Byline: Alexandra Bellak
NEW YORK — Opaline has brought the 19th-century French bistro into the modern age.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant, at 85 Avenue A in the East Village, has a comfortable living room-like lounge with velvet chairs and marble tables. Beyond it is a vast two-level dining area, with loft-like ceilings and modern visual elements, including Guy Pene du Bois’s painting “Absinthe House, New Orleans,” the inspiration for the restaurant.
There’s also live music. Roberta Flack appeared on opening night last fall, and Chaka Khan has appeared.
Opaline is the latest joint venture for Arthur Tallman and Nicholas Neubauer — the duo behind the Shark Bar, Bayamo and Mekka.
It is named after the greenish color of absinthe, a liquor favored by 19th-century artists in New Orleans and Paris. Absinthe is illegal now, but Opaline serves a drink with similar potency and flavor.
“We wanted to open a place that had great food, with a dreamy, intoxicating absinthe-house atmosphere, with an attentive staff that makes everyone feel welcome,” said general manager Ashley Smith, formerly of Odeon. “There are no ropes set up outside.”
Chef Edward Coleman, who comes to Opaline by way of Alison on Dominick restaurant in Greenwich Village, prepares a Mediterranean/ Provenial menu. It includes goat cheese salad with bacon and lemon citronette, duck confit with frisee and truffle vinaigrette for appetizers. Entrees include sauteed monkfish with braised vegetables and caper brown butter, braised lamb shank with roasted garlic-whipped potatoes and the ubiquitous steak frites done with citrus herb butter. For dessert, there’s traditional tarte tatin, creme brulee or a hot chocolate souffle with creme fraoche ice cream.
Prices range from $4 to $9 for appetizers, $8 to $18 for entrees and $4 to $6 for desserts. Opaline is open for dinner and late-night snacks Monday through Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m., with the bar/lounge area serving nightly from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.