The OpenTable Blog

The Menu at Oriole Chicago: Behind the Windy City’s Hottest Tasting Experience

The 13th of 15 courses to arrive at the table of fine-dining West Loop newcomer Oriole is “Gianduja.” Named for a milk chocolate composed of 30% hazelnuts, it is technically a cheese course that’s meant to be picked up and eaten in one or two bites. It vaguely resembles a cheese board — a thin pretzel lavash dolloped with hazelnut chocolate cremeux, Raclette cheese, and black currant sorbet with fragrant nasturtium and dots of lavender gastrique. And in a previous version, it was. But, like everything on the menu at this imaginative restaurant from executive chef/owner Noah Sandoval (of the now-shuttered Senza) and pastry chef-partner Genie Kwon (Boka, Eleven Madison Park), it evolved.

“(The Gianduja) is a pretty big evolution from how we first presented the cheese course, literally, on a wood board,” says Kwon. “But we kind of took that philosophy of taking things with really delicious flavors on their own, making them taste as much like themselves as possible, then combining, re-hashing, and improving them. The guest gets all these flavors in one bite that holds together miraculously.”

oriole chicago

It was a group effort — involving discussions weighing whether to combine the cheese and chocolate courses and how to make the Raclette taste more Raclette-y (salt!), plus plenty of tinkering from sous chef-baker John Gorr (Publican Quality Meats) to create an edible ledge out of flatbread.

But collaboration and constant fine-tuning are the pillars of this intimate, 28-seat restaurant and its $175 tasting menu. For the four friends behind Oriole — Sandoval, Kwon, general manager Cara Sandoval (Sandoval’s wife), and sous chef Tim Flores — it represents the realization of Sandoval’s longtime dream for a restaurant with “as many courses as it takes” to fulfill and stretch the team creatively, while also simply “making guests happy.”

“It’s food we’re excited about, that we would want to eat,” he says.

Like other tasting menus, there are crescendos — like the salty, acidic steelhead trout capped with smoked roe and served with artichoke-marjoram broth. Seasons play a part in what appears on the plate, too, though Sandoval notes, “You’d never see me change the entire menu for spring or fall — that scares me.”

Oriole Chicago

There are also plenty of seeming miscalculations that make total sense in actuality. For instance, the house sourdough arrives smack dab in the middle of the meal — “to bring your palate back down a bit” between a brightly acidic Alaskan king crab course and that smoky, salty trout. Creamy, umami-rich uni is followed by even more decadent foie gras. But for Sandoval, who cut his teeth dazzling diners at Michelin-starred (and undetectable for many) gluten-free Senza, it’s as much about how things flow together as what constitutes them individually.Continue Reading

OpenTable Tab Now Lets LA Diners Put It on Their Tab

OpenTable Tab

Dine like a regular and pay like a boss in Los Angeles with OpenTable Tab, a new payment experience that gives diners a way to quickly and easily settle a check at any time as well as providing restaurants with a unique way to deliver classic hospitality. Currently available at more than 75 restaurants in Los Angeles, OpenTable Tab will be introduced in more U.S. cities later this year.

To experience OpenTable Tab,  simply tap the Tab feature when you book your reservation at a participating restaurant. Once you’re at the restaurant and ready to leave – or at any time during their meal – you can let your server know you want to put your meal on your OpenTable Tab and then get up and go whenever you’re ready. When no cash or cards exchange hands at the table, you’re free to live in the moment.Continue Reading

Cheers to Shrimp Cocktail: 12 Takes on the Classic

Ah, the iconic shrimp cocktail. Especially popular in the 19th-century, one theory has it that the dish was served in a cocktail glass because of the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920’s Prohibition. Like Prohibition, the days of limp shrimp with a side glop of ketchup and a few tears of tasteless iceberg lettuce are long past. Today, the dish, which typically stars on appetizer menus, has evolved to eye-candy shrimp cocktails with sassy sauces and whimsical presentations. Here are 12 creative takes on shrimp cocktail that would make Forest Gump’s’ Bubba especially proud.

St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, Indiana
Funny for a restaurant located in a landlocked state that it’s the shrimp cocktail that put this steakhouse on the map — in fact, it is the only appetizer on the menu. “People come from all over the world to have the shrimp cocktail,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Named The World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail, it stars four jumbo shrimp served with the restaurant’s spicy, signature cocktail sauce. The local restaurant, which opened in 1902, shares its secret for what makes its shrimp cocktail so sought-after — pssst, it’s the shaved-daily horseradish (the restaurant typically goes through 5,760 pounds of horseradish a year, or 15 to 20 pounds per day). In fact, the shrimp cocktail has been deemed one of the world’s spiciest dishes. Pssst — another secret, you can now buy a bottle of the sassy sauce for bloodies at home. Make a reservation at St. Elmo Steak House.

shrimp cocktail

Legal Harborside-Floor 2, Boston, Massachusetts
Time to chill. Legal Seafood’s flagship restaurant presents its Shrimp Cocktail in a hollow ice globe. A hole is poked in the orb so the succulent shellfish can be placed inside. The sphere eventually melts, of course — all good things must come to an end, after all. Make a reservation at Legal Harborside-Floor 2.

shrimp cocktail

Todd English’s bluezoo, Orlando, Florida
Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel doesn’t Mickey Mouse around. The Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller is a “deconstructed shrimp cocktail served in a glass tube that is consumed by creating a vacuum with your hand and sucking the contents into your mouth.” Note: The dish isn’t on the current menu but it is offered at the hotel’s annual food and wine festival and will likely be offered on an upcoming menu, according to a spokesperson for the restaurant. Make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo.

shrimpo cocktail

Coasterra, San Diego, California
Order the Cóctel de Camarón and you’ll get a California twist on the classic Mexican shrimp cocktail — fresh Mexican white shrimp tossed with avocado, chopped romaine lettuce, and housemade Baja sangrita. The dish is served in a tumbler with a guajillo chile salt rim and accented with corn tortillas and cilantro garnish. Make a reservation at Coasterra.

shrimp cocktail

Herons, Cary, North Carolina
Chef Steven Greene serves an elevated shrimp cocktail designed with chilled shrimp, mango salad, mint, and mango chili sauce. Greene sources shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which are quickly poached in a court bouillon (broth of mirepoix, lemon, white wine, and bay leaf.) The mango salad is a mix of diced mango tossed with picked mint leaves, picked basil leaf, cilantro, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, and scallion. And the mango chili sauce is a bewitching blend of mango puree and a Thai chili sauce. Make a reservation at Herons.

Shrimp Cocktail

Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, Florida
Josh Thomsen, the executive chef of this five-star diamond resort restaurant, along with chef du cuisine Manlee Siu present a Poached Wild Florida Shrimp Cocktail on the menu, which stars lemon caviar, beet, and horseradish sauce. First, the shrimp is butterflied and gently poached in shrimp stock. Next, the shrimp are chilled, sliced, and topped with faux lemon caviar and garnished with a tomato-free beet ketchup-horseradish sauce. Make a reservation at Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

shrimp cocktailContinue Reading

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox: Restaurant, Music Venue + Hospitality-First ‘Gastrobrothel’

Ophelia's Electric Soapbox

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, in Denver, recently named one of the 100 Hottest Restaurants in America by OpenTable diners, defies most attempts at categorization. It is a restaurant and a bar first, but most nights of the week it doubles as a live music venue. When there’s no music, you may see a major sports game projected onto the space’s 22-foot screen.

To add another layer of intrigue, the restaurant is housed in a historic Victorian building from the 1890s with a sordid history: over the years, it’s been used as a bordello, an adult video store, and a peep show. As chef-owner Justin Cucci explains, he saw in the space the perfect opportunity to marry food, music, and sex in one experience.

“Normally you listen to music, and everything else is a third-hand experience: shitty beer, mediocre food, it smells,” he says. “I wanted to do something like the old-school jazz and supper clubs where you could go out on a date and experience some live music but also have great service, hospitality, and food. You can start here, and you can end here.”

We asked Justin all about the unique experience at Ophelia’s and how he delivers on expectations for his many diverse guests. Here’s how he pulls it off. Continue Reading