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Opal Restaurant & Bar

Opal Restaurant & Bar
June 2012

Entrepreneur and chef Patrick Langdon Owens of the Opal Dining Group had many talents to consider as he chose his life’s profession—after all, he was a gifted musician and star athlete before he officially became a chef. Lucky for us, a memorable evening at Opal Restaurant & Bar quickly affirms that he made the right choice, at least for his culinary fans. Since opening a year ago in The Shoppes of Seaside Farms, this welcoming neighborhood restaurant—much like highly regarded sister property Langdon’s—quickly achieved “destination” status with its pleasing combination of generous California-style, Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, personable service, and an award-winning wine list. With a menu that clearly reflects approachable fine dining, the familiar comforts of leather, wood, and natural stone blend with lofty ceilings to create a peaceful atmosphere that is both urban and serene. The prominent bar tastefully accommodates a well-placed television and separate tables, while the adjacent dining room includes cozy booths, tables, and a popular wall-to-wall banquette. Expansive windows shed light on the local scenery. The appealingly concise menu includes a collection of comfort foods inspired by the sunny seasons of the Lowcountry and the Mediterranean. The charcuterie and cheese option offers a choice of three from 16 selections served upon wooden boards with a beautiful array of condiments. Eight selections in each category present the challenge of deciding between delicacies such as prosciutto di San Daniele and Iberico lomo on the charcuterie side or domestic and imported cheeses ranging from Sottocenere to Saint-André. Appetizers include seasonal salads, seafood carpaccio, house-made mozzarella, and fresh asparagus with duck “ham” and a fried farm egg. One could easily create a rewarding meal without going any further. Handcrafted pastas include half a dozen styles such as cavatelli with pork sausage and broccolini, piccolo lasagnette with local pork and lamb ragu, and whole wheat chitarra—the Italian word for “guitar”—cut with a traditional stringed instrument and accompanied by shrimp, tomatoes, and pecorino. All are flavored with fresh herbs and gloriously seasoned sauces. The entrées and specials pair carefully chosen meats, local fish, and seafood with luxurious cheeses, vegetables, and locally grown products, each dish prepared in such a way that the dimensions of flavor temptingly play upon the palate. We found ourselves exclaiming throughout the meal as we discovered the unexpected with relish. Our first-course charcuterie platter included house-cured duck ham, imported felino, and delicate lemon ricotta with fresh herbs—a tasteful trio accompanied by grained mustard, honey, olives, arugula, red onion, shaved fennel, and Marcona almonds. Next, our salad featured tender red and golden Wadmalaw Island beets with velvet Saint-André cheese, hazelnuts, and baby arugula dressed with gentle tangerine citronette. Starters were served in perfect proportions—satisfying yet not overwhelming. Our first entrée, exquisitely tender agnoletti pasta filled with earthy porcini duxelle, was topped with sautéed spinach and finished with basil chiffonade, toasted pine nuts, and rich cream sauce. Simply prepared fresh flounder—the local market fish option—was immaculate, served with rewarding goat-cheese polenta, sautéed greens, and hazelnut parsley pesto. And for dessert, we were completely mesmerized by the creamy lemon panna cotta made with honey and mascarpone and served with fresh strawberries and lemon crème anglaise. Samplings of wild strawberry, salted caramel, and vanilla bean gelato were also delicious. The magic of Opal is that every single texture and combination we tried offered something new and different. Notes of the local harvest presented with care and personality reflected not only the style of the chef, but the front of the house as well. With its one-page menu, daily specials, and comfortable vibe, the appeal of this fine dining option in Mount Pleasant already reaches far beyond the neighborhood. Opal Restaurant & Bar 1960 Riviera Dr., Mount Pleasant, (843) 654-9070, Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight Average entrée: $28