In a restaurant where the average entrée is $30, the mood is set to be celebratory. As Dave and I were joining another couple for dinner, that's just what we did, starting with a refreshing bottle of Jordan “J” Brut ($69 full price). The bubbles were crisp and delicious, and almost better than the taste was the price: Sundays are half off all bottles of wine.
Service was prompt, appropriate and professional, unwavering even as the dining room grew crowded. Our server presented us with a basket of warm, house-made rolls and a portion of creamy honey butter to nibble on until our courses began to arrive.
Dave's mass o' wedges was crisp and massive, sprinkled with chopped onions and sweet peppers.
The blue cheese dressing wasn't the best, far too cool and tasting very mild.
Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay oysters Rockefeller ($11.95) came out.Three oysters are split in half, topped with a creamed spinach mixture, and broiled 'till the Parmesan turns golden. You eat with your eyes, and the presentation was beautiful, but the flavor, though rich, was somewhat flat.
The server produced a penlight and invited him to cut and make certain it was cooked appropriately. It was, and had a nice buttery flavor, but ultimately wasn't as impressive as the price would lead one to believe.
It was magnificently cooked, that is to say: little had been done to alter the rosy pink perfection. Quality ingredients and a light touch prove once again that minimalism in the kitchen can be a good thing.
The side dishes for both men, included with the entrees, were red bliss garlic mashed potatoes. These small dishes, just the right size, were creamy bastions of deliciousness.
I had the seafood trio ($27.95), featuring fennel-seared scallops, Parmesan-coated shrimp and a jumbo lump crab cake. The three scallops were fat, but tough: its fennel crust held a burnt bitterness that the fresh pesto at its base did little to augment. The shrimp followed suit, tasting tough and somehow astringent. The crab cake was in truth a small pile of outrageously fresh jumbo lump, arranged next to a spicy Creole remoulade. After my first bite of this, I knew I should've gone with the crab cakes, after all.
My other dining companion ordered the vegetarian pasta ($18.95), with oil served on the side. The penne was dense and rubbery, while the bright mélange of vegetables — including zucchini, summer squash, portobello mushrooms, asparagus and sweet peppers— were uniformly bland and unseasoned.
We contemplated the dessert menu, which held a customary line-up of crème brulee, cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake. I would have been interested in sorbet or ice cream, but as both were Haagen-Dazs brand, opted to finish up with an espresso ($2.25) and call it a night.
Opus 9 has grand culinary intentions, and shows great attention to décor and service. The food, just like the opera of life, runs the gamut from heady highs to disappointing lows. Considering the price, the lunch menu is a viable option to test the waters without emptying your wallet.
Many of the dinner items are available, in smaller portions, along with sandwiches, burgers and waist-friendly salads.
For you online readers, or for local folks who haven't had seen this in print: check out reader comments HERE, and feel free to add your own. :)
Opus 9 Steakhouse
5143 Main Street, New Town, Williamsburg
Web site: www.opus9steakhouse.com
Phone: 645-4779 Fax: 645-2950
Specialties: prime steaks and seafood
Price range: appetizers, $7.95-$24.95; soups/salads, $$5.50-$8.95; seafood, $23.95-market price; steaks, $22.95-$48.95; chops, chicken & pasta, $18.95-$41.95; sides, $5.95-$7.95
Hours: lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner, 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; brunch, 11 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: permitted only on the outdoor patio
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards
Noise level: conversational
Atmosphere: casual elegance in a cozy, club-like atmosphere
Additional Information: extensive wine list, private dining areas for large parties, daily specials
Star rating: food 2 1/2, atmosphere 4 1/2, service 4
(out of five stars)