The Gossiping Gourmet: OPM offers towering, small and big bites

 OPM Restaurant and Lounge has recently opened in Huntington Beach. I don't know what the initials stand for, but if you say them out loud they sound like opium. Intentional? In any case, this is a very attractive dining space that is kind of swanky, although the vibe is still casual.

It includes a large outdoor eating area, a comfortable lounge area inside with couches and chairs, seating at the bar and two large indoor dining areas, one on the main floor and one up a short set of stairs. Open ductwork and a high ceiling add to the character.

The décor includes big golden pots of artificial flowers, lovely pale gray leather seats along the banquette and gray and white striped upholstered chairs at the tables.

The menu features items from the raw bar including a seafood tower for $149 that will accommodate quite a few guests. It includes oyster shooters, three dozen oysters, crab legs, shrimp cocktail, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce and warm butter. Guests can also order oysters or ceviche of the day separately, as well as shrimp cocktail.

Under the category Plates is the chef's choice of cheeses as well as a plate of charcuterie with coppa, prosciutto, soppressata, varzi salami and salami al tartufo. Or select a combination.

My companion and I began our meal with selections from the A Few Bites portion of the menu. Short rib croquettes are filled with seasoned, tender shreds of short rib wrapped in a thin crisp crust. They were excellent, especially dipped in one of the accompanying sauces, one sweet and a bit spicy and the other one creamy. A light, refreshing arugula salad came on the side.

I am a big fan of pork belly, and OPM serves a very good version. The pork belly was braised until it was tender and not too fatty, then brushed with a ponzu glaze and served on a steamed Chinese bun. It was one of the best I have tasted. On the side was a mango and green papaya salad that was the perfect foil to the pork.

Another of the Few Bites was lobster mac and cheese, and it too was a winner. It was served in a small but deep crock that rested on another crock. The arrangement was quite attractive, and the mac and cheese was great.

Our waiter suggested the marrow bone also from the Bites menu. This dish is always tricky because it can be too greasy if overcooked, and this one was. It came with a sweet caramelized onion raisin jam, which was tasty with toasted costini, and a parsley salad.

We shared the very ample duck confit pasta from the Big Bites. The duck was shredded and tossed with spaghetti, arugula, sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Buttery juices on the bottom helped make it a delicious dish with a nice blend of flavors and textures.

The other offerings on the Big Bite menu include thei house burger, made with prime beef, roasted chicken, striped bass and a 20-ounce prime ribeye for two.

For desert, we couldn't pass up the intriguing foie ice cream. I have to say that I really couldn't find anything that tasted of foie, but the ice cream was delicious. It was served on a raisin and date bread pudding, and on top were chopped nuts, apples with berries, drops of caramel and a crisp slice of prosciutto. The little bit of saltiness from the prosciutto was a great idea, lending just another layer of flavor.

OPM has all the makings of a very good restaurant and a top-notch lounge.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

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OPM Restaurant and Lounge

Location: 8901 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach

Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays; closed Mondays

Prices:

Appetizers: raw bar, $18 to $149; Plates, $23 to $24

Bites: $5 to $12

Entrees: $15 to $55

Desserts: $9

Wine:

Bottles: $25 to $500

By the glass: $7 to $15

Corkage: $20

Information: opmhb.com; (714) 848-1188

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