Monday, October 30, 2006

Foodventure #9: Opus (Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown)

After the rave reviews from fellow foodies on Chowhounds about this joint (particularly their spontaneous tasting menus, ranging from $30-$90), I just had to check it out - and so I did.

Thankfully, the line was the performance at the nearby Wiltern Theatre, not the restaurant (though many concert-goers do dine here before & after the show.) I arrived just before the restaurant opens (5:30pm) and sat the bar (opens @ 5pm), where a few guys are already slamming down drinks and eating their finger-friendly & eclectic grub - including ancho/chocolate/garlic dips for the pita chips, beef kabobs with mole sauce & confit pork shoulder sandwich.

I started with a glass of pinot noir (Mark West '04) and proceeded to dive into their deep-fried pita chips, which are so addictive all by themselves! Next time - definitely getting a dip to make these lovelies taste even better - particularly intrigued by the sumac-wild thyme yogurt & the ancho-garlic-chocolate.

After a couple sips of wine (overall nice, rather smooth & soft on the tannins, with good cherry & peppery spice notes) I ordered the "three-course" spontaneous tasting menu. That turned out to be a pleasant misnomer, given the extras the chefs prepared and put out, starting with . . .

A shotglass of celery root panna cotta topped with celery seeds & chives - disarmingly delicious, considering I'm always a bit wary of savory-sweet combos (kettle corn aside.) Silky and fresh, this was a definite amuse to my tastebuds. Continuing with the unusually tasty trend . . .

Sunchoke custard with more chives! Sunchoke, a.k.a. jerusalem artichoke, is a root vegetable, and from I can tell tastes like a turnip or daikon radish. The custard was creamy and rich & the burnt sugar top rounds out the flavors. For something so simple looking, it's has a very complex flavor--keeping me intrigued with every mysteriously yummy spoonful.

Course three: Hamachi sashimi with olive oil, chives & herbs ~ again, a wonderful surprise - the fresh, buttery yellowtail paired well with the herbs (the basil & mustard comes on strong) and the distinct olive oil flavor. The combo of flavors (and the mustard) leaves my tongue tingling with glee. So far, so good . . .

and it gets even better with the entree! Braised short rib with a red wine reduction, cream of wheat, sauteed veggies with bacon bits. Yum, yum, yum! The rib is so tender I can easily cut it with the fork alone, and is full of beefiness that's heightened by the sweet-tart wine sauce. The starch & veggie sides are uniquely unbelievable: the cream of wheat (accented with parmesan) bringing back pleasant home-cooked memories, while the vegetables (a combo of brussel sprouts, baby tomatoes and various mushrooms) is just an explosion of fresh, tangy & earthy flavors.

And finishing it all off . . .

A hardy spoonful of chocolate mousse, with a ramekin of rice pudding creme brulee with tart cherries. Almost any "2 desserts in 1" will get me salivating with satisfaction, and this is no exception. Like the custard, the sugar was nicely burnt and melds beautifully into the mildly-spiced up (cinnamon and nutmeg, I think) rice pudding and the tart dried cherries. The chocolate mousse was dense and intense, its confident cocoa taste accentuated even more by the concealed chunks of chocolates within. A great last note!

The damage:
Glass of wine - $10
"Three course" tasting menu - $30
Pre-tax&tip total - $40

The rating:
Decor/Ambience - 4/5 (nice dark tones, great use of candlelights, mirrors and glass - not much of a view outside, however)
Value - 4/5 (felt the mark-up on the wine was a little steep, but the food was definitely worth it)
Service - 9/10 (overall fairly knowledgable, prompt & nice; can't ask for more)
Food - 17.5/20 (Overall yummy, only gripe is lack of texture contrast - everything was at least semi-mushy ~ also, the first two amuses & half of dessert were really similar.)
Bonus/Demerit - +1 for a foodie bartender!
TOTAL - 35.5 (Plan on returning, possibly for their 6- or even 9- course tastings next time around.)

Other notes:
- Valet available, street metered parking may or may not be abundant dependent upon the Wiltern.
- Reservations highly recommended (again, due to Wiltern)

Opus Restaurant
3760 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles


BoLA said...

This is in my HOOD!!! ;) I'll definitely have to check this one out, for sure! Thanks for the heads up!

And eating solo ain't so bad... if you wanna hit the GG together the next time they're in town, just drop me a line. =)

Glad to see another LA foodblogger!!!

Chubbypanda said...

Opus!?! You lucky sonuva...

- Chubbypanda

Erin S. said...

glad you liked it...I need to head back here soon--it is such a deal!


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