Monday, December 29, 2008

An unprecedented step for LWF&D: Breaking the paradigm at Opal

Dearest readers,

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that only the best of the best receive Five Offset Spatula ratings. Typically, I take into account the whole experience in my evaluation, including service, atmosphere, even place settings and glassware. This means that usually only palaces of haute cuisine receive top ratings, because they're the ones able to provide the whole package.

But on Saturday night, my mind was changed. This dining experience (I use that term loosely, of course) took place at a bar-- not a gastropub, not a wine bar, but just a typical loud-music, beer-and-well-drinks bar called Opal, located on 2nd Avenue at 52nd St. I was with JT and the bro having a few leisurely drinks, and they decided to order a few dishes from the bar's bizarrely extensive menu. We sat in the mostly empty back room at a huge circular booth, listening to the pulsing music and watching a group of hilariously drunk forty-somethings dance spastically in the middle of the room. Then the food arrived.

They had ordered a margherita pizza and a basket of chicken strips and fries. I didn't want any of it. I had already eaten far too much that day and really wasn't hugry. But there, in the middle of the table, was a basket of fragrant golden fries. I couldn't stop myself.

I picked up a perfectly formed specimen-- slightly thicker than your typical shoestring but safely on the right side of the jacket barrier, alluringly speckled with coarse salt-- and popped it in my mouth. And... wow. Wow. Now, I don't eat french fries in quantity that often, but whenever a dining companion gets them I always have a taste (for scientific purposes, of course), which means I've tasted lots of fries in recent years. And I can safely say that these fries may well be the best I've ever tasted. They were piping hot, well salted, crunchy but not aggressively so, not mealy at all, delightfully potatoey... everything you've ever wanted in a french fry and possibly even a life partner. Consider my socks knocked off.

I am sockless. I am sans socks.

Pizza, half done

I quit while I was ahead and didn't try either the pizza or the chicken, which came with a mysterious tub of chili-inflected honey-mustard/thousand island dipping sauce, but JT and the bro reported that both were up to the high standard set by the fries. This, naturally, touched off a discussion of my rating system. Could Opal be a five OS place? Sure, it wasn't fine dining... there wasn't even really a waiter. But the portions were generous. The price was right. And the food, considered as specimens of each dish's respective kind, was spectacular. How could I deny the home of arguably the best french fries I've ever tasted its rightful five spats? I couldn't, and I can't. And there you have it, dear readers: Opal, the first non-upscale Five Offset Spatula restaurant on LWF&D.

251 E. 52nd Street, at 2nd Avenue

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