Since it was posted here that Opus would be discontinuing its tasting menu after September, my friends and I decided we had to do it, and made a reservation for yesterday evening. We all love to eat, but I do the fine dining thing maybe a handful of times per year, and that's probably more often than most of my friends. Also, this was the first time any of us had done a tasting menu anywhere (wait, I did one at Restaurant Christine once, but I think it was only three courses). We opted for six courses, along with three orders of the octopus/pork belly/watermelon appetizer (split among eight of us), just because most of us at the table love that dish so much.
I made two mistakes early on: one, I pretty much starved myself all day in anticipation of the tasting menu (I know six courses isn't a crazy amount, but I don't have a very large appetite); and two, I ordered a cocktail at the bar while waiting for some of my friends to arrive (a martini made with Hendrick's gin and pulverized cucumber - it was fantastic, and according to the bartender, a creation of Chef Centeno's). So I was buzzing before the first course was even served. And of course I ordered the wine pairings...
One of my friends ordered a Gingered Jamie, one of their signature drinks, which he loved as well. I'm not sure what my other friends ordered, but everyone loved their cocktail.
Travis, who served us last time (and was excellent), took us to our table near the piano (and he remembered me, which was really cool) (I hope I'm remembering his name correctly; I'm kinda bad about that, and he deserves to be noted, even though he wasn't our sever this time). Our server was Alexis, who was just as excellent, very knowledgeable about all of the wines as well as the food, wonderfully descriptive. The only slight misstep with the service was that the first few courses were paced a little quicker than expected, but I was hungry and drunk so it wasn't an issue for me. She realized it herself and slowed things down. The entire meal took about 3.5 hours anyway.
On to the food (HUGE thanks to Alexis for typing out all of our courses and wine pairings) -
Chilled Octopus Salad with Crispy Pork Belly and Pickled Watermelon. The chunks of pork belly were much larger than the last time we had it, but overall the dish seemed just a little less refined. But that's splitting hairs - the it was still delicious, one of my favorite appetizers anywhere. One friend noted that some of the octopus was a little rubbery, but every piece I ate was perfect. This dish was ordered outside of the tasting menu, and became a pre-amuse bouche of sorts.
Amuse Bouche: Salmon Panna Cotta with Acorn Squash and Fresh Chive. It was served in a straight, narrow shot glass. Savory, nutty, and rich, but I don't think the flavor of salmon came through very well. This was probably the most unusual dish of the evening. I'm also not a fan of the texture of custards in general, so I was already predisposed not to like this amuse too much, but I wound up liking it more than I thought I would. I think a larger serving would have been too much though.
Course 1: Blue Fin Tuna. It was served two ways. First was three thin slices of sashimi, topped with a drizzle of...parsley oil? Not sure. Not the absolute best tuna sashimi I've ever had, but pretty close to it. The second was even better. It was a tartare (made from the head I think, my memory is fuzzy) served on a bed made of poached tuna sinew. For some reason, the texture of the sinew reminded me of stuffing, only finer. This course was paired with a 2005 Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina (Spain). Actually, the wine was brought out early, with the amuse, and we were given an extra half-pour when the tuna course was served. This was my favorite wine of the evening. Alexis described it as being like "a perfect granny smith apple," and it was just that, very tart and fruity without being too sweet.
Mid-Course: Breakfast in a Shell. Coddled egg yolk, cream of wheat, bacon, some kind of white foamy thing on top, and I don't know what else. Much like the panna cotta, this was a very rich dish, and the small portion was the perfect amount. The yolk was warm and half-runny, which I loved mixed with the cream of wheat. Another extra course with an extra wine pairing, a Drusian Prosecco. It was like a mini champagne brunch.
Course 2: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Soft-Shell Crab and Sweet Corn Pudding. This was simply the best dish of the evening. Even my friend who hates raw tomato loved it. Technically it's autumn now, but this was a perfect late summer dish. At this point I was full on drunk (thank god I was able to hide it pretty well), so I probably won't be very descriptive from this point on. Wine was a 2005 Quinta do Ameal Vinho Verde (Portugal).
Course 3: Poblano Soup with Pork Belly, Sweet Grapes, and Creme Fraiche. Hooray for more pork belly! I can never get enough. The soup was at once refreshing and smoky, with a spiciness that creeps up on you slowly (I didn't notice it until about halfway through the course). The way the tiny grapes burst in your moth contrasts nicely with the poblano. Wine was a 2005 Bex Riesling. The sweetness of the Riesling also contrasted with the poblano and savory pork belly nicely. This was one of my favorite dishes as well.
Course 4: Sea Scallop Pancake with Spot Prawn. The "pancake" was a thinly sliced scallop upon which the prawn sat. The scallop was very sweet, and just a bit softer than I am used to. I love shellfish, so it was hard to go wrong here. The wine pairing was curious: a 2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne. Pairing a Burgundian? red with scallop and prawn seemed risky to me, and one of my friends felt the Bex would have been a better match. The wine itself was very good; however, I didn't finish mine as I needed to slow down my alcohol consumption at this point. Good thing I did, because the next wine was too good not to finish.
Course 5: Foie Gras with Masa Ravioli and Pomegranate Reduction. A lovely little piece of seared foie gras, made even richer with the soft white cheese in the ravioli, but balanced by the pomegranate. Wine was a 2005 (sense a trend?) Cascina Ca'Rossa Birbet, a delightful, effervescent red. It made a wonderful complement. Possibly my second favorite wine of the evening.
Course 6: Roast Squab with Market Vegetables and Natural Jus. I don't recall what the vegetables were (I think zucchini and haricots vert were among them), but they were all very good. The squab was to die for. Seriously, with my inhibitions impaired, I almost cried. It was a very close second to the second course. Wine was a 2005 Lurton Malbec (Argentina), a very balanced wine.
Dessert: Black Forest Cake. I'm not too big on cherries, especially in baked goods, but I had no problem with them being in this cake. I ordered a Madeira, and a friend ordered a Port.
When we were done, we were comfortably full if not stuffed, but we had that feeling that we'd be hungry again in a few hours. Turns out that wasn't the case; I still wasn't very hungry as of this morning, although I did dream about the tasting menu last night! I'm not the most experienced or knowledgeable eater, even less so with wines, but I think this was the finest meal I've ever had. My only regret was not ordering a couple more courses - maybe then we would have gotten a meat course. But considering how good everything else was, I can't complain too much about not gettting any red meat.
Total for eight ($60 each, of course) with three octopus apps, four wine pairings ($36 each), two dessert wines, tax, and 20% tip, was just over $900. I was so happy I threw in an extra $20. Everyone, even those of us who normally have difficulty affording such a meal, agreed it was well worth it. I am very sad that there is no more tasting menu, but if/when Chef Centeno opens his new place, you can bet I'll be one of the first ones in the door. And tasting menu or no, as long as Opus continues to execute this well, I will go back as often as I can. Hey, I still haven't tried the bacos yet!
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