Friday, March 7, 2014
David Turin remembers the exact moment when he knew without a doubt that he would open a third restaurant.
Turin, the chef/owner of David’s in Portland’s Monument Square and David’s 388 in South Portland, was preparing a special multi-course dinner at the Kennebunkport Festival when one of the guests started raving about the meal. She said she had never been to Turin’s restaurant before, but would have to go there now.
“And I thought to myself, ‘and you’ll be so disappointed. This isn’t what we do.’" Turin recalled.
Rumors have been circulating for a while now that Turin wanted to open a third restaurant that would focus solely on fine dining, but he has kept the details so quiet that some people have booked holiday parties at the new place without even knowing what kind of restaurant it will be or where it will be located.
Turin obviously relished letting the cat out of the bag during a recent interview at David’s. So, what’s the big secret? Where’s the new place?
“It’s right there,” the chef said with a big smile on his face, as he pointed to a small room in the back of the restaurant that has been used for private dinners. “It’s behind that wall.”
Yes, the new restaurant will be inside David’s – a restaurant within a restaurant.
“David’s Opus 10” will be an 18-seat restaurant with its own independent, open kitchen and a fixed price, multi-course menu. Seven courses will be served Tuesday through Thursday, and nine courses on Friday and Saturday. Turin is hoping to open the place by the first week in November, depending on how well renovations go.
Bo Byrne, currently the chef de cuisine at David’s 388, will be moving to David’s to cook with Turin at the new place. Carlos Tirado, who has been sous chef at the South Portland restaurant for the past two-and-a-half years, will take Byrne’s place there.
Turin said he’s been toying with the idea of a new place for about a year and a half, searching all over town for just the right space. Then he realized that he could save money on rent, heat, light, administrative costs and other bills by using the function/special event room at David’s, which is now in the middle of extensive renovations.
“It takes huge pressure off financially, and it just opens the door creatively enormously because then you don’t have to pander to ‘How are we going to get people in the door?’ ” he said. “I’m going to do the restaurant I always wanted to do, and I’m not going to have all this financial pressure hanging over my head.”
Turin hopes to pass some of the savings along to his guests. The price point for a multi-course David’s Opus 10 menu will be around $55, with wine pairings optional.
While David’s caters to the business lunch crowd and concert-goers who pop in for a bite before a show, Turin says his new place will be “a very foodie restaurant.”
The chef worries that some people will think they’ll just be paying higher prices for the same food they get at David’s, which is designed to have broad appeal.
“One of the elements that I think is really key is that as you walk in, you will see the Opus 10 kitchen, and you will see that it is a separate entity inside,” he said.
The renovations will include some sound proofing so the noise of David’s doesn’t spill over into the new place.
Why “David’s Opus 10?” That’s a nod to the fact that this will be Turin’s tenth restaurant. Turin celebrated his 30th anniversary in the restaurant business this summer, and it’s made him a little introspective.
“In the last couple of years, it’s almost like a lot of things I’ve learned over the years are starting to gel,” he said. “I think I’m cooking the best food I’ve ever cooked, and I’m more excited about it now than ever.”
Turin has been doing a lot of themed dinners and private dinners lately, like the one at the Kennebunkport Festival, and the fun of creating those special menus was part of what inspired him to open the new place.
“For me, I think that what makes a menu great is that there’s a harmony that kind of weaves its way through the menu,” he said. “It’s not just that each dish is really great, but that they kind of work together. There’s sort of an ebb and flow to the course of a meal.
“I really like the idea of trying to get people to do this whole menu. I guess I’m going to find out whether I’ve developed a trusted relationship with my clientele. I don’t know whether the menus will be a blind tasting, but I’m going to put things on the menu that people might not normally order. Nine out of 10 people won’t order quail. Nineteen out of 20 people won’t order foie gras, just to use two examples.
“Hopefully they’ll trust me enough to say ‘OK, I’m in. Feed me.’ ”Tweet
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.