Over the past few years, Richard and I have earned a new respect for strip mall dining establishments. My parents live in Las Vegas part of the year, and there are some fantastic restaurants there hidden away in strip malls. Since we moved to El Paso, we’ve discovered quite a few of these strip mall culinary surprises. And I’m happy to say that Opus World Bistro is one of those places.
We’d come across this establishment on urbananspoon.com, which indicated some positive reviews of this relatively new Westside restaurant. But we knew little else about it, as the restaurant doesn’t have much web presence (at least not yet).
So with open minds (and hungry bellies), we headed to World Opus Bistro on a Saturday night. Given the location at a strip mall on N. Mesa St., there’s plenty of parking. We went inside and were pleased with the decor and atmosphere (nice and roomy feel, art on the walls, well-spaced tables). We had made a reservation, and we were immediately led to a great table that had a “Reserved” sign on it. Nice way to start out! We looked around and saw that there were several people dining and others coming in. As the night went on, we noticed two tables that appeared to be having celebrations of some type, as well as several tables filled with couples and gatherings of friends. It was a nice crowd, and we were happy to see that this establishment was getting business.
Right away, our server Arturo brought us menus and took care of our beverage order. We went with the Snap Dragon Cabernet Sauvignon. Our wine soon arrived, served with complimentary cracker-type bread and a delicious white dip. Richard took one taste of the dip, then another, and said “this is addicting!”. Arturo informed us that the dip is a combination of sour cream, cream cheese, and jalapeno peppers (and perhaps some other things I may have missed….the wine was working its magic by then!).
Richard took one look at the appetizers and small plates menu, and his eyes stopped at the Vegetable Spring Rolls with Orange Sweet Chili Sauce. Yep, no need to see anything else! He ordered up, and when it came he scarfed those things down. He said that the rolls themselves were crispy and delicious, and the sauce was amazing.
There were several tempting soups and salads, but after seeing a good-looking piece o’ cake go by I decided to save room for dessert instead (hmmmm…..salad or dessert? salad or dessert? Is this even a question?). The entree list had me stumped, as it was filled with a variety of tasty options. Arturo helped me decide on my entree, and at his recommendation I went with the Linguine Carbonara with Pancetta, Garlic, Cream and Parmesan Cheese. Richard knew immediately what he wanted: Grilled NY Steak with Chipolte Butter and Tobacco Onions.
While awaiting our entree selections, the Chef visited all tables in the restaurant including ours. He (and the rest of the staff) seemed very invested in the restaurant and what they produce in the kitchen. He indicated that he is very willing to prepare something off the menu, if he has the ingredients on hand or is given sufficient notice. While Richard and I are not vegan, we had heard about a vegan dinner hosted recently by Opus World Bistro and the chef was kind enough to bring us out his vegan menu and to send out some complimentary vegan/raw-food gazpacho. Again – Richard and I are not vegan but this vegan menu had several items that both of us would have ordered. And the gazpacho – I left that to gazpacho-loving Richard and he stated it was “fabulous, with great taste, and hyper-refreshing”). I’m pretty sure that EP Veg Snob would really like this place!
Arturo brought out our entrees and oh my – did these look good! I do eat with my eyes, and my eyes were dang well pleased with my Linguine Carbonara. And soon my stomach was pleased as well! This was one of the best carbonaras I’ve ever had. The pancetta added just the right saltiness to the dish. Overall, the combination of flavors was just fantastic. And it was served hot (can’t say how many times I’ve been disappointed by a a lukewarm meal, even at really nice restaurants). This was a generous serving of pasta, and I will admit that I did not leave one bite on my plate.
Richard’s dish disappeared quickly (always a good sign!). I knew this had to be a special dish when ever-the-carnivore Richard started making comments about how delicious the potatoes and the vegetables were. He said that that steak with butter was also excellent (and cooked just right). He inhaled the tobacco onions, which I must say looked as tasty as they must have been.
Dessert time! There were several delicious-sounding options including a Chocolate Lava Cake and an Italian Wedding Cake. Richard went with a Chocolate Cake (vegan, no less!) and I could not resist the Italian Cream Cake. The desserts came out alongside fresh berries. And oh my! These were good, and they appeared homemade. Richard said that the cake was great…..rich, chocolatey and delicious with perfect taste and texture (he said: “You would never have known this was vegan!”). I would have loved to have snatched a bite but was too busy with my own cake. I have always been a sucker for an Italian Cream Cake, and this was one of the best versions I’ve had. It was chock-full of pecans, both in the cake and in the icing. Those pecans really made that cake. It was moist, with crunch from the pecans and creaminess (and crunch) from the icing. Mmmmmmm. I was in dessert heaven.
We really loved our meal at Opus World Bistro. We were really impressed with our server Arturo. He did a wonderful job throughout our meal. I noticed that the other server on duty as well as the hostess also seemed very professional and “on the ball”. During the evening, the chef made multiple appearances in the dining room and spent quite a bit of time talking with each tables. From the atmosphere, to the service, to the personal interest from the chef, to the food…….it all added up to a wonderful dining experience.
Right before we left, Arturo told us that Opus World Bistro also serves Sunday Brunch that features “endless” mimosas and sangria. He stated that you could order off of a set menu, or choose a more buffet-type meal that included an omelette station and a dessert bar. And just this morning, a friend informed us he’d heard great things about the Sunday brunch at Opus.
Postscript: While we did enjoy our dining experience here, there were some serious issues experienced by a group who dined here because of our favorable review. Based on their bad experiences and the lack of any response by the chef to their bad review on Urbanspoon, we are now reluctant to recommend Opus.
Opus World Bistro is located on the west side at 7128 N Mesa St, El Paso, TX 79912