Last month, Marc Cohen's Opah in Irvine and Aliso Viejo updated to Opah Seafood Grill. To learn more about the reasoning behind the name change, I spent a few minutes catching up with chef Cohen.
A father of three, Marc understands what families look for when narrowing down eating options. Opah Seafood Grill is an example of his “community-based dining” concept. Both are situated in busy entertainment centers catering to the local neighborhood. His menu features upscale entrées in a relaxed setting that doesn't require traveling far to appreciate. It builds a sense of community, and in Orange County–especially in traditionally Stepford Aliso–this is an appreciated characteristic.
However, due to economic changes in recent years, Cohen's clientele have found the need to limit their nights out. Simply put, diners “just can't afford to eat out as often,” Cohen admits. In response, he wanted to go above and beyond to help–but not at the expense of the customer. This proved challenging because commodity prices of basic items had gone up. Determined to adjust with the times, he not only restructured the menu, but he managed to not raise prices as well.
“Thirty-two dollars was previously the highest price point for a cut of beef; now, it's $26 for hazelnut halibut,” says Cohen. The restaurant's award-winning New England clam chowder and caesar topped with warm polenta croutons can still be ordered, fortunately. Other favorites once on the menu are currently offered as nightly specials or (in the recent case of OC Restaurant Week) dining deals. Welcome additions include the meaty burgers first seen at Watermarc–a blend of Angus chuck, sirloin and short rib, an obvious carnivore choice. My new favorite side is the creamy, golden butternut risotto. (Apologies for the dim photo. . . . It's called ambiance.)
Be sure to check out the updated Opah Seafood Grill website to view the entire menu, and 'Like' their Facebook page for current specials, like last month's $5 “Opah buck” special.
Opah Seafood Grill, 13122 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 508-8055; and 26851 Aliso Creek Rd., Aliso Viejo, (949) 360-8822; www.opahrestaurant.com.