Sunday, December 17, 2006

An Evening At Opia

Thursday was Hubby's company department Christmas dinner. And since there are only 3 people in his department, they had the freedom to pick pretty much wherever they wanted to eat. This was very exciting for me since it's been ages since I've been to a fancy and expensive restaurant. It was great knowing I won't just be able to go out and have some fun for the evening, but meet new people, enjoy some overpriced but good food and most of all not be worried about the bill because Hubby's company was going to take care of it.

After some thoughtful consideration, they decided to hold their Christmas dinner at Opia which is located in JIA Boutique Hotel in Causeway Bay. We all had a few drinks at the bar area then headed to our table coz the pregnant lady was getting hungry. Since I'm not a drinker pregnant or non-pregnant, I don't think I'll ever get the concept of having a few drinks before dinner. Especially if you know its going to be an expensive one. Maybe you need the drink to loosen things up if you're on a date, but other than that, I think it's a waste of stomach space to fill with all that good food that's coming.

The restaurant isn't very big. It was dimly lit with an inviting ambiance. I think it would have been quite a romantic dinner venue had it not been for the large table next to us who was obviously having their company Christmas dinner as well. They all had Christmas hats on and were constantly drawing prizes out of a hat and cheering as the evening drew on. The couple who were seated next to us seemed to be on a dinner date and left very soon after they finished their meal. I think I would have been abit upset if that evening was suppose to be a special dinner date for Hubby and me. Good thing it wasn't so I wasn't bothered by the noise at all.

I was quite excited when the menu was handed to us. I was eagerly looking forward to the bountiful choices to be had. But when I opened the menu to the first page, I was shocked not only at the price, but the type of food in which I was going to be choosing from. The first page offered a 5-6 course meal. It costs $695 per person and started off with a shot of oyster in green tea sauce and followed with a chaser of some type of sushi. The list continued with fishes I had never heard of, foie gras I couldn't eat while pregnant, seafood I was allergic to and dessert that didn't include chocolate! I prayed everyone wasn't going to go with the set meal and thus forcing me to go along with the trend. Good thing not everyone was impressed so we all went on and started looking into ordering our own meals.

Sitting there that evening and looking at all the "sophisticated" dishes made me realize just how unsophisticated of a diner I was. It made me wonder how Ragamuffin girl would respond to the choices and what other food writers would react to what was on offer. Every dish I wanted to order ended up having an ingredient I didn't like or was allergic to. I even kindly asked the waitress if there was someway the chef could replace a single ingredient and although she was apologetic, the answer was a solid no. I knew the chef who started the restaurant is some big shot from New York, so I guess there was no way the waitress was going to risk her job and ask if one of the ingredients could be replaced in such a delectable work of art. In the end I settled for the beef rib because I did feel like some beef and it didn't have anything I was allergic to or disliked. And of course just my luck, after a few minutes of placing our order, the waitress comes out and informs the 3 of us who had ordered the same dish that Christmas party table next door had just ordered the last bit of rib for the evening.

I seriously found it quite difficult to come up with a replacement dish. I asked again if a certain ingredient could be replaced, but it was either the waitress was scared to ask or she knew the drill and I was faced with another no. Not wanting to be difficult and embarrass Hubby by not ordering and say everything was puss, I ended up ordering the duck breast and hoped the abalone in the pie would not be over-powering.

The shots of raw oysters came first, which all 5 of them at the table enjoyed. All I could think of while they downed the shot glass was there goes a taxi cab fare down Hubby's throat. After awhile the bread rolls came with whipped butter. Although it was shaped like a phallic symbol, the softness and hint of saltiness of the bread made me remember just why I like my carbs so much. A few minutes later, our appetizers arrived. I ordered the pan fried mulloway that came with a bed of mash. I'm sure there was something more into the mash, but I can't remember at the moment. The fish was tiny, but fried to perfection. The skin was crispy while the meat was tender. Everything from the mash to the fish to the sauce melded really well together in terms of taste and texture. I wished at that moment they had an entree size of this dish and I would have been very happy.

After a loooong while our mains finally arrived. And because the rest of the table was happily chatting and downing expensive bottles of wine, no one really noticed it took about 45 minutes before our food finally arrived. The waitress at one moment came to apologize for the delay and said the chef will come out and apologize himself, but he never did.

Hubby's lamb dishMy Duck Dish

When our meals finally arrived, I was hopeful but not expecting too much. Most of us at the table were quite disappointed at the size per serving when our appetizers came and went. So this time, we were all verging on wiping our plates clean with our bread sticks if it would come to that.

As I gingerly cut into my duck breast and abalone pie, I wiped my brain and taste buds clean of any expectations. I really enjoyed the fish, so thought to myself the duck and pie combo shouldn't be bad. And to my joy it was delicious! The duck skin was crispy perfect, the meat was juicy and tender. And most of all the pie was discreet yet extremely complimentary. I just felt bad I finished the meal in less than 10 bites. But by looking at Hubby and the size of his meal, I'm sure he was even more disappointed that it all had to end so soon. Thank goodness the bread was so good!

So after 5 phallic shaped bread sticks, an appetizer and a main, we were all eager to move on to dessert! Well, at least I was. I had a peep at the list at the beginning of the evening, but now that its really time to choose something, I put my glasses on and hoped there would be chocolate. The vanilla bean ice cream caught my attention first. And having been craving ice cream for a few days, I decided to fore-go the rest of the choices and go for my initial craving. But bless Hubby in his infinite wisdom, he asked what my second choice was and ordered that for himself. When our desserts came, I literally wolfed down my single scoop of ice cream that came with one poached strawberry before anyone else had the chance to see what I had ordered. And with a knowing smile on his face, Hubby discreetly pushed his plate of chocolate meringue custard tart towards me and told me it was all mine. I love that man.

It was amazing how the chef was able to let the custard crust retain its crunch even while it sits in a bed of cherry sauce. The meringue was thick and gooey, just perfect with the melted chocolate in the tart. One bite and I knew it would go perfect with a latte. It took awhile too long for my coffee to arrive, but when it did, everything went just perfect together.

Although I wouldn't say it was a perfect evening with the best food ever, I would say that evening's meal goes way up there with great food I have had in my meager repertoire of fancy dinners. I have been reminded of why chefs become stars and why people become food writers. I am also reminded of the fact that you get what you pay for... to a degree. For someone that truly knows how to appreciate all the ingredients and the process that went into the preparation of that evenings meal would definitely say it was worth the massive bill that came at the end of the evening. But for someone like me, I will still never be able to truly understand how a few plates of food and a few bottles of wine would end up costing more than double of what my Coach bag that evening costs.

Hmmm... maybe Hubby just needs to get me an even nicer bag on his next trip to New York.

1 comment:

chris said...

Sounds like an interesting meal. I really enjoy fine dining experiences but there seems to be a certain limit: some places try so hard to be hip and trendy and cool that they stop being "good".

I did enjoy a few meals in Melbourne, though, that really captured that balance between cutting-edge and delicious.