Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Opus - 03/24/2011

2575 West Main Street
Littleton, CO 80120-1912
(303) 703-6787

Situated in Littleton, a small city south of downtown Denver, Opus flies under the radar despite having been around for seven years. The restaurant scored the #5 rank on 5280's list of top 25 restaurants in Denver but aside from that review there was very little information on the restaurant. The restaurant offers a fairly typical menu and a reasonable 6 course tasting as well as a more luxurious 9 course tasting that comes in at a whopping $150.

The exterior of the restaurant is fairly understated but that seems par for the course in the Denver area. Though I'd never judge a restaurant solely on the decor, the interior gave me a sense of unease about the restaurant. Red brick walls, exposed piping, and a velvet curtain in front of the kitchen gave me the feeling of a stage; was this place just masquerading as a restaurant?

Amuse Bouche: Salmon Croquette - Tomato Sauce, Micro Sorrel
Opus had me worried right off the bat. The croquette had a nice texture but a slight funk that suggested the fish was none too fresh. The tomato sauce was incredibly blunt and heavy making me wonder if it came from a can.

Begin: Scallop Tartar - caper raisin vinaigrette, quail egg
Mönchoff Ürzig Würzgarten Kabinett Riesling
Things got better with the scallop tartare, slick fatty and nicely savory. The egg adds depth and texture while the caper raisin vinaigrette was remarkably complex highlighting the strengths of the contrasting flavors. The brioche was a bit overdone but given the rest of the dish, this was an afterthought. The wine was a sweeter Kabinett, juicy green apple with minerality and acid for balance, easy drinking but a bit on the sweet side for the tartar.

Pond: Hudson Valley Foie Gras - chocolate soufflé, cherry demi glace
Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat
I simply cannot fathom how this dish was created; I love savory sweet but this was simply garish, some finesse please. The seared foie gras was stereotypically rich and though the demi glace felt like it would have been better suited to a steak at least its potent meaty sapor matched with the richness of the liver. The chocolate soufflé and poached cherries were excruciatingly sweet and would have made a fairly complete if simple dessert. I could at least forgive the design of this course were it not for the soufflé was not only drastically undercooked, but the inside was still semi-frozen. The wine was a sticky sweet muscat with typical flavors of caramel and overripe plum.

Garden: Pommes Purée au Robuchon - sweet peas, young carrots, mustard froth
Morgon Chardonnay
Mashed potatoes aren't typical signature dish material so it speaks volumes that Joel Robuchon's pommes purée remain one of his most renowned courses. Chef McGaughey created this dish as an homage after tasting the vaunted potatoes in Vegas. Potatoes, peas, and carrots this is made from the parts of frozen dinners nobody wants. Though I enjoyed the potatoes I thought they were a bit dry; most recipes I saw online called for both cream and butter but the preparation relied solely on butter. Had this come as a side dish I probably wouldn't have noticed but on its own the small flaws seemed much more apparent.

Sea: Shetland Island Organic Salmon - north pacific oyster, seaweed broth
Picket Fence Pinot Noir
This was the one course that had some genuine promise. The oysters were slightly warm giving them a tender texture and a potent salinity that played nicely with the salmon. The seaweed broth was infused with excess oyster jus and was brilliant: immensely savory-sweet with a subtle undercurrent of oyster. Still the course wasn't without some flaws, the fish itself was fatty and flavorful at the center but the exterior felt dry and overcooked.

Range: Sous Vide Filet of Beef - white bean and green chick pea, herb puree
Château Haut-Baeuséjour Bordeaux Blend
Sous vide is synonymous with tender so I was expecting this beef to dissolve on the tongue. Like the salmon, the center of the beef was fairly tender but the outside felt rough on the tongue. The beef was prepared simply and the herb puree added some lift to the meat without overwhelming the intrinsic flavor of the beef. I had more mixed feelings about the beans; their dense starchy heft felt a bit heavy but they provided grounding to the meat. The Bordeaux was a safe choice for the beef, but a more vegetal style might have gone nicely as a contrasting note.

Cheese: St. André Crémeux - raw apple, honey sorbet, toasted brioche
Borgo Conventi Pinot Gris
The cheese was a composed preparation with triple cream cows milk cheese served with classic accompaniments of apple and honey. Typically the cheese has a flavor reminiscent of a riper Camembert, but I detected a slight grassiness on this preparation. The wine was an unconventional pairing, the Italian Pinot Gris has an intense bouquet of wild flower as well as a shade of ripe stone fruit.

Intermission: Strawberry "Soda" - strawberry puree, champagne
Tattinger and fresh strawberry puree, a wonderful integration of strawberry and champagne. Unfortunately the puree was a bit firm which made it difficult to appreciate the duo together.

Finish: Liquid Tarte Tatin - apple veloute, caramel poached apple, sugared pastry
Nivole Moscato d'Asti
With the name liquid tarte tatin, I was expecting a something adventurous and maybe a touch molecular that the staff dubbed the dessert a deconstructed apple tart only increased my expectations. Though the dessert was tasty enough, aside from the hot cold interplay between the veloute and ice cream the rest of the dish was fairly insipid.

I'm not one to balk at paying a high price for good food but blunt flavors, crude juxtapositions, and technical mistakes are never acceptable and simply galling given the price. Just for comparison, Providence only charges $125 for their 9 course tasting menu and Coi offers a sublime 11 courses for $145 both of these restaurants won two Michelin stars and are among the best in their respective cities. With Opus, I got the feeling that the restaurant fills a niche as the one "fine dining" restaurant in Littleton catering primarily to neighborhood residents who don't want to head downtown.

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