Last night, I made my maiden voyage to Opaline
on Beverly and Vista. Which wins points for me because it's within walking distance of my apartment, right near Beverly and Fairfax. The number of "restaurants within walking distance" are severely limited in my life: Authentic Cafe, Cobras and Matadors, and the blissful Angelini Osteria.
red used to be in walking distance, too, but I rarely walked those two blocks, simply because the "nouveau comfort food" there gave me little comfort. It was fine, I guess, in a nice space with big red booths along one wall, but it was one of those restaurants where you got the feeling that everything was priced about four dollars more than it should have been, considering the quality.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who felt that, for red went under a couple months ago, and has now been re-designed and re-jiggered by new owners into Opaline. At first, I was a little bit worried by the high number of people in black and tall lanky women. (Generally, I don't go for places frequented by people who don't eat, or at least don't look like they digest, their meals.) Also, the design of the place ain't exactly warm; very minimalist and spare. I had a glass of Riesling while waiting for my friends, at the pleasant bar/holding dock.
The service throughout the evening was wonderful, which ain't always the case with a place that's getting its sea legs. Recommendations were very good, not just the waiter but the two maitre'ds came to the table frequently, all making for a feeling that we were attended to.
The food was very good. We started with two appetizers -- a squid stuffed with chorizo, which was great in textures, and a gnocchi with ricotta and mushrooms, which was okay, but then, I've never been a huge gnocchi kinda of guy. For entrees, my friends had a cod thing (I forget what it was exactly) and a pork shoulder with couscous, where the pork, with a cinnamon and colliander taste, had a similar taste to carnitas. I love carnitas; this was good. I myself ordered a chicken pot pie, with organic chicken and "root vegetables." It wasn't your mother's chicken pot pie. Terrific.
Dessert, we had a hazlenut cake that was okay and a bread pudding with tangerine syrup and cumquats that was very good.
Price-wise, not bad -- three people and a $30 bottle of wine, it came out to $160 including tip, 50 bucks a head. I'd definitely make a return visit. It's not quite at the level of Campanile or Lucques for neighborhood eats, but it's also not quite the price.
Okay, now for the weird stuff. When my friend and I were being seated, we run into two old friends of my family, who've known my mom and dad since Berkeley days and then both worked with my mother at the LA Times. Then we sit down. I get up to the use the bathroom, and run into another friend of my friend who works in the business side of a network in town. Then I come back. Then the bus-boy recognizes me, because he used to make me smoothies at the gym. Then, one of the servers, not the one handling our table, recognizes me because she was a year behind me at film school.
All this, and at the next table over: James Woods with three old dudes and a bunch of young women. You go, Jimmy!
Clearly, Opaline would not be a swell place for me to have any covert assignations.
Not that I have any convert assignations to assign.