Opus relocates to the Aria space in Cherry Creek, and has plans for a new restaurant in Castle Rock

Thumbnail image for Seanm2.jpg
Lori Midson
Opus exec chef Sean McGaughey.
I've had some exquisite food at Opus, the Littleton restaurant that's orchestrated by executive chef Sean McGaughey, who took over the burners after opening chef Michael Long departed the fine-dining restaurant to spearhead the kitchen at Aria, which opened in late 2010 in Cherry Creek. Long parted ways with Aria last October (he now co-hosts The Main Course, a food-centric radio show on KEZW), and while Long admitted that Aria "was a challenge," it continued to trudge along. But on Saturday, I got a text that simply read "Opus moving," followed by a second one that read "to Aria."

"Saturday night was our last service at Opus," says McGaughey, who tells me that the restaurant, which resided in Littleton for ten years, shuttered following a breakdown in lease negotiations between Opus's operating partners and the landlord of the building. "Negotiations didn't go well for either party, and it was a mutual decision on both sides to part ways," he explains. And since Aria and Opus are sister restaurants, it made sense, he says, to relocate Opus to Cherry Creek.

The newly conceptualized restaurant will reopen later this week -- McGaughey is shooting for Thursday or Friday -- as Opus and Aria Wine Bar, which McGaughey says will be two separate entities housed under the same roof. "We'll be offering two different experiences, one in the wine bar, and one in the Opus dining room," says McGaughey, adding that his "goal is to really take Opus up a notch, sort of like Frasca or the Little Nell."

McGaughey, like Long, admits that there were bumps at Aria, but he insists that his team from Opus, most of whom have joined him at the new restaurant, along with the current crew at Aria, are working out the kinks. "We're definitely going to focus on service, and we're ironing out the problems that Aria had in the past," he says. "We want to hit the mark the first time with perfect food, perfect service and a tight crew. We're going to try our best to do our best."

The space will undergo a substantial overhaul sometime in the next few months, including a remodeled patio and new furnishings. And unlike Aria, which proffered a casual atmosphere, the new Opus dining room -- like the old one -- won't shy away from stark white tablecloths. And while the kitchen will initially offer a duo of tasting menus coupled with an a la carte menu, McGaughey eventually wants to transition into tasting menus only. "Ideally, my goal is to do away with the a la carte menu and segue into all tasting menus, but that's not set in stone. We'll wait and see how it's received before making a final decision," he says.

Aria Wine Bar will have a separate menu, he notes, made up of small plates. "The wine bar will focus on lower-priced dishes, and I'm shooting for 22 small plates, some of which will be snacks, while others will be smaller entrees," says McGaughey, adding that both operations intend to offer formidable wine programs. "We'll have all sorts of fun pairing options in the wine bar, where guests can skip around, and the Opus dining room will have the kind of stellar bottle selection that you'd want with a really nice dinner."

Once McGaughey gets the new restaurant and wine bar up and running, he'll have another project in the works: a new restaurant in downtown Castle Rock. "We've nailed down a space, and while my first focus right now is on Opus and the wine bar, our goal is to have that restaurant open by the first of the year," says McGaughey, noting that while he has yet to decide on a name, the two-tiered building, a former spa, salon and event space, will have a similar concept to Opus. "It'll be a fine-dining restaurant with the same concept, but we're looking at a different name and possibly trying to buy the building, as well."

Bad news for Littleton, good news for Castle Rock, and even better news for Denver.


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11 comments
Jimvickers51
Jimvickers51

What a great idea. I like having the different options under one roof. Probably efficent for them as well. Lets see what they do with the bar. Should be place, cant wait to try.

tada
tada

 Or they speak the truth.  Will there be an expose like with the Tastes owner?

Tim Carrier
Tim Carrier

Nice to see more restaurants coming to CR

Real
Real

This place will close in 90 days, the owner has stiffed every food distributor in town and has no where to run but an old lease signed by Michael Long in Cherry Creek. DO NOT EAT AT THIS RESTAURANT! Great chef, douchebag owner who will never succeed. - Real Local Business

Cdavies
Cdavies

No offense to Chef Sean. But I think that this move is a bad business decision. I thought that Nick the managing partner was smarter. Opus had a nitch as a destination restaurant as well as a Littleton gem. The restaurant business is a tough one. The current location of Aria is a bad location. Many chefs with great followings have tried this location and similar spots in Cherry Creek have had to throw in their towels. Some chefs say that the spot is cursed.

Opus moving to Larimer Square or The Highlands would have been a better business decision.I wish them well, but my suggestion is to contact Robert Irvine at Restaurant Impossible before it is too late! 

Tom
Tom

I used to own my own business. I have burned and been burned. Unfortunately that is the way it is in business. If you were "real" you would know that. We can here to learn whats new about restaurants not hear some limp dick whine about someone else's business. Do us all a favor and brush the sand out of your pussy and "get real".

Michael
Michael

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. "  Teddy Roosevelt

Johnflynndenver
Johnflynndenver

Cant we just read the news? What kind of a fuck wad uses platform like this to air personal fears? Whats the matter, scared of a little competition? You must be a neighbor or a fired employee. You're pathetic!!!

Gonnagetthatcash
Gonnagetthatcash

They owe wine distributors as well.  In collections as we speak.

Susan&Dave
Susan&Dave

This is a huge loss for Littleton and a big gain for Cherry Creek. Papillion did well in that space. Opus is a wonderfull restaurant that will do great anywhere. I think you're wrong. Time will tell. I'll eat there more often now that its closer to home.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Totally agree.  If Radek (and the many who followed him) couldn't make that space work, I seriously doubt anyone else can, especially as two different concepts - high tone moving toward only prix fixe options (which there is no appetite for in Denver IMO) and another wine bar (of which we already have more than we need).  I wish them luck but fear for the worst.

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