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.