Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Opah, Irvine

I get there before everyone else and have plenty of time to peruse the menu at Opah. Their happy hour is 4-7 pm and the bar is full but not standing room only crowded.  I was thrilled to see a manhattan on the menu.  OK, it's listed under the martinis but what are you going to do?  The cherry rye manhattans is made with George Dickel Rye, sweet vermouth and luxardo cherry syrup.

George Dickel Rye is made by, you guessed it,  Dickel Distillery.  It opened for business in 1870 in Cascade Hollow, Tennessee.  Dickel is the only Tennessee whisky to chill the whisky before it goes into the vats.  This process filters out the oils and fatty acids found in most whisky products.  When George died in 1894, his wife, Augusta and her family managed the business so successfully that they were Tennessee's largest distillery by 1904.  Prohibition began in Tennessee in 1903, nine years earlier than it went into effect on the federal level. It wasn't until 1958 that Master Distiller Ralph Dupps obtained Dickel's original recipes and methods and began making the whisky again.

Here's an interesting recipe from their website.


1.25 oz George Dickel® Tennessee Whisky No. 12

1 tbs. lemon juice

2 tsp. grapefruit juice

1.5 tsp. almond extract

1 peach slice

Combine ingredients except peach slice. Stir well, add ice, and decorate with peach slice.

Back to the matter at hand.  Opah has some interesting menu items (appetizers $7-15), entrees ($18-26) and a very nice drink menu ($7-12) . I decide that the cherry rye on the menu is probably going to be too sweet for me.  Kevin, the bartender, gives me a sip of the rye and it's quite nice.  I ask for equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth, stirred with a twist and get a beautifully colored, perfectly prepared cocktail for $9 during happy hour and $10 at all other times (a bargain at either price).

My friend gets the anjou pear martini made with Smirnoff pear vodka, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit juice, simple syrup and lemon.  It looks and sound delicious and my friend reports, "Fabulous."

I am torn between the beet salad (arugula, walnuts, shaved onion and goat cheese ($11) but decide on the prosciutto wrapped shrimp based on Kevin's enthusiastic endorsement ($11 during happy hour).  What this turns out to be is three individual caprese salads with the shrimp on top.  So good.  So so good. 

Friend is equally happy with the scallops over butternut risotto  entree ($26). With hay?

Kevin, who turns out to be from Massachusetts (can we get some grant money to investigate why these Mass men and women make the best drinks?) works Wednesday through Sunday.  He is attentive, checks on us after he brings drinks and food, keeps our water glasses filled, can carry on a conversation.  The other bartenders never acknowledged us.

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