2 Boston St
Seattle WA 98109
Refreshing Contemporary Newcomer to Queen Anne
By: Grant Y
"So which restaurant are we reviewing tonight?" Steve asks, peering over his laptop screen. I pause for a second and click on an icon that pops a familiar window up on my cluttered desktop. Waving my finger around the screen like a game of duck-duck-goose, it lands inside a box titled "Queen Anne".
"Look like we're going to Opal," I reply, peering under my index finger.
"Opal?" Steve asks with a blank look. I shrug back. The restaurant opened less than a year ago, so the grapevine has yet to spread. He squints for a second and tosses out a guess, "American contemporary and Northwest cuisine." I sense that Steve may still harbor some post-traumatic stress from the last Dine Around Seattle promotion, where we might have ate a marathon 15 out of 30 restaurants, many of then in the contemporary and Northwest genre.
Two hours later however, we're looking at each other across a wood tabletop, peering over sleek silver menus instead. The menu bears some familiar suspects: butternut squash, crab cakes, crusted ahi tuna, foie gras and lamb rack. I don't even need to look up to know that Steve is smiling sarcastically at his choices tonight of contemporary or Northwest.
To set the record early however, though Opal's cuisine may seem familiar to those in the Seattle area, it is certainly not to be dismissed like the next Seattle teriyaki restaurant. Opal is in fact a rare gem that proves style, class and substance can coexist while avoiding the trendy and pretentious labels often associated with similar restaurants.
As a neighborhood restaurant, Opal's layout is spacious and clean. Colors are complimentary, using a black and tan color scheme with maroon highlights between the ambiance and decor. Use of wood grain and leather bring a sense of luxury, but avoids the vintage feel of your grandpa's smoking den. Neat touches include mini table lamps, curved themed plating a raised bar area. A wine rack is featured behind the bar, which showcases a collection of local Northwest reds and European whites from Opal sommelier Brian Riegel.
(Our review happened to take place during the New Urban Eats promotion, which features 3-course meals for $30, like Dine Around Seattle, so our reviewers have much to say about their experiences.)
Opal struck a good impression with me the minute the bread basket was set down. The setting was inviting, with a downtown style woven into a neighborhood feel. I'd find it comparable with Serafina but without the crowd.
I started out with the Crab Cakes ($9), which came with a tart and apple fennel salad with a refreshing vinegar scent. Lightly fried, the crab cakes were a crisp golden color that broke away to reveal sweet and juicy flavors. A good overall balance of texture and tastes so a recommended appetizer.
My entree was the Mustard Crusted Anderson Valley Rack of Lamb ($29). It came with sauteed mustard greens and buttery whipped potatoes that are most certainly a guilty pleasure. The lamb was both tender and savory, with a surprising lack of gaminess but still enjoyable to my inner carnivore. The mustard crust may even have been flash fried, as it flaked off in salty, meat flavored bits.
Overall, good impression and points for food and ambiance, with standard service and value scores.
Note: Robin's meal was part of a 3 courses for $30 promotion.
My Organic Baby Lettuce combined duck confit, julienned pears, grilled marcona almonds and roasted shallot vinaigrette into a novel and tasty salad. This dish hit many notes (vinegary, sweet, fatty) and while I personally don't like the combination of sweetness and vinegar, I applaud the originality of the dish. The vinaigrette was especially delicious. Lastly, the very finely chopped onion added just the right amount of flavor and didn't give off the bitter, overpowering taste raw onion sometimes can-nice attention to detail.
I liked the Pea Mascarpone Risotto a little less. It was on the dry side, and looked like it hadn't had time to simmer, nor been stirred sufficiently in order to get all smooth and creamy-instead, this dish appeared closer to boiled rice, with the mascarpone like a bandaid to improve the texture. The peas were nice and fresh, but undercooked so that they were a little crunchy and bitter. The pea greens however were fantastic-delectable and not often seen on restaurant menus.
The beautifully presented Chocolate Cognac Cream Cake consisted of a triangles of cake alternated with layers of cream, topped with chocolate sauce and accompanied by a small pile of julienned strawberries and some kind of delicious white cream sauce. This was a really enjoyable dessert-the cake had some lovely spices (cinnamon & nutmeg?) and the alternating layers of cream and cake offered a pleasant combination of textures.
Note: Steve's meal was part of a 3 courses for $30 promotion.
The Steak Frites was made with a cut of beef onglet. What's beef onglet you ask? Well I had to track down the name of this mystery cut of steak. Onglet is a French cut of a hanger steak. I ordered it medium rare and for the most part it was quite delicious. The outer edges tasted a little charred, but didn't linger, as it was smoothly covered by a tangy, ancho aioli flavor that kind of reminded me of chipotle. The polenta fries were quite the treat. Lightly crisp, it gave way to the smooth texture inside that made me wish it came with more than four pieces.
They gave me a heads up warning about the Scallop appetizer and I'll pass it along to you as well: it's only one scallop. Served in an unconventional plate that looked more like a flying saucer then an actual plate, I have to admit that it was a pretty tasty scallop. Lightly crusted and very tender, I made sure to take my time to savor every little bite. The Carrot Vanilla Puree and pear salad added a very sweet note to the flavor. Small on portions, but big on taste, Opal makes you crave for just a few more pieces.
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