April 8, 2013

Dine Out Maine: David's Opus Ten creates a saga of culinary indulgence

By SHONNA MILLIKEN HUMPHREY

Every once in a while, a writer gets to tell a story in food sophistication. From the first engaging opening sentence to that final sigh when the last page is turned. For David's Opus 10, the story is an epic.

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David’s Opus Ten features a dining area that has a few awkward seating spots, but that’s a minor detraction for a restaurant with an excellent fixed-price menu.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Owner David Turin and chef Bo Byrne get the details right, and there is much to love in this tucked-away spot.

DINING REVIEW

DAVID'S OPUS TEN

22 Monument Square, Portland. 773-4340; davidsopus10.com

****

HOURS: Fixed price menu at 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday: $55 for seven courses Tuesday to Thursday; $65 for nine courses Friday and Saturday. Optional wine pairings, $35 weekdays; $45 weekends.

BAR: Full bar

CREDIT CARDS: All major

VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN-FREE: Yes, if noted at time of reservation with a 48-hour notice.

KIDS: No children's menu

RESERVATIONS: Strongly encouraged

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: For a special occasion or for diners who have a few hours to savor and linger, this concept piece of a restaurant within a restaurant flexes its way (rightly so) into Portland's fine dining scene. Owner David Turin and chef Bo Byrne get the details right, and there is much to love in this tucked-away spot.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

*Poor  ** Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary. The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

I booked a 6:30 p.m. reservation, and I unlocked the car door for the drive home at 10:15. Even accounting for chit-chat and a walk to the parking space, David's Opus 10 diners should plan to commit more than three hours.

The tables do not turn (meaning each table accepts one reservation per evening), so plan closer to four hours, just to be safe. This timing is neither good nor bad, but it is significant for managing expectations. David's Opus 10 should not be considered one half of dinner and a show; it is the entire evening.

Our coats dispensed with by a polite and efficient hostess, my husband Travis and I were then greeted at the room's entrance by owner David Turin himself. The mini-kitchen is tucked into a corner, where Turin works side-by-side with former David's 388 chef Bo Byrne. (Note: Ask for the chef's table. It is bar-style seating for two, overlooking the kitchen activity, and it seems fun to watch.)

I say "seems" because the David's Opus 10 seating is my biggest criticism. The decor with exposed brick is modern and minimalist while still projecting warmth (as designed by Kaplan Thompson, who also designed Miyake on Fore Street). The vibe is inviting, not cold, and the banquette along the back wall looked comfortable, as did the table for larger parties.

Unfortunately, Trav and I were placed at an unusual diagonal configuration of double two-tops, where the diners next to us sat at an awkward kitty-corner and were privy to most of our conversation -- and us to theirs.

A conversation that, it should be noted, needed amplification because the depth of tables themselves was significant, so leaning in to whisper was not an easy option. This reads like a petty observation, I'm sure, but when seated for more than three hours, the brick wall view behind my husband's head and proximity to the party next door grew tiresome.

But that's the conflict, and every compelling narrative needs a conflict. It also needs a resolution, and that resolution is the food. Oh my goodness, the food. Because almost every course involved butter or dairy, David's Opus 10 is an experience meant for those with pulse and stamina.

The concept is fixed price, and $65 buys nine courses on the weekends, while seven weekday courses cost $55. Add wine pairings for $35 during the week, and $45 for weekends. "Trust us," Turin seems to suggest, and so we do.

The menu changes monthly, as described by our narrator, er, server, who welcomed us with an amuse bouche presentation that included a rolling cart with a cured leg of jambon and the fixings for the night's specialty cocktails.

The visual impact of the pig leg and liquor impressed my husband, and the detail of the mini-nibbles impressed me: Crostini, olives, paper-thin slices from the cured leg, bits of cave-aged Manchego cheese, and the tiniest dot of fig balsamic in the oil for bread-dipping.

Even though I was assured that the total amount of wine in the pairing menu equals about three full glasses, I prefer a linear approach, and challenged our server for a red wine that might work well with all the courses. Nonplussed, he poured me a 2006 Prunotto Barbaresco Classico, and I was so pleased, as the nebbiolo family produces some of my favorite flavors.

Trav, not a wine guy, asked for whiskey pairings instead. If either request seemed strange or pedestrian, it never showed in the staff's friendly accommodation.

(Continued on page 2)

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