ordering a la carte: grilled hearts of palm salad, chilled octopus salad, lamb/chorizo baco, pork belly/carnitas baco, ice cream sandwich, pistachio tarte (with celery ice cream?). Wines were glass of grenache blend, glass of nero d'avola (paired with lamb baco). There is a chef's choice wine pairing option for each baco. The salads are interesting and the bacos are great bar food, or as a course or an appetizer shared. Didn't get any of the complimentary amuses or firsts I was accustomed to when dining in the main room. Bill was $80 and I felt it was overpriced, especially compared to the 3 course tasting with wine pairing. I have to also agree about the experience and knowledge of the wait staff can vary from person to person.
Experiences obviously vary widely at Opus. We too had amateurish service when we went about 3 wks ago. Our server was really nice, but it was obvious he did not have a great deal of food or wine knowledge--I actually think he admitted that with regard to the wine. In contrast, our cheese course was brought by a woman, and she gave very detailed descriptions of both the cheese and the wine. We commented that we wished she had been waiting on us all night. Sounds like the person others are describing.
Also, although we really liked the food, I had a few complaints. First, the white wines, all of which I think were Italian, just did not pair well with the dishes IMO. One was so bad I didn't drink it (we did tell our server). They were also served much too cold. (I also agree with others that I would have liked more red wines - we had only red with the chicken & the cheese). So I would probably not do wine pairings again (and therefore would be less likely to order the tasting menu). Second, I found it odd that we were not served a meat dish. If you order a 6 course tasting, I normally expect meat of some variety. We had chicken as our meat course. That was really not a big deal, I just found it surprising. Finally, my husband commented the sashimi, which was good, would have been much better had it not been so thickly sliced.
Finally, and this is more of a comment than a criticism, we didn't receive all the extra courses everyone else described in previous reviews. I read several posts detailing 3 course tastings that were remarkably similar to our 6-course tasting, with the addition of maybe one course. I think the restaurant should be careful of that, because giving all of those extras regularly will cause people to expect it (and then obviously to be disappointed if they do not receive them).
I have to chime in a bit here. First thing is that I like the OP's handle... but seriously, I thought I was the Vino Snob... Being a pretty serious, occasionally obsessive wine collector, I can understand wanting to know more about the wines being served and being frustrated if the server did not have the right info. I'm not sure I would have done anything differently than the OP... I may... stress MAY... have asked the server to send over or to talk to the "wine person" or sommelier... but that's a judgement call at best. Knowing the specifics of what you're drinking is good and important.
My experiences at Opus have been a bit different since I normally bring my own wines and the conversations I've had with the staff there have always been very good in terms of wine. I really think the OP had a bit of bad luck in that the server didn't know enough about the wines being poured. I'm willing to bet though that this is something that the chef and management at the resto are working hard to correct. They seem to be trying very hard to improve all parts of the place and given the level of positive reviews from folks here it sounds like they are making good progress. But, birth is hard... and they are running a good restaurant with pretty damn good food while doing this, so I tend to like it a lot.
When I had the sliced hamachi for the first time I too thought it was pre-sliced, but later on I checked. I asked the chef and guess, what? They do slice it when you order... BUT, they do keep the whole pieces VERY cold so that may have thrown you off. It's funny... I checked on this very same thing as the OP. Go figure.
I too also had the Poussin recently... and I gotta agree with Clare... dude... it was really, really good. Did a little research on poussin... here is what I found:
"Poussin", French for unfledged chicken or spring chick, owes its tenderness to its young age and fast growth. Just over three weeks of age at processing, and with a dressed weight of approximately 12 to 20 oz. for a whole-body, eviscerated bird, these happy little chickens are free to roam about in comfortable heated barns, in their own natural social clusters. The young Poussins have complete freedom to eat and drink at will. This combined with their young age allows Poussin to be of extremely tender, light meat, while delicately textured and flavored character.
Some have confused these special small chickens with "cornish hens": Poussins are younger than cornish by a week or more when prepared for the market. Cornish can reach as much as 2 lbs in size whereas a Poussin ranges from 12 to 20 ounces. Recent market changes in part due to limited availability of fresh cornish, has pushed the traditional Poussin size to the upper ends of the size range. Historically, Poussin would be closer to 12 to 16 ounces is all. In recent years we have seen demand stronger for birds weighing closer to 16 to 20 ounces in size when eviscerated whole body ready to cook.
From what I remember the chef telling me about the poussin he is serving, they are from a small farm in Pennsylvania that he’s been working with for almost 6 years. They only grow like 200 or 300 of these little guys and a very small group of restos get the birds. Other places that get them are Daniel in NYC (awesome!), Jean George, and French Laundry. When I had this chicken… it was fabulous. Amazing. I hope he gets more for when I go back.
I think the chef at Opus is really trying to do some cool stuff with his food. Is some of the stuff “out there”? Absolutely. I like bold flavors and new combos… that doesn’t mean everything is gonna work. But I do love the majority of the stuff. Lastly, I agree with the OP… you’re not going to find this level of food or ingredients at these prices anywhere else in LA. Glad to hear the vinosnob is going to give it another try and I would let them know up front that you want to talk to someone who is more wine knowledgeable… should you HAVE to ask that? Probably not, but I don’t think that is too big a deal.
We are going to Opus on Saturday for our Valentine's Day celebration. It'll be our second time there, but the first time was the SCARF dinner a few months ago so it'll be sort of like our first time. I've been debating between the 3-course and 6-course and based on the recent posts I've decided that the 3-course will be perfect.
My question has to do with the wine pairing and I'm adding it to this thread since a lot of the thread has to do with the pairings. We like wine and it's fun and interesting to do pairings, but I'm finding that wine tends to give me a headache more than hard liquor like gin, bourbon and tequila. Even though I take two or three Advils as I start drinking, I'm finding I can't drink as much wine as maybe I would like to. Are the pours at Opus large, like does anyone have a guess as to how many ounces they're pouring for each glass and how many different wines are served for the 3-course? I have to figure out if it's manageable. Sometimes my husband and I will share the wine but if we get different food that wouldn't necessarily work, and I'm thinking about asking that we have different items to maximize tastes, since it seems Chef Centeno will do that. Any thoughts from you wine drinkers, snobs or not?
re: Debbie W
Does red wine bother you more that white or is it just wine in general? Perhaps your allergic to the tannins, sulfites or histamines found in wine.
If I'm tasting a lot of wine, I try and keep to an even wine to water ratio to stay hydrated. If it's going to be a really long meal, I'll take milk thistle and advil or tylenol.
Used to be that whites bothered me, reds didn't, but over a period of 20+ years it seems to have gradually transitioned to reds causing more of a problem (sadly). I don't get headaches with foods such as salami or hard cheeses but I do seem to be having environmental-type allergies where I didn't before. Funny how things continue to change throughout life. I've never heard of milk thistle so I'll be googling that.
re: Debbie W
Actually if the chef is feeling good and the restaurant not slammed - one thing you can do is split a 6-course. Same price, more varieties of food (and when my mom & I checked it out, many times we got our own full-size versions of amuses and small plates)
I think it was about six wines for the three course tasting, with about 2 oz. per pour. It really didn't seem like that much wine since we were sitting there at least two hours. I did make my boyfriend drive home though. If you prefer reds to whites as I do, it might be better just to order wines by the glass.
damnit, those bacos sound great. next tues. also, what's the current dessert situation? and i wish they had some great beers on tap, but it's mostly bottled crap.