In times gone by, anything in the restaurant world fitting that description would have been ultra-expensive with a menu chock full of lavish, cholesterol-laden dishes.
But in today’s world, with diners choosy about where and how they spend their restaurant dollars, that sort of so-called fine dining has become passé.
So even though F&H Food Trading Group’s newest venture on Canton Street has been christened Opulent, don’t expect grandiosity. Instead, think posh and pleasurable with a small but well-crafted menu and an intriguing list of cocktails.
Hicham Azhari and Fikret Kovac, the savvy pair of restaurateurs behind Salt Factory, Little Alley Steak and the late lamented INC Street Food, have created an atmosphere that is sophisticated without being stuffy, full of sleek leather banquettes, smoky mirrors, Italian crystal and globe pendant lights and dark brown wood.
This is the setting for a menu from the collaborative imagination of F&H culinary director Bob McDonough and Opulent’s executive chef, Andy Long, with assistance from sous chef Matt Robertson. The result may best be described as what happens when talented chefs meld classic and contemporary techniques and flavors.
A good example is a salad of red oak, bibb and green leaf lettuces with some baby romaine tossed in. Nice blend of fresh greens, but what really brings this mix to life is the house-made green goddess dressing, buttermilk-based with fresh tarragon, parsley and chives and in this case, a bit of arugula for a mild peppery kick.
This particular dressing used to be the bomb in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but disappeared almost completely from restaurant menus in the ensuing decades. McDonough and crew have lovingly resurrected it with astonishing success.
Together with some added shallots and flecks of goat cheese from north Georgia’s CalyRoad Creamery, what might have been a pedestrian salad is elevated to something very special.
There are five salads, nine starters, four pastas and eight mains, including a flat iron steak and a burger of the highest grade of American Kobe beef, sous vide salmon with Sea Island red peas and sugar snaps and pan-roasted monkfish, the “poor man’s lobster.”
A wickedly refreshing sparkling Spanish wine with pomegranate and rosemary is Opulent’s signature cocktail, but there are many other bubbly concoctions to choose from, as well as some classic cocktails, the famous INC margarita and a full bar.
Opulent is now in residence where INC used to be, at 948 Canton Street. It opened this week for dinner and will begin serving lunch next week.
Initially, when the partners decided to switch out Latin street food for a more upscale concept, Azhari said he estimated the remodeling and rebranding would total out at around $100,000.
“It turned out to be two and a half times that,” he said a few days before the restaurant’s first night of business. “It’s what you don’t see, behind the scenes. It adds up pretty quickly.”
Information: (770) 998-3114 or visit www.facebook.com/opulent.