There have been few restaurants to open in the Salem area over the past few years to as much anticipation as Orupa. Hans Afshar, owner and chef of the now closed Old Europe Inn restaurant in South Salem, opened his new venture in the fall of last year (2010) in the new Waterplace building in downtown Salem. It would be an understatement to say that there was a lot of buzz about it, and along with that came some very high, and probably unrealistic expectations. I wasn't sure what I expected, but I knew there'd be a port-reduction demi-glace on it.
We were greeted by a friendly hostess before the door could shut behind us, and were immediately shown to a booth seat. On a previous visit, we were seated in the "row seats" in the area to the left of the entrance. It's a great place to meet your neighbors, but if you're looking for a quiet meal where you can focus on your dining companion, ask for a booth.
When it was time to order, we struggled between ordering something new, and ordering steaks with one of Hans' famous sauces. So we went with one of each. Mrs. VN ordered the Crispy Salmon with Lemon and Saffron, and I ordered the Hanger Steak. Neither of us was disappointed.
The salmon was served with a slightly crispy outer "shell," and had a lightly sweet lemon flavor and just a hint of saffron on a bed of rice and vegetables. The yellow sauce you see in the picture was tangy, possibly more than some may like, but still delicious. Otherwise, the flavors were well-balanced and we both loved it.
At the end of the meal, I asked my wife to tell me her criticisms of our experience. Neither of us could really come up with anything. The price was on par with other fine-dining restaurants, the atmosphere was pleasant, our waitress was wonderful (attentive and friendly), and the food was excellent and timely. We enjoyed every bit of the meal, from beginning to end.
It's a fact that every restaurant needs some time to get into the groove. Chains open up and can become fully functional and optimized in as little as a few weeks to a month. And on EatSalem.com, you'll often read warnings and reminders when a new restaurant has opened that it's our job to give them constructive feedback and cut them some slack as they shake out the bugs. Unfortunately, Orupa took longer to get it together than other restaurants have. I think this has resulted in quite a bit of criticism of Orupa, some fair and some not so fair. In this experience of Orupa, I'm inclined to believe that they've gotten through the worst of it, but I'm sure there's still folks that have already given up. To you, fellow Foodie, I ask that you consider trying them again down the road.
500 Liberty St SE, Waterplace
Reviewed By Vegan's Nightmare