5.19.2007

An Evening at Opal...


I write this post on my humble blog with a little bit of hesitation and mixed emotions(at risk of offending a friend) and yet a desire to promote the new stylish and Asian-perfumed eaterie on top of Queen Anne in Seattle. The hesitation stems from a long time working relationship, as well as friendship with one of the chefs; Tyler Hefford-Anderson. Tyler and I have known and worked together for almost 10 years at the Rainier Club and is one of the most passionate chefs I know and have worked with. It is a great pleasure to see him open this place as one of the "co-chef's" along with Andy Leonard, of this newly opened upscale restaurant named Opal. Although I missed the opening night, hell the opening week, I had it in my mind to pay homage and a visit to him and his team to come support and sample the grub. So mum's day it was, my wife, two boys and I, welcomed in around 5pm to experience what the fruits of Tyler's labor, both the many years at the RC and the couple of months in anticipation of it's opening, would entail. We were seated by who was dubbed later as the "dining room manager", and greeted almost instantly by our server...a kind, young man seemingly eager to be our friend in a "hey-dude" kind of way. We looked over the menu, which to no surprise, sported many nuances and parts and pieces, if not one in particular whole dish, of the menus developed at the club. No worries. If there is one person who I feel deserves to be able to pull some things from my menus it is Tyler, for he paid his dues! He learned the dishes and techniques. He was in the trenches day after day, night after night working and cooking those ingredients and all the while, becoming what I had been dishing out so-to-speak. He was a product of my environment to some degree. It is an honor to see him step up to the stage and perform. As we perused the smaller bites and larger bites sides of the menu, we found ourselves gravitating towards the smaller ones. The dishes on the larger bites just did not have quite the cache that the smaller ones did, yet although sounding tasty, I simply wanted to taste a handful of bites, rather than fill up on a single entree. After maybe 15-20 minutes of chatting with the server and bartender about drinks and such, we ordered some smaller bites. Tyler had then come out to say hi. It was a pleasure to see him in all of his glory. I was proud. I was happy for him to see everything come together. Here I was...sitting at the table and now he was cooking for me. I felt very nostalgic of old times spent in the kitchen together, working until the wee hours of the morning on some damn project or another. Good times. Unfortunately, here is where things took a bit of a turn for me. It took almost 30 minutes for the appetizers. Yes, we were brought an "amuse" of Smoked Paprika Popcorn, laced with Truffle Oil. That was fun. Ok, we were graciously embraced with a small demitasse of Lobster Bisque, made "Cappuccino Style" as a gesture of good luck and patronage. And although tasty, and the fact that I am in the business and am totally aware of new openings and the challenges they possess and what the staff will face,... still. A bit long. Enter the first courses. I had to try the one dish that serves as almost, hell it is my most signature dish...Scallop & Foie Gras Martini. Now, I do admit that Tyler did not serve it "Martini Style", and even if he did, oh well. As I mentioned, he deserves to be able to since he was right at my side when I created it. Luscious Foie Gras and Diver Sea Scallop nestled on top of a bed of creamy Mashed Potato and laced with a drizzle of 50 year-old Balsamic Condiment and swimming in a bath of foie Gras Nage. At least he told me he was going to do it! We were also served a nice dish of braised Pork Belly with Apples, and a rich Cuisson. Very tasty and flavorful. A bit large though in my mind for the smaller bites. Don't take it off Tyler! A wild Green Salad with various accompaniments followed. Simple and done well. A nice, tasty dish of Louisiana Shrimp studded with Olives, Tomatoes, Herbs and Olive Oil was rich and savory as well. A hearty flavor profile that fitted well as our prelude for an entree. I had ordered a couple dishes for my kids...Trofie and Cheese(hoping they would not notice the difference between their counterpart. Fat chance.) I was expecting it to arrive with the apps, or at least slightly afterwards. Not yet. We have our smaller bites cleared and are offered entrees. I was still looking hard at the smaller bites menu. 6pm. My wife ordered a Roasted breast of Free Range Chicken and a glass of white wine. The wine was finally served after having to ask the server about it 35 minutes later. He could have sold at least two! Now almost 7pm. The chicken was very tasty, just can't recall what it was served with? I ordered a roasted beet composure, made up of a short stack of gold and red beets, creamy raw cow's milk cheese, some greens and beet coulis. Fun, simple and elegant. The bummer was that it took almost an hour to get the larger plates. My kids pastas did come out as well, yet at that point, they had lost all interest in dining, as did my wife. I think the service had lost all touch with us. There were other "heads of state" that saw us sitting there and yet did nothing to notify our server that we were in dire need of attention. I kept apologizing for the situation to them, as I did not expect them to fully understand what it is all about to open a restaurant, but in the eyes of a normal customer, should they? Do they need to work in a restaurant to enjoy one? Or for that matter...be put through a uberlong sitting because we were friends of the chef? No. Simply unfair. After our entrees, my kids started to ask about going across the street to get a sweet snack at Starbucks. Shit...I almost killed them. Not that I was not in the same mindset, but I try not to support that corporate giant in favor of smaller, independently owned ones. Plus, I was sure not to leave without catching a succulent bite of the Dark Chocolate Sin, or so I think it was labeled...(aka my Chocolate Silk at the club). So, we forged ahead into dessert land. In my eyes, Tyler's strongest suit. My youngest being engulfed in his PB & J... a playful rendition that Tyler always has done a great job on. Peanut Butter Mousse, Jelly Granite, Fresh Marshmallows, a spiced Sponge and a little this and a little that for kicks. I did the silk with Stout Ice Cream. Rich and intoxicating as it should be. Nirvana and yet sinful at the same time. I gave it a hell yeah! We also sampled a Rhubarb studded sort of crisp with Green Tea Ice Cream. Very spring-like. As we peeked into the kitchen after the 3- hour tour, I was told by Tyler that we had not been given chocolates as customary to all diners and that he was a bit frustrated. Hmmm. Perhaps all that mishap on service explains the very lengthy conversation Tyler and I had well into the early morning hours. What are friends for? Tyler, and I know you are going to read this...I am proud of you and I thank you for your hospitality. It was great. I recommend the restaurant to all. It is a very nicely done space and quite cosy. You should be proud of yourself and all that you have accomplished in the kitchen and all the work you have put into the front of the house as well. I am sorry for any possible ruffled feathers for this posting, yet I know you know it is not personal and nothing you and I have not done to each other year after year in some form or another. That is what true sharing is all about in a good business relationship. I am anxious to return with friends and colleagues in tow. I only hope you are still the chef if you know what I mean! Keep the passion alive. Keep cooking!

6 Comments:

Blogger Michael Walsh said...

Very interesting post. The view from your perspective is very unique and you conveyed that in a consistant mannar through out. Thanks for you telling us what you really observed at Opal. I've come across alot of people who just want to read the equivelant of an empty fake smile, and I appreciate the fact I won't find that here.

8:44:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

Hi Michael, I appreciate your reply. I hope that I did not convey the wrong message in that it was great tasting food, a very fun and cozy feel and ambiance and Asian-esque in atmosphere. The only real beef I had was with the service that unfortunately did not work out fofr us that evening. I know that in the beginning of a restaurant, there are quirks, mishaps and faux pauxs. I do recommend it, as I know that the chefs are happy to please.

6:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Rodrigo said...

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10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Rodrigo said...

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10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I had roughly the same experience there. It took nearly 3 hours to get our selves out the door, and we only ordered 3 small bites. I was most interested in dessert of couse, but couldn't stay a minute longer. But these opening week troubles are all shadowed by how great everything did taste. I a finding it a rarity to leave a restaurant feeling like everything I tasted was excelent, but that's what I felt after Opal.

I sincerely hope these lenghty dining times are ironed out, because it would be a shame for Tylers great food to be overshadowed by this.

And I believe he called it the "satin"

10:59:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

dana...i do think that these things will get ironed out. Tyler mentioned that he is getting his real review this coming friday in the times. Nancy loved the desserts! Cheers to Tyler and his crew!

12:09:00 AM  

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