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Jul 28, 2007 11:33 PM

Opus overrated

I live in the area, and I have to say, after trying this restaurant several times, I am always left disappointed. Tonight was no exception. I really enjoy exciting food and bold flavors, but something is always missing at Opus. My boyfriend and I have been patiently (for years) waiting for the Koreatown revolution. We were so looking forward to the opening of Opus a few years ago. We tried it, there were a few kinks, we went back, some new kinks, again, new kinks, etc. They are constantly changing the knowledge/age/gender/skill/ethnicity of their staff. Clearly, the management is trying to find the right formula, but they can't seem to get it right. The restaurant has changed hands from brother to sister...originally a steak and seafood restaurant. We tried it a few times during the original phase. Super attractive female asian staff...Taylor's was far superior, steaks, service and all. Then came a transition, new staff. Sexy American Caucasion women. They knew little about the menu, wine, cocktails, etc. The food was generally ok, but overpriced considering the service. Then came the new management/ownership. The brother sold the restaurant to his sister (so we were told). My guess is that he grew tired of the lack of business, and saw the opportunity to escape...cut his losses. Soooo, the sister takes over. Then begins the miriad of staff and menu changes. The new chef gets a lot of press. We decide to try once again. The bar staff, mainly a young man whose name begins with a D, are knowledgeable and personable. This staff does a great job, though the food is still overpriced, inaccessible, and not really that impressive. We return soon after only to find him gone. They have fired their entire staff...this time it's a heathy mix of attractive Caucasian and Asian women. Tonight, a few months later, I have once again succumed to the temptation of staff, mostly men. Our service was perfunctory and scripted, the food was bland, overcooked, not special. Our neighboring table concurred. I have read countless reviews between the newspapers and food magazines. These reviews have led me back to Opus, always ready to enjoy myself. I can't help but wonder if these reviewers may have received extra special treatment, or if the restaurant was having a great day, or if I am just completely nuts. Regardless, my experiences have all been tepid at best. Go to Opus if you wish, but don't expect much, and you won't be let down.

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  1. too bad for tepid experiences. we've had only great service and phenomenal food lately. we love OPUS.

    may i ask what you ordered?

    1 Reply
    1. re: revets2

      In the past, I have tried the steak. We've had pretty much all of the appetisers one time or another. Last nighe we had a hearts of palm salad with walnuts and peaches. That was pretty tasty. My boyfriend had the salmon entree...completely flavorless. I ordered butter poached shrimp with yukon potatoes and seafood emulsion. The shrimp was overcooked.

    2. That's a real shame. I too have noticed the staff turnovers, but I have not had the "tepid" experiences. I've always had really good ones... both food and service. I've asked about the new/changing staff and it sounds like there were issues with the past folks so things had to be done... I thought it was a good thing that a restaurant seemed to react on the staff side when there were issues.

      My food experiences there have been pretty strong. I also feel that the $$ value is pretty good there when compared to other fine dining restaurants. Compared to small neighborhood joints in K-Town, it is more expensive... but I've always felt that Opus had the best tasting menu value in town.

      Also, most of the time I eat alone there at the bar... probably 75% of the time.

      4 Replies
      1. re: woojink

        We always sit at the bar as well. Last night was the first time we sat at a table. We were wondering if our experience would be better. The staff is changing because they first of all can't keep a good staff due to lack of business, and second the owner keeps changing the actual bar staff in order to find what combination will actually bring in business (hence the sexy ladies who have absolutely no idea how to assemble a cocktail...I had to instruct them how to make a manhattan. yikes). I have worked in restaurants and bars for years, and the food and drinks should be able to stand on their own. The wait staff in the dining room may not change as much. Living in the neighborhood, I can see this place is never all that busy. This is strange to me, since it has been written about as well as talked about so much (I even heard an interview on KCRW recently). Why aren't they busy? At this point, I can only assume that others have not been impressed enough to return. I think the food can be good, but for us, it's always something that's not quite right. I have not tried the tasting menu...almost ordered it last night, but I can't eat lamb. The guy next to us had it, and said it was ok, but the lamb wasn't good. I'll probably go back in a few months...there aren't too many options in the area. I will be prepared to like it, but I am losing faith.

        1. re: Loveleenda

          When I went (back in March) I had to instruct them how to make a Shirley Temple.
          The food was good, but I wasn't super impressed -- yes, it's inexpensive for fine dining, but my husband is still talking about how small the portions on the tasting menu were.

          1. re: Amuse Bouches

            it is a tasting menu after should not expect large portions. =)

            1. re: wilafur

              I explained that to him, but other tasting menus I've had have been calibrated so that the total amount of food you get is satisfying. Opus was for him, on the small side. I was more satisfied, but I was also in my first trimester of pregnancy, and my appetite at that point was on the small side.

              It wasn't a bad meal by any means; I just don't really get the unrestrained raves that Opus receives on the board.

      2. Dined at Opus last night (saturday) and couldn't have had a more positive experience. The flavors where bold, the dishes where very well executed and the service impeccable. We had the 6 course tasting menu with the wine pairings. Sardines, Foix Gras, Squab, poached egg, pablano soup, etc. For 60$ a head (+36$ for wine pairing) it would be hard to find a better deal in town.

        Wonderful meal.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jeffro

          I'm sure the tasting menu is a great value, and a great experience. Our waitress seemed reluctant to share any information about it. We had pull everything out of her.

          1. re: jeffro

            Madone, try the salad! Thats enough rich food to give Ghandi G O U T.

          2. Does the ethnicity of the staff really matter? You don't say much about the food, which I have always found to be deicious and inspired. The tasting menu is really the way to go. If there is a component you don't enjoy (such as lamb) they are always happy to replace it with something more to your liking.

            19 Replies
            1. re: hrhboo

              Our waitress told us that the chef is very reluctant to change the tasting menu unless you are allergic. She was pretty adament about this.

              1. re: Loveleenda

                That is simply not true. At the start of the meal the server always inquires about your preferences and if there is anything you don't eat. They are ALWAYS accommodating! The tasting menu changes all the time, even on the same night. I often see the tables around us enjoying different courses to the ones we are enjoying.

                1. re: hrhboo

                  Honestly, our server did not even mention the tasting menu at first. We had to ask a neighboring table what they were eating. When I mentioned not being able to eat lamb, the waitress strongly discouraged us from ordering the tasting menu. She mentioned that the chef really does not like to change anything on the menu. This might not be the case, but she certainly implied that it was not up for debate.

                  1. re: hrhboo

                    Honestly, our waitress was not accomodating. That is my problem with the restaurant in the first place. Inconsistency. She did not even mention the tasting menu to us. We had to ask a neighboring table what they were eating. I made a point to ask about substituting anything for lamb. She clearly said no. She mentioned that the chef has a set tasting menu, and that he really prefers not to change it. She discouraged us from ordering it, which I found to be disappointing, since this is so obviously what gets talked about so often. She was overall uninformative and absolutely not accomodating. I wish I had your experience. I wish I had your server, but after so many inconsistent visits, I'm not sure I've got it in me anymore.

                    1. re: Loveleenda

                      Probably the reason she didn't is because they don't officially offer it any longer. According to a previous chowhound post, basically diners were being complete jerks about special requests, splitting dishes, etc. It became cost ineffective to offer it. So they don't officially serve it, but if you ask for it, they'll accommodate you. Here's the previous post:


                      Can I ask how you know the management "cleaned out" the entire staff, rather than it just being the normal turnover of a restaurant? Maybe they all got sitcom deals...

                      1. re: writergirl

                        We learned about the "cleaning out" of staff from the bartenders as well as one of the past managers that "couldn't wait to get the hell out of here because the owners suck."

                      2. re: Loveleenda

                        Very strange. I went with a friend who has a shellfish and nut allergy and they were more than accomodating. We asked first if this was okay, and made it clear that if it wasn't, it would not be a problem for us and we would happily order off the menu. The waiter went and talked to the chef, then came back saying it would be no problem at all. And this meant that we could not have anything with ANY shellfish or nuts, including broths, reductions, etc.

                        We were pleasantly surprised that they would be willing to customize the tasting menu to fit my friend's allergies.

                        1. re: Clare K

                          Allergies sort of are a different matter. Eating something you are allergic to can kill you.

                          But I kind of wish the flexibility was for everyone.

                          1. re: Diana

                            Apparently it is. Here's a link to a recent post from a couple with dietary restrictions.


                            1. re: Diana

                              I believe they do. In fact, the chef (in my experience) has always asked if there is anything we won't eat/dislike.

                          2. re: Loveleenda

                            sounds like you got a bad apple of a waitress. i'm glad we've never run into this waitress. we've been twice with friends who don't eat squab and the chef has gladly replaced with something else both times.

                          3. re: hrhboo

                            I just wanted to point out that I am commenting on my experience. It was real and very true, and unlike yours. They are NOT always accomodating. They did NOT inquire about our preferences. They DID tell us we would not likely be accomodated.

                            1. re: Loveleenda

                              As a long time eater at such places (including CUT in the shorter period) if you are specific to the waiter they were accommodating. Maybe it was the direct manner with what I presented (not for my benefit as I'll take stomach to hand for a great meal that might pain me later) but I've never been bashful or timid and I don't expect "NO" for an answer.

                              No great (or great aspiring) restaurant I know of would like to see if 2 (or more) people stand up and walk out, It's a spectacle unto itself that I'll gladly take advantage of that cachet.

                        2. re: hrhboo

                          Ethnicity certainly doesn't matter. However, the management seems to think so. Why else would the clean out they entire staff, bring in a new staff of a specific ethnicity, again and again. It bothers me that the management does this, sacrificing the quality of a talented staff for looks, etc. If the food is so great, why treat the staff this way.

                          1. re: Loveleenda

                            not sure what you mean about replacing talented staff with untalented staff. everytime i have been to opus (i go @ 1x mo), the servers and the mgmt have been tip top. the servers has always provided me with a great description of the dishes coming out along with reason(s) why the wine was paired with the particular dish.

                            as for the bar, i can't comment on ability to make frou frou drinks as i usually drink patron or ketel soda's....but the service from all the bartender's have been exemplary.

                            as for the food, other posters have summed up my feelings. the food is damn good and i love the fact that they go outside the box when it comes to the tm.

                            1. re: wilafur

                              I had a bartender that could not make a manhattan, which is as classic as a gin martini. As for frou frou drinks, I ordered on from the Opus bar menu. None of the bartenders knew how to make them. They forgot to put in our dessert order. I did mention we had one excellent bartender. He was the only reason we kept returning. No one else (at the bar) has known about the food or wine. This has of course been over the span of the few years that Opus has been open. But everytime a new staff, that is strange.

                            2. re: Loveleenda

                              Don't you think it's a huge assumption on your part to think that the management is purposely hiring people of a particular race to try and figure out what works? I've been to Opus many times and have never noticed that the staff is made up of one, particular ethnic group. It always seems pretty mixed to me. And short of one or two "hot" waiters/waitresses I've seen there, most of the staff seems pretty average/normal looking to me. Not like a lot of other LA hotspots where most of the waitstaff look like supermodels.

                              It just seems that you are inventing a problem that just isn't there. If you are not impressed with the food, fine. Service, fine. But to assume the management has some ulterior motive when it comes to who they hire sounds more like a conspiracy theory to me than reality.

                              Clare K.

                              1. re: Clare K

                                The ethnicity of the staff seems pretty mixed to me too, and I eat there about once a month also.

                                1. re: Clare K

                                  I don't mean to make this sound caddy, or like a conspiracy theory. It is merely an observation. When they first opened...I was there. There were half dressed women behind the bar. They did not provide good service. When we returned, there was a new staff. We thought this was a good sign. We figured they were still figuring out what works. This time, an all Korean female staff behind the bar. This did not strike me as odd, because it is Koreatown. Most restaurants in the neighborhood have Korean staff, male or female. It seemed logical. They were not attracting American clientelle. Then the multitude of changes continued, including the restaurant changing ownership. I have only sat at a table in the dining room once, so I don't pretend to comment on the different staff that wait tables, only on the bar staff. All I know, is that the one time we did sit at a table, we did not have good service. I don't care what my server/bartender looks like, as long as I get good service. One of the last times I went to Opus, the entire set of knowledgeable bartenders was gone, replaced once again with an all Korean female bar staff. When we asked when the other bartender was working, the bartender told us that the management fired the entire bar staff and hired an all new bar staff. I understand how I might sound like I'm inventing a problem, but this situation exists. I have at times enjoyed the food, other times I haven't. At times, I have enjoyed the staff, other times, I haven't. After working in restaurants for most of my life, it has been my experience that it all tricals down from the management. They are in control of all of these factors.

                            3. We feel Opus is one of the best choices near the downtown area and enjoyed a nice TM there about a month ago. The Chef's style isn't for everyone and he always pushing the envelope, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: russkar

                                I agree, the chef is very talented. I've been to Meson G, and enjoyed the food there as well. It's the management and staff that has left me with a bad taste in my mouth.