Monday, June 2, 2008

Beethoven's 9th and Opus One

Originally published in D-Tales here; edited for content.

And speaking of celebrate afterwards, my friend and I headed to Opus One for dinner, a Detroit dining staple for many many years (though I must say I am shocked it is still open; when the son took over a few years back he remortgaged everything that his parents had--including their mansion and the restaurant--and it was thought the business would be run into the ground within 6 months...well, 5 years later, it's still running, and still with a great deal of community involvement).

The menu is very classic French with a sprinkling of inspirations from other culinary traditions, though the heavy French influence would be considered all classic. Lots of Béarnaise, Beurre Blanc, Roquefort, Remoulade, Meuniére, and Dijon, with the occasional wasabi, Tabbouleh, and risotto to mix it up. And much like the French, the chef does not fear butter.

I went with one of their "Jazz Improvisations," selecting my entree with preferred cooking method and sauce. I opted for sautéed jumbo sea scallops in a butter-rich champagne sauce with a side of Parmesan risotto. The champagne sauce was beyond rich--like liquid-champagne-cream-butter-rich goodness. The scallops were perfection...I don't know why, but something as simple as a sautéed scallop is like a little morsel of heaven when paired with the proper sauce. The risotto was...full of onions, that were just large enough and still crunchy enough to bother me. And not particularly Parmesan-y, either. Perhaps the asparagus risotto next time...

Since it was late we went for a light meal, not indulging in the full four courses. However, eyeballing the menu for future trips, the standouts for me are the Roasted Roquefort Stuffed Pear (roquefort mousse, candied walnuts, and a port wine reduction) and the Opus One Seafood Trio (a broiled Maine lobster tail served with lobster Champagne sauce, a jumbo sea scallop with mango salsa and two Shrimp Helene with sauce Béarnaise, all accompanied by spinach and Parmesan risotto and baby carrots). The dessert cart also looked positively sinful.

As for wine, naturally they carry an impressive selection of Napa Valley's famed Opus One meritage--and it's all priced $200-$500, depending on the vintage. While this might sound outrageous, that's Opus One (um, the wine, not the restaurant). Other wines on the list were actually quite reasonably priced; some even remarkably so. If you are looking for a nice evening of wining and dining but don't have $500 to spend on grapes alone, opt for one of the many new-world French, South American, Australian, or German wines they have priced $45.00 and under. Oh, and they of course have Italian high-ticket favorites like Amarone Della Valpolicella, Brunello di Montalcino, and Ornellaia (all $100-$250) and the French frou-frou quintet of Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton, and Petrus (you don't even want to know), can certainly enjoy fine wine on a budget here as much as you can blow a few mortgage payments (in fact, they are likely able to stock other wines at reasonables price because they make up the difference with rich men in business suits ordering the high-end wines). And this is the only restaurant that I know of in Detroit that stocks ALL of these big-name, high-ticket producers, so...points for that.

My Opus One experience was slightly limited due to the late hour and a full belly, but I do look forward to going there again...even if the decor hasn't been updated since the mid-'80s.