Monday, May 23, 2011


NOTE: I've gone back twice since this visit:
(Part 2 -- July 2011)
(Part 3 -- May 2012)

Orupa is a restaurant on Liberty St. SE in downtown Salem, Oregon. They specialize in "New American" cuisine, and here, it seems to be mainly American-French fusion.

I found out about Orupa just last night -- literally. I read a food review about it on Yelp (a very positive one), and then forgot about it until I saw an advertisement for Orupa in a newspaper at the Governor's Cup. I figured I might as well check it out.

I arrived at Orupa right at 11 a.m. today (Monday). The staff looked like they were still preparing to load the day's food into the kitchen. They opened about 15 minutes past 11 a.m., and all this time, I was hoping the wait would be worth it.

When the doors opened, I got a nice seat by the window. Ryan was my server today, and we both recognized each other from when we first met in the admissions office of Willamette University College of Law. Quite possibly the best server I've had: extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and professional.

I ordered the Croque Monsieur with Pomme Frites, along with a side salad.

First up, though, a complementary roll of bread. There was a dipping sauce of olive oil and their "secret sauce," but my server, Ryan, also gave me a sample of the sauce, just straight up:

That bread is just sliced so beautifully
Sliced to the point where it is still attached at the bottom.
Dipping sauce of olive oil and their secret sauce
The sample of just the secret sauce is on the left
I tried both dips with the bread, and I preferred the secret sauce straight up. The secret sauce flavors are just bolder than olive oil, and I believe an otherwise-bland bread needs the flavor. The bread itself was also good. It was brought out in a basket, covered with a purple cloth napkin, still lukewarm. The bread was definitely not as good as Great Harvest's cinnamon bread (this one was not as light and not as fresh), but still a good start.

The side salad came next; the dressing was a Caesar-Italian blend. I wanted the dressing on the side, and yes, to my dismay, the salad was overdressed for my liking. Regardless, the salad and the dressing were delicious anyway. The dressing was light and did not overpower the greens or the radishes on top. Fresh salad greens and radishes are always nice here.

Finally, the main course, the Croque Monsieur and Pomme Frites:

The bread is freshly baked in-house each morning, a positive start. The bread is grilled for the Croque Monsieur, and it was wonderfully crunchy on the outside. The Gruyere cheese on top and inside the sandwich was perfectly melted. The ham was nice and hot (temperature-wise), so I knew the food had just been taken off the fire mere seconds earlier.

But the frites were the star of the show. I ate one and immediately got taken to frite heaven, if there is one. Without question, the best frite or French fry I've ever had. It was crispy-crunchy-golden brown on the outside, still soft on the inside. The seasoning was absolutely dead-on. Ryan sold the heck out of the frites, and he was 100 percent on the money.

I've said it before, I'm not a person to eat a lot of fries or chips. But man, it took a lot to not eat the entire helping of frites at the table. After all, I gotta watch my portion control with all the places I go to in one day.

The total bill was a mere $12 ($8.50 for the Croque Monsieur and frites; $3.50 for the side salad). Having this for more than one meal? An even better deal.

Orupa has lunch specials each day. For example, they had three lunch specials today: a lamb burger, a quinoa dish, and a beet salad. Again, Ryan sold the heck out of the lamb burger. He even promoted the Orupa Burger ($9.95) and a salad of spinach, chicken, cranberries, apples, and pecans ($8.50). I'll have to give one of those a try next time at lunch.

But hold on! Orupa has a dinner menu as well! Looking at that, I was immediately sold on the seared herbed crusted ahi with demi-glace-sweet-soy reduction and grilled vegetables ($17.50) and a grilled crispy salmon with cranberries, asparagus, and lemon-saffron sauce ($17.95). My mouth is watering as I type this.

I don't do this with every restaurant, but here's the link to their website:

Quite possibly the best dining experience I've had up to this point. There may have been a very minor setback with opening a little late and the salad dressing not being on the side. But I'll overlook that. Orupa, I will be back. Bank on it.

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