Opus Update - Review, Changes & New Tasting Menu policy.
So I went to Opus last night. Haven't been in nearly a month. Heard that there have been some changes, so thought I'd check it out. Went alone. Brought wine (red & white Burg).
There have been some changes... waitstaff has new uniforms. New General Manager, a very nice young lady, who used to be another manager there, so not a MAJOR change. One new bartender - I noticed because I ate at the bar, and it used to be two women bartenders, now it's one woman and one man... both very nice. Some new menu items and menu format. Several new drinks on the bar menu.
MOST IMPORTANTLY.... Chef Josef's food is still rockin' good. No change there. Thank the stars.
Biggest menu change is that the Tasting Menu options are no longer on the menu as a stated item. However, if someone specifically asks for a tasting menu, they will do one similar to the previous format (3, 6, or 9 course)... with some new rules... no more "sharing" tasting menus and tasting menus must be done for the whole table... not atypical rules, nor did I think them unreasonable. Others may and will likely disagree, but I don't think these rules are a big deal.
I asked some of the staff what happened and why this change... when you eat alone, you have plenty of time to chat with the staff... I like that, not so sure if they do... :).
Here's the scoop. Basically, people were really taking advantage of the restaurants fairly open tasting menu policy. To me some of the stuff I heard was downright abusive. Here are couple of (among many) examples. One party of 3 came in, one person ordered a 3 course tasting menu, and the other two asked to share a 6 course between the two of them, but asked the chef to do the ENTIRE 6 course tasting menu in a "tandem" style, so they either got TWO small tastes of each course or had to have different items for all three diners. Didn't these people realize how much extra work this means for the kitchen, staff and all involved? Remember, the prices would have been $60 for the 6 course (NO split charge), $30 for the 3 course... $90 for what was probably 15 (with the typical Opus gratis courses) courses... done as 20 or 25? Insane.
Another case one diner had come in for a 3 course tasting menu, as typical of Opus they were given 5 actual courses... including a fish and a meat course, etc..., when they came back a few days later ordered a 3 course menu again, and then were, again served 5 courses, but instead of a fish course as one of the 5, they got a soup course (still got a meat course)... this made the customer MAD and they rigorously complained about not getting a fish course. I was just shocked at this story... You get 5 really good courses for $30, and you complain about not getting fish? Seriously. Come. On.
I could not believe some of the other stories. The saddest thing was that it sounded like this was NOT an occasional problem. It really sounded like stuff like this happened on a near daily basis.
Kind of makes me a little mad and unhappy. Here we have a restaurant and chef that is totally passionate about creating a really high end tasting menu and dining experience for a super reasonable price, and people came in and just tried to push the envelope (not in a good way) and take severe advantage of the situation. Not cool.
So because of all that nonsense, Opus has taken the tasting menus off the menu, but they are available if you ask for them, and there are what I would call the "standard" tasting menu restrictions.
One additional note about the tasting menus... the prices will remain APPROXIMATELY the same ($30 for 3 course, $60 for 6 course, $90 for 9 course), but MAY be a bit higher if/when more expensive/higher end ingredients are used... such as caviar, truffles, abalone, etc... again, VERY COMMON practice, especially at these prices. Of course you should ask and check whether you'll be paying an extra $10 or $15 dollars for the tasting menu. It was told to me that an increases due to special ingredients wouldn't be significant... in the $10 range or so.
On to the food. Ate some really cool new dishes. They were really good. Great ingredient quality and preparation. Other than the Egg... everything else was a new dish. Here is what I had:
- Shot glass of watermelon and strawberry gazpacho. - Refreshing Amuse.
- Soft Shell Crab (fried) on top of a lengua salad - Wow.
- "Breakfast Egg"... soft poached egg with creme fraiche, cream of wheat, bacon & honey (an old favorite)
- English Pea Soup with crispy Veal Sweetbreads and Navel Oranges - when I first saw this, I thought there was no way oranges would work with this type of soup... I was wrong. Perfect counterbalance to the rich sweetbreads and creamy soup. Surprisingly good.
- Sauteed FRESH Abalone with Braised Short Ribs, topped with a tomato and almond relish - So GOOD. Rich, tasty, fresh tomato was another great flavor contrast.
- Sliced NY Steak with Braised Veal Cheeks over spiced Lentils - Dude. Kill me already with all this rich stuff. Really great.
- Duo of dessert - Chocolate Brownie with Strawberries and Strawberry Jam AND Lemon Pudding Cake topped with fruit and berries - The lemon cake was really, really good. Soft center, that actually tasted like lemon - unlike so many UN-lemony lemon cakes.
Again, the food is still top notch. I ate WAY too much. Life is good. I intend to return again soon.
Man, I love Opus so much. Good for them for laying down a few ground rules! Always excellent food and lovely, lovely staff.
I don't understand the first story. If one person ordered a 3-course tasting and the other two shared the 6-course, doesn't that only equal 9 different dishes (maybe 12-14 with extras)? Or did they want 12 mini-courses instead of 6 regular ones?
I think that restaurants reserve the right to refuse outlandish requests from customers, the peeps at Opus are WAY too nice for their own good!
Amen to that. The only reason I thought it was a little necessary for Opus staff to be accomodating and extra nice was when I went awhile ago, there were some service mix ups. It seemed also that other people were experiencing amateurish service but gosh-darn-friendliness made up for it.
But if they've ironed out those little mishaps there's no reason why they shouldn't feel free to reward themselvs by setting up some ground rules! Kudos to them, I can't wait to head back.
To me it sounded like that the two people who wanted to share a 6 course, wanted to split each of the six courses, so they would each get 6 tastes, and further more they asked to get it "tandem" which meant that each person (of the two) got something different so they could share TWO things each... so 12 different items served in 6 courses. Smaller portions of each. So they were asking for a DUO of presentation on each course, split among two people. Sorry if my explanation was unclear.
I was one of those who had done a split 6-course (not tandem) before and even then we did we got individual servings of the amuses & extras-- and the staff had to change flatware & silverware for us both between courses; so I understand Opus' point for the new policy (but they were VERY accomodating when my dining partner & I had this setup back in December)
The last time we went, maybe a month ago, we asked for the 3-course but if we could have different dishes. We'd done this before, on a Saturday night. This time, also on a Saturday night which *appeared* less busy than the prior time, the server asked Chef Josef and he said no, they couldn't do separate dishes that night, so we said cool, no problem. However, we were then given separate dishes! We had fewer extras that time than the previous time but it was still maybe 5 courses, and most of it was great. We'll continue to return notwithstanding this change, because Opus continues to offer delicious, creative food for a reasonable price, and the chef is a doll.
I loved, loved, loved Opus and went almost every other week for a while UNTIL we ( a party of 4) had a terrible experience with the manager (the old one I hope). I haven't been back but if there is a new GM, I just might. What does the new GM look like? I would love to to eat there again.
Hi woojink, and thanks for both the nifty review (food still sounds awesome) and the explanation of the new guidelines at Opus... A month or two ago, I initiated a post on the Not About Food board about the 'tandem' tasting menu concept, citing Opus as an example for potential complications in diner expectations. I was very mildly upbraided for suggesting that such a situation could, in time, blossom. Looks like it did, but also sounds as if both the restaurant and its loyal patrons have taken the new guidelines in stride, to the benefit of all...