Opus owners work on their second Clear Lake Shores masterpiece
Eight years ago, Charlie Felts heard about a waterfront restaurant for lease in the small bayside community of Clear Lake Shores and went to take a look. The place was a little rough around the edges, but Felts saw potential.
Then Hurricane Ike, which struck in September 2008, came along.
Felts, along with business partner Chris Simon, leased the property, but had their work cut out for them. During Hurricane Ike, water had risen to the top of the first-floor ceiling and the building had to be gutted. Felts and Simon rolled up their sleeves and did much of the work themselves. One year later, they opened Opus Bistro, serving classic French cuisine and quickly winning over residents.
By 7 p.m. on any given night, Opus Bistro, 1002 Aspen Road, is packed with patrons dressed in everything from three-piece suits to Hawaiian shirts, filling the place with laughter and conversation.
Simon is usually nearby with a big smile on his face. If customers are happy, he’s happy.
Felts is around, too. But lately, he’s been busy with the intricate details of opening up their second restaurant — Opus Ocean Grille — just down the street in Watergate Yachting Center.
“Most people come to our area for seafood,” Felts said. “So, we wanted to do something on a new level by serving seafood straight out of the oceans of the Pacific and Atlantic — flown in fresh — as well as the Gulf of Mexico.”
Felts put himself through college by working as a waiter, bartender and cook in Houston restaurants. Simon began his career in the restaurant business by washing dishes at Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin. Felts and Simon met more than 30 years ago when they were employed at a steakhouse in Houston. Felts went on to work with Houston-based restaurant and hospitality company Landry’s for 15 years, and spent the majority of his time traveling in and out of 38 states, observing what was new and what the competition was doing.
Opus is famous for its sauces — béarnaise, hollandaise, rémoulade, lemon butter caper.
In the French tradition, the restaurant uses plenty of cream and butter.
“We’ve always been big on sauces,” Simon said.
Are two restaurants better than one?
Simon thinks so.
“We are doing something that will set us apart from all the other seafood restaurants in our area,” he said. “Most of the seafood at the new location will be grilled, sautéed and baked with a minimum of fried dishes. But all those tantalizing sauces will still be around.”
And like Opus Bistro, Opus Ocean Grille won’t skimp on desserts.
Felts and Simon plan to add new options, including white chocolate bread pudding, banana bread tiramisu and lemon cheesecake mousse.
A salad of seared, raw tuna, diced and served on a mixture of arugula and field greens, tossed with a strawberry vinaigrette, doesn’t have a name yet, but will be on the menu. So will golden tilefish.
“Golden tilefish is a deepwater fish, caught in about 600 feet of water in the Gulf and is not always available,” Simon said. “It’s a mild, white fish with a delicate, sweet flavor similar to lobster or crabmeat, and is very delicious.”
Opus Ocean Grille won’t be open until sometime in the fall, but you can expect a sophisticated coastal vibe with rustic wood interior and lots of glass — floor to ceiling upstairs — providing a panoramic view of the waterfront.
“We’ll still offer a few land lover dishes, like steak and chicken, but very few dishes will transfer over from Opus Bistro,” Simon said.
But rest assured, the new restaurant will feature Opus’ trademark sauces.
Two dishes that will be on the menu at Opus Ocean Grille are the Grouper Tropicale and Tropical Crab Salad.
Simon was kind enough to supply the recipes.
1002 Aspen Road, Clear Lake Shores
8 ounces grouper fillet
2 ounces blackening seasoning
2 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat
1 ounce fresh diced tomatoes
1 ounce fresh diced mango
4 ounces melted unsalted butter
Coat the grouper with blackening seasoning on both sides. Using a flat griddle or skillet, cook the grouper in 2 ounces of butter for 3 to 4 minutes on each side on medium high heat.
In a separate skillet, sauté the tomatoes, mango, cilantro and jumbo lump crabmeat on medium low heat with the remaining 2 ounces of butter for 3 minutes.
Place the cooked grouper on a plate and top with the sautéed mango, tomato, cilantro and jumbo lump crabmeat, including the butter it was cooked in.
(Recipe from Chris Simon)
Tropical Crab Salad
1 ounce fresh diced pineapple
1 ounce fresh diced mango
1 ounce fresh diced tomato
4 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat
3 tablespoons sliced basil leaves in strips
2 ounces olive oil
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ avocado sliced
1 butter lettuce leaf
In a mixing bowl, gently combine the pineapple, mango, tomato and crabmeat with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Place the butter lettuce at top of the plate. Arrange the salad in the center of plate with half of the lettuce exposed for garnish. Place avocado slices on the lower left and right side of the salad.
(Recipe from Chris Simon)