Drunk After Work: Opah
The Place: Opah at Town Center, 26851 Aliso Creek Rd., Ste. C, Aliso Viejo, (949) 360-8822; www.opahrestaurant.com. Opah at the Marketplace, 13122 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 508-8055;www.opahrestaurant.com.
The Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 4-6:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 9-11 p.m.
The Deal: $6 martinis. $4 draft beers. Half price on appetizers (regular menu price range between $10-$14).
The Scene: Opah is one of the few places that does a late night happy hour, because let's face it, not all of us can get out of the office by 6 or 7 on a weekday. Plus, a nice stiff drink for cheap on Friday or Saturday night is worth more than one on a midweek afternoon. Opah also seems best at these times, with the high tables lit up to glow blue from underneath like something out of Star Trek.
The crowd is admittedly sparser at night, most clinging to the bar like a life raft, taking in just one more sip before turning in for the evening.
Also, there's this: the Happy Hour deal can be had anywhere you sit in the restaurant. Be it outside in the patio with the fire pit, or inside the restaurant proper in a high-backed booth.
The Sauce: They pour the standard drafts like Stella Artois, Fat Fire and Sierra Nevada. Their wine list is more extensive. But the martinis are what everyone seems to drink. Almost every single martini has a fruit in it. The mango martini is fortified with Malibu Mango Rum and made cloudy and sweet by mango puree, Ruby Red Grapefruit juice and, of course, a mango slice for garnish. On everything else, expect flavors of mandarin, Asian pear, pineapple, grape, blueberry lemon, watermelon and plum. Dessert martinis of the chocolate variety are also available, as is the traditional martini with none of the embellishments.
The Food: Go for the steamed mussels and clams: Served in the vessel they were cooked in, the shellfish swim in a briny broth decorated with julienned scallions, and lots of sliced onions to make your breath fragrant. The broth is actually better than the bivalves, best to be soaked up by the hot baguette rolls they'll give you.
The ridiculous tower of sweet-potato chips impaled on a sharp metal rod makes me nervous, and it's all about drama and height for what ended up being just thinly sliced sweet potato fries coated in a parmesan crust.
A saner choice is the seafood-artichoke dip, which comes with triangles of crispy-soft pita-bread triangles that's almost too good for the dip. Their seared ahi is the same way. The mess of pickled cabbage tastes vaguely Asian-y and almost trumps the sesame-crusted ahi it is meant to accompany.
The Verdict: Opah is a solid late option for extending your weekend night buzz a little bit longer; and there's the better than average food.
The Grade: A-.