‘Tis the season to be jolly – and nothing makes me jollier than good food. Which is why I happily accept a sneak preview of this year’s Opus Christmas menu. Since we’re never in Bangalore on the 25th of December, I decide to cart the family along for an early Christmas meal. I want to say at the outset: I won’t be dreaming of a white Christmas this year. Instead, I’ll be dreaming of the food we end up eating… probably all the way up until next Christmas.
Opus during the day – a weekday, at that – is very different from Opus at night. Awash in sunshine, bright and happy… and uncharacteristically quiet. We’re the only people here on this crisp December day, and are greeted by Anuj, the behind-the scenes magician who keeps the kitchen fires at Opus stoked.
I notice – and wonder about – the XXL table at which we are seated. It stretches a good three feet between my husband and myself on one side, and my sons, seated opposite us. As our food begins to roll in, I realize that the monstrous table is more a necessity than a style statement.
Crudités, cold cuts, and tapas arrive in short order: strips of raw radish, cucumber and carrot with a mustard-mayo dip; martini glasses filled to the brim with olives and sun-dried tomatoes (“I make those myself,” says Anuj, proudly); shrimp cocktails; roast pork; and a centerpiece of watermelon-infused chicken satay.
Nibbling on these delights, we chat with Anuj about his home made oils. Herb-infused olive oils, a rose petal-based oil, nut-based oils… he offers them up for a sniff, tells us which oil goes best with what meat, and talks about the intricacies of pressing and preserving oil.
Meanwhile, a huge portion of Traditional Stuffed Roast Turkey is placed before us. You get four pieces on your plate – enough to satisfy the hungriest soul. For once, the turkey is moist and tender instead of stringy, dry, and overcooked. The sauce is delicious, but not really “Christmassy” – more an issue with my expectations than an issue with the food. I have to say this: In my 29 years in Bangalore, I have never before tasted properly cooked turkey anywhere outside of a five star hotel. There’s nothing traditional about the stuffing – no bread, and served on the side. I love it!
This is followed in rapid succession by:
- Roast Chicken
- Lamb Rack (with basil creamed potatoes and rosemary jus)
- Beef steak
- Ox Tongue and Leeks
- Honey Glazed Ham
- Smoked Pork Chops
Er… yes, we have large appetites. Oh, okay… we’re pigs. I’ll take it from the top.
Roast chicken, done in a Worcestershire/bbq-style sauce: tasty, but not poetry-inspiring.
Lamb Rack: The marinade, the jus, and the accompaniments were all drool-worthy. The meat was cooked the way it should be. Unfortunately, the quality of the lamb was a letdown. It had a strong, “sheep-y” smell and not enough meat on the bone.
Beef Steak: Guys, where do you buy your beef? And someone in your kitchen understands the phrase “medium rare”. Succulent, served in a red-wine based sauce… I’m adding Opus to my (very short) mental list of Restaurants in Bangalore That Serve Outstanding Steak.
Ox Tongue and Leeks: If you like the taste of tongue – ox tongue, you filthy so-and-so – try this dish. It’s soothing, satisfying, and if you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself sitting by a fireplace and watching snow outside the window. Sigh.
Honey Glazed Ham and Smoked Pork Chops: If you only order one thing at Opus this Christmas, order one of these. Two very different flavors; I club them together because a) they both involve pork; and b) they both showcase extraordinary culinary artistry.
Warning: Eloquent waxing ahead (I know, I know… that phrase sounds like an advertisement for a talking hair removal product).
- The ham achieves a perfect balance of salt and sweet – the flavor of honey whispers, rather than announces, its presence. A light burst of clove refreshes the palate every so often, without being unpleasant. Hardly any skin to speak of, so what you’re getting is mostly meat, with just the right amount of fat to keep it moist.
- The smoked chops… ah, the smoked chops. Totally orgasmic. If I can squeeze in another visit before Tuesday just to eat them again, I intend to. Firm meat yields to a me-wanna-more smoky flavor. The sweet glaze is tempered by a kick of chilli. You take another bite, just to see if you can identify the ingredients… and before you know it, your plate is empty and your stomach is full.
At this point, I half-heartedly ask what happens to vegetarians… and immediately wish I hadn’t, because I’m served Cannelloni a la Florentine (tasty, but very slightly undercooked in the middle) and Stuffed Bell Peppers (absolutely delish).
You’d think we were done by now… but no, I want to try the sizzlers. We manage the Tiger prawn and the pomfret platters, but the crab utterly and completely defeats us. Despite this, my 13 year-old, who’s morphed into a vacuum cleaner this year, declares that he has “a separate stomach for desserts” and lights into a chocolate Swiss roll, while the rest of share a lemon soufflé. Both desserts are from Herbs and Spice, which I’ve reviewed here, so they’re yummy.
After a predictable argument over whether or not I’m paying for my meal (I win, and I do pay, as I like to), we make it home in a semi-catatonic state.
My son has a question: “When are we going there again?” Considering the all important price vs quantity+quality ratio, I’d say: Soon. Very soon.