Voted one of the Best new restaurants of 2007 by James Chatto -Toronto Life, April 2007
The room is unique in North America, showcasing some of the best jazz anywhere. There’s a romantic, laid back lounge and bar, and a small, elegantly casual dining area. Guests rave about their food & fine wine dining experience. Come to Queen West in jeans or a tux, let Opal entertain you. Located between Spadina and Bathurst Opal offers nightly specials: Live Jazz nightly. Tuesday – Martini night. Special Jazz Guests Thursday through Saturday night.
hould you develop an appetite while listening to some highly original jazz acts, this new Queen West resto-lounge offers a full menu with such Continental fare as lobster ravioli and Yellow Fin Ahi Tuna trilogy.
Part restaurant, part jazz lounge, part playground, Opal defies easy description. In today’s cookie-cutter universe, that could mean big trouble for its long term prospects, which would be a shame, as this is an ambitious journey that takes us places restaurants seldom dare to go.
Opal is stylish, nearly to a fault. Owner Sean Grey Wilson fashioned his first venue after classic, slick jazz boozeries: a mod nod to the neighbourhood’s lounge-act lifestyle, with a lengthy bar, illuminated from above, backed by an array of adult beverages and lined with designer barstools. The ebony hardwood flooring and deep red shades, relieved by black and white photos and a warmly lit mural of Miles Davis, extend to tabletops, tableware, shapely chairs and a superbly-polished grand piano.
While bartenders tinker with high-end hooch, mixing vodka and gin with fruits and herbs, try something different from Opal’s aggressive martini list. Keep your Cosmos, and order a Hawaii 5-0, spiked with Gin,Triple Sec and Pineapple.
Chef Fawzi Kotb (Centro, Peppino’s in the Beach) takes charge in the kitchen, infusing the Opal playbook with all things seasonal and fine. Kotb pays homage to bold flavours and colourful constructions through offerings like his Quebec Snow Goat Cheese Galette ($15). The dish boasts a panko-sesame crust, enriched by Japanese toasted sesame oil and aged Modena balsamic. Fantastic.
Also, try the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio ($19.00), composed of thin slices of Alberta AAA, with California Blood Orange, Loire Valley Roasted Almond Oil and fueled further by Tete de Moines Cheese. The delectable Pan Seared Quebec Fois Gras ($23.00) is paired up with the slightly transgressive sensation of Apple Calvados.
For mains, Kotb’s roasted Australian Lamb Rack ($42) has big lamb flavour; not just a wimpy hint of lamb, but a full hit. The dijon encrusted rack arrived deep rose with crunchy bits, even on the elegantly “frenched” (trimmed) bones; tender but not mealy, with a little side of ratatouille.
Kotb’s strength is red meat, so avoid dishes like the underwhelming seared B.C. Halibut Filet. On the other hand, the seared Zew Zealand Organic Venison Loin ($46), prepared with honey mustard, erbes de province and served over a shallow pool of Grand Veneur Sauce is a signature plate in the making.
Even dishes with a bit of complexity to them, like the Muscovy Duck Confit ($29), rely on a simple but well-judged opposition of flavours. The duck meat, halfway between chewy and creamy, meets its match in a lightly spiced porcini mushroom touched with white truffle oil. Other game dishes featured on Blue Hill’s tasting menu include the baked pork chop Romeo& Juliet and the grilled AAA, dry-aged, Alberta beef striploin.
If you can afford it (as they’re fairly pricey), don’t miss Opal’s extravagant desserts; they’re worth considering if only to hear the lovingly detailed descriptions of each. Heavy on the home-made ice cream, the list also offers a Duo of Lindt Chocolate Mousse, a caramelized banana flambé, strawberry ice cream and a wickedly wonderful trio of Crème Brulee.
Like the chef, Opal selections are very ambitious. Kotb, with some editing, and Opal, with a bit of restraint, can easily hit their stride, placating the area’s shops and boutiques with a sudden influx of upscale traffic.