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.

Our waitress, Debi, came to our table with a welcoming smile.  She described the "Dill Pickle Soup" special and brought us a small loaf of bread.  After ordering a scotch and some frilly drink for Mrs. VN, we started off with an appetizer of Crab and Brie.  The brie was melted into a gooey dip mixed with huge chunks of crab.  It was very good, although the crab flavor was a bit strong for Mrs. VN who isn't a huge fan of shellfish.  She basically ate all the brie and left me the crab - another reason I married her.  We also ordered a cup of the "Dill Pickle Soup" because it just sounded so delicious.  And it was.  The soup was creamy and, well, it tasted just like a dill pickle.  I thought it was a tad salty, but Mrs. VN said it was just right.

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.

My steak was cooked medium - exactly as I ordered it - and was served with mushrooms, vegetables, and demi-glace.  This was the was exceptionally tender steak that I remembered and missed from Old Europe Inn.

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
Salem, OR

Reviewed By Vegan's Nightmare


Anonymous said...

Okay, you've convinced me. I trust your point of view. Particularly when it comes to meat.
Plus, I do believe in 2nd chances and when it comes to restaurants, even 3rd.

gstatty said...

I was wary of Orupa and had been told it had an Olive Gardenesque feel and menu. After reading this review, however, I think I'll definitely give it a try. Honestly this review had me at port reduction demi-glace.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should give it another try. I liked Old Europe Inn, but visited Orupa back in Dec. and had poor service and so so food. I'll give them another try.

Anonymous said...

I went to Orupa around New Years, and was disappointed. I had what was billed as 'chicken tandori", and while the dish was good, it wasn't anything remotely resembling chicken tandori. Mrs. Juggler had lobster ravioli, which she described as tasting like it came from a can. I almost felt like a victim of false advertising.

The other couple in our party fared better, ordering fish and steak, both of which were good.

Not sure if I'll try it again...it isn't an overly expensive restaurant, but having already purchased a mediocre meal, I'm not sure I want to spend for another one.


Anonymous said...

I just went there tonight knowing of some bad reviews but wanted to give it a chance. Unfortunately we were so disappointed. More of the service, or lack there of, and treatment when We did get service. Our waiter was so aloof and never once said thanks, come again, or anything of the sort when we left. The food was eh, so so. It was so cold in there we all had to keep our coats on. Never asked for refills on drinks. It was just too bad that it was so bad I guess.
Service is terrible and they need someone in there who can teach them some customer service, or get new waiters!

Anonymous said...

I too was weary about going in after hearing and reading some negative reviews, but the positive reviews convinced me to give it a shot.

I went in last Monday for their burger and brew deal. Absolutely amazing. I had the Orupa Burger and my friend had the Caesar Salad Burger. We both loved our burgers. We both ordered our burgers medium rare and received exactly that. $10 for a burger, amazing crispy fries (or a salad for those that can’t handle the abundance of food), and a drink? I’ll definitely be a Monday regular.

I asked if they had any other specials and they informed me of several of their offerings, including a Ladies Night and $6 Appetizer Night on Wednesdays. I will have to venture forth and try their other specials.

After going in on Monday, another friend wanted to try lunch there yesterday. I figured Monday was great, so lunch would be pleasant too. No disappointment. With all due respect to the above poster, I loved the tandoori. It was nice and spicy, although, I’m no food expert so I do not know exactly what it is supposed to be like. Whatever it SHOULD be, I don’t’ care, what they had was perfect as is. My friend had the Orupa Burger and was just as happy with it as I had been only a few days earlier.

It is unfortunate that so many people have had a negative experience there, as it truly is a lovely location and the food is delicious. The service was fine as well, but I guess it’s a hit and miss, but I’ve come to expect that at many restaurants.

I will return and will recommend it to my friends. To those that have had negative experiences, I urge you to be aware that all restaurants have their on and off days and give a second and even third chance to this place. One good experience might be enough to change your mind.

I do look forward to trying their port-reduction demi-glace!

Anonymous said...

Wow thank you for hitting them up again. We have been there 3 times for lunch and have loved the burger. It is huge and the bun is really different. Pretzle or something like it.

Anonymous said...

We had a hit and miss on our food and service. We waited until they had been open for about 3mns months as we heard mixed reviews and wanted to give them a chance to work them out. It was a Fri night, service was very slow but friendly. We enjoyed one of the three dishes we ordered, a steak. We'll try it again, but going to give them more time to work out those kinks.

Anonymous said...

I've only gone once, on a Saturday night a month or so ago, and were not disappointed. It was quite busy, but we only had about a 5 minute way for table for 2. After a slow start with service, they changed servers and the one we had for the majority of the dinner was excellent. The food was good and not too spendy. Will go back again.

Anonymous said...

I love their tandoori. Not a traditional one, but it is absolutely delicious.

Their Burger and Brew deal is pretty good too. I don't know what they do with their burgers, but it has a different taste to it, highly recommend trying one, especially on a Monday for the deal.

I like the place, solid addition to Salem.

Anonymous said...

We were looking forward to having dinner at the Orupa, it looks so nice from the outside. Although the inside is nicely decorated. Although there were many tables available we had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. The waitress came about 5 minutes later to take drink orders. Then took awhile to get our food orders in. The menu looked nice with a lot of interesting dishes. Unfortunately the dinners we ordered were so bland that even adding salt and pepper didn't help. Would have been nice if the waitress checked up on us, could have used a refill on water. Next thing we knew dishes were cleared off and we were expected to leave. If asked, I would not try this restaurant again.

Anonymous said...

Anyone planning on going to the opening of the Orupa rooftop this Saturday?

Is chef/owner Hans Aftar's (sp?) wife still around the restaurant?

Anonymous said...

I plan to be there on Saturday. I have been looking forward to the rooftop for a long time...very excited to see what Hans has in store.

I believe his wife is still around, she's such a sweet lady! Every time I go in with my husband I look forward to seeing them both.

OregonMaiden said...

Anyone eaten here lately? It's been a while since I've heard anything---wondering if consistency issues have been resolved.Thx.

KandN said...

OM, Received these two responses via FB

Mel: The last time we went (A couple of weeks ago), it wasn't as good as the times we have gone in the past.

SamIAm: We haven't been happy with the 2 or 3 times we went last year, so haven't been back. I'd love to hear whether it's improved!

OregonMaiden said...

Thanks. My own experience has been very erratic to the point where I'm hesitant to take guests, but it's been a few months. What I can't figure out is who's doing most of the cooking. Hans is certainly a terrific chef as he demonstrated at Old Europe Inn, but I have not seen that same caliber any of the six times I've eaten there. Too bad.

KandN said...

Chef David Hilliard was cooking, but has since moved on to a restaurant in California. Haven't heard who's there now.

Anonymous said...

I returned a few weeks after not going for several months and am happy to say it seems that they have become more consistent. Hans has been in the kitchen more lately and I don't recognize the newer guys back there, but I've gone back several times and have been equally happy each time. Obviously, I'd always rather Hans, but the consistency is much better.