Day 3: Olivia

21 Apr

A Side

As I got out of my car, I noticed three cats lying in Olivia’s garden sunning themselves while looking extremely content.  I’m an animal lover so I took this sight as a good omen for our third night of ARW — and it proved to be just that.  The garden had a cute little patio area which we were given the option of being seated in but opted not to only because it was a little windy and B’s allergies were bothering her that day.  So instead, we sat inside the restaurant in a booth that had a good view of the kitchen.  Everything was bright, clean, open and very mid-century.  They’ve only been around for a few years, but have gained quite a following by using fresh ingredients with many of them being locally sourced or straight from their own garden.

B Side

Did you hear that? It was the sound of our collective jaw hitting the table. From top to bottom, Olivia is swoon-worthy, and the fact that we stopped sharing bites from one another’s plates shortly after the appetizer was cleared should tell you exactly how good it was. I seriously want to fold this place up and put it in my purse, so I can have a meal here whenever I’d like.

What we ate:

Olivia had a three for $35 deal, and offered up two little treats just to say hello. Our lovely waiter Aaron started us out with a sampling of house-brined olives and both of us agreed they were delicious.  Now, we realize not everyone is a fan of olives, but we both quite like them; we understand if you can’t get down with us on this point.

After the olives (which, incidentally, were served on a dish so cute – and in an air so hip – B wondered if it was actually kosher to spit out the pits), Aaron brought out homemade foccacia bread with a side of herb-infused olive oil.  A was an instant convert, pointing out the contrast of soft fluffy insides and a nice, crusty outside. B felt the bread was just a smidge too soft, if that’s even a thing — soaking up the oil gave a bit too much oil per bite. Is that even making sense?

Click here to see our options.

A Side

  • Chopped salad with romaine, toasted almonds, Castelvetrano olives, parmesan, herb vinaigrette

When I order salads, there are a couple things I look for:  cheese, especially a stinky one, and some type of vinaigrette. The saltiness of the olives and parmesan really worked with the nuttiness of the almonds and the tanginess of the vinaigrette.  It was light and refreshing and the only thing that could have made it better was more of it.

  • Seafood hot pot with salmon, clams, shrimps and noodles in a cilantro broth

Oh man, this was so much better than I ever imagined – it was like a treasure box of seafood! Plus, the presentation was amazing.  The clams and mussels, still in their shells, were lined up beautifully while two large shrimp were tucked into a corner.  The chunks of fish and noodles were underneath soaking up the broth.  There were also mysterious, but strategically placed pats of frothy goodness. It tasted like citrus, but from what fruit? After some Scooby-Dooing (and okay, a quick FAQ session with Aaron the Waiter), we found out it was lemon foam! That little element added a brightness that rounded out the entire dish, elevating it all to – as the kids say – the next level. Anytime that foam made it to my mouth, it was like a burst of sunshine.

  • Chocolate cake with raspberry leather, powdered peanut oil, spicy sugar glass, peanut butter custard, white chocolate apricot sauce

This came out looking like a work of art that I almost didn’t want to destroy.  The chocolate cake was as decadent as it was dense, but I actually want to focus on the other bits and pieces of this dessert. There was a dollop of the peanut butter custard, which actually had the texture and airiness of a mousse.  I’m not a huge peanut butter fan, but because it was so light, I really enjoyed it.  On top of this dollop was a strip of raspberry leather that I likened to a grown-up fruit rollup.  And then there were two little dots of white chocolate sauce garnished with diced apricots; it wasn’t much, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the apricot.  Last but not least was a small pile of unidentifiable white power.  I quickly dismissed the notion that Aaron was sneaking me a little blow on the side, and thought almost instantly that it was powdered sugar. But years of experience have taught me what powdered sugar tastes like, and this wasn’t it; this had a more full-bodied, almost nutty flavor.  I brought Aaron the Waiter into the equation once again and he let me know it was walnut powder…  iiiinteresting!  I’ve never heard of it, but I am definitely a new fan. With every bite of cake, the coalescence of flavors made it seem as though I had a new and improved version of the dish in front of me. Delicious and interactive!

B Side

  • Crispy pork belly with apple butter and Grafton cheddar cheese fondue

Pork belly + Grafton cheese = holy shit. The cubes of belly had the perfect seared outside, but gave way easily when you bit into it. The fatty connective tissue (which is, you know, fat) damn near melted in my mouth. The cilantro added a bit of complexity to the flavor of the pork, which was very strong on its own. Paired with the fondue, however… fuggitaboutit (to be said in your best Robert DeNiro voice). While I love pork and I love cheese, I wouldn’t have thought to pair them — which is very  likely why I am not a chef at Olivia. While the rest of my meal was fantastic, this appetizer is very literally something I still dream about.

  • Steak Frites: local Kobe tri-tip with french fries

I was conflicted at first, essentially ordering steak and french fries in a joint like this… but what can I say? I was in the mood for beef. When our plates came, mine was tantalizing, but the hot pot staring me down on the opposite end of the table was positively delectable, and I got a little sad. With A’s first bite, I was a little more disappointed, but determined to make the best of things. Turning my attention to the tri-tip, I was immediately happy  to see it was cooked just as I’d ordered. The fries were thin matchsticks, obviously -handcut and homemade, and dusted with a bit of parmesan (I believe). There was also a small cup of homemade ketchup. I was all over the fries, but not so much with the ketchup. To begin with, it’s not my favorite condiment, but more importantly, it was a touch too sweet for me. My misgivings about the ketchup – and indeed, the entire dish – instantly evaporated when I tried the first bite of kobe tri-tip. Ho. ly. Hell. The sear on this piece of beef was everything I have ever tried to accomplish in my kitchen, with my cheap ass non-stick saute pan. The flavor… oh, the flavor! A smokey, peppery crust with hints of garlic and herb blanketed my palette and I knew A’s hot pot had nothing on my steak. I know most people think of the grill as an inferior cooking method — after all, what’s so difficult about throwing a slab of meat onto a metal grate over an open flame? The mere fact that every Texas man doesn’t have his own BBQ joint or steak house is proof, however, that there’s a lot of technique involved. Don’t ask me what that technique is, but all I know is it was good.

  • Texas cheese plate with preserved lemon honey and Boggy Creek arugula, house cracker

I can safely say this is the only time I’ve only been mildly interested in cheese. Normally, I am all over a cheese plate, but maybe it was the richness of the two preceding courses, or simply a yearning for something a little sweeter… all I know that, while good, I wasn’t really wowed by the cheese plate. I think art may have won over substance in this case — I found myself wanting a sturdier cracker and more honey. The cheese was a semi-dry sheep’s milk cheese, which was very cool to learn; from the look of it, I suspected a brie, but knew immediately it was not. It was a bit more crumbly than I’d anticipated, and I wished I’d had a little more sweetness to pull it all together.

Final Grade

A – I was full but not overly so; I was able to go home in due time, rather than rush back to pull on elasticized pants.  I was actually surprised I didn’t feel like I was bursting at the seams because I cleaned every.single.plate.  Needless to say, fork up.

B – Pork+cheese x beef = happiness. Unlike A, I actually did need an elastic waistband to alleviate some of stress of my growing food baby, but I guess that’s the difference between a cilantro broth with lemon foam and a hot beef injection of kobe tri-tip. While the menu is a bit too experimental/uppity for me to venture here with my dad, it’s a joint with enough familiarity to take someone like my boyfriend, who – when left to his own devices – has been known to make ‘tacos’ from a pound of ground beef and ketchup.I will be keeping an eye on this place and am already plotting my return. Fork up — way, way up.


One Response to “Day 3: Olivia”


  1. Day 4: The Driskill « - May 10, 2011

    […] salad: a little sweet, a little salty and just plain good. And if you’ll recall from my Olivia review, stinky cheese does my heart good when added to a salad; feta is probably my top choice as far as […]

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