June 24, 2007

Opus [Koreatown LA]

Our night at Opus began even before we slid into one of the sleek, freestanding booths lining the kitchen wall. It actually started with a 2004 Santa Barbara Winery Zinfandel, which we procured from our wine cooler for the momentous occasion that was my birthday.

The four of us had settled on the famed four-course spontaneous tasting menu ($10 each course), which has had the foodie community buzzing for months. It is said that every meal comes with extras, which often makes for an additional three or four courses beyond what you actually pay for. In our case, the elusive myth proved true and our grand total came to six courses.

The food was some of the most innovative I’ve seen yet in LA, though I would be hard-pressed to pin it to a genre (New American melting pot, if I had to). Among the four of us, our favorites were the coddled egg and carrots with elderflower cream. It's rare to find eggs on a high-end menu (Manresa being the most memorable) and Opus’ was a melody of sweet honey, tart sherry and salty bacon that danced on our tongues. The carrots were the surprise of the evening and were a welcomed intermission to the heavier proteins in the rest of our meal.

Amuse Bouche: Sugar snap pea soup with mint, green onions, and cream of wheat crackers. I thought that the ingredients in the amuse would have made for a robust combination, but the soup was actually a refreshing palate cleanser for the start of our meal.

Course 1: Diced hamachi in a white soy vinaigrette with celery sorbet. The most surprising part of this dish was its portion, which could classify as a tapas dish meant for sharing. Nothing too exciting about this dish except for the exceptionally strong taste of celery which permeated the sorbet.

Course 2: "Breakfast in an egg." Coddled egg yolk, cream of wheat, applewood-smoked bacon, sherry creme fraiche, topped with honey

Course 3: Carrots with elderflower cream and soy salt.

--Brief introduction and appearance by Chef Josef Centeno, who had been looming near our table all night--

Course 4: Aji with heirloom tomatoes or hazelnut soup. Aji is a Spanish mackerel, which is imparted with a milder flavor than saba. The dish was good and the flavors were expected. The hazelnut soup was peppered by what deceptively looked like croutons, but were actually pork rinds.

Course 5: Lamb with fresh garbanzo beans and baby beets. The medium rare cook on the lamb left the meat fragrant and tender when it met our mouths. We all agreed that the dish could have used fewer garbanzo beans and more sauce or beets to balance out the dryness.

Course 6: Coconut tapioca with gaufre and strawberries. And when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, Chef Centeno delighted us with a dessert that was light as a cloud.

Service throughout the night was all-around stellar and when asked for a wine recommendation, our waiter enthusiastically suggested a 2005 German Bex Riesling priced at $40. His choice was spot on as the taste of crisp apples whetted our appetites for the meal to come. We also saved $20 on the corkage fee since you're allowed one bottle from home for each that you purchase.

I only regret not having discovered Opus for myself before it got onto the culinary radar.

Opus Restaurant
3760 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 738-1600

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