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Jan 30, 2007 08:57 PM

Olivia's - another Winterlicious flop

Took my mother out for a Winterlicious dinner at Olivia's at 53, on Clinton St., just north of the Dip.

My mother, who's a senior citizen and eats like a bird, was happy. Even sent compliments to the chef. I came home and scarfed down a plate of leftovers. One of the worst, stingiest meals I've had since... oh, probably my Summerlicious experience at Thuet last year.

Chose Olivia's in part because of the varied menu -- figured there would be something Mom would like. I was right -- she loved her tiny salad and stuffed portobello mushroom in phyllo pastry.

Me, I started with what is described in the on-line Winterlicious menu as "Prosciutto di Parma, walnuts and blue cheese parcels." (In the restaurant's printed menu, the prosciutto was the last ingredient listed.) I got one small phyllo triangle (shaped like my mother-in-law's spanakopitas but smaller) on a bed of greens. The filling? A bit of blue cheese and walnuts, not a sliver of prosciutto.

For my main, I had what is described on the Winterlicious website as "Oven roasted cornish hen in a walnut and pomegranate sauce served with a side of beans, cherry tomatoes and rosemary roasted baby potatoes." The cornish hen consisted of one tiny leg, split into two pieces. The "walnut and pomegranate sauce" tasted like the balsamic reduction served with the bread and had not a crumb of walnut. The bean-and-tomato confit was tasteless, and there was nary a potato, baby or otherwise, on the plate.

Finally, dessert. The "House made flourless ricotta cake served with fresh berries and fresh cream" was a small piece, and somewhat dry. (This is starting to sound like the old Woody Allen joke: "The food here is terrible!" "Yeah, and such small portions!") The "Crema Catalana," a too-sweet crème brûlé type thing, was served in a dish the size of a Chinese tea cup. Oh, and the dessert arrived about five minutes after my espresso.

Needless to say, I won't be going back anytime soon. Feh.

In contrast, Batifole is serving a simple but lovely meal for the same 25 bucks. The ingredients aren't pricey, but the dishes are flavourful and the portions generous.

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  1. Thanks for the review. I've heard that there are a lot of restaurants who use the opportunity for Summerlicious/Winterlicious to serve subpar skimpy portions of food. It also seems that the 35 dollar "deals" are not truly that much cheaper than the regular menu. A lot of people are not fans of the Licious times, but for many of us who cannot afford having dinners running upwards of 100 dollars a plate and want to try something new, its very disheartening. (Of course there are those who think Licious cheapens the quality of the restaurants or patrons who are too "cheap" to eat at these places shouldn't go...I think that this attitude defeats the whole purpose of the event IMHO only)

    1. Chef at Olivia's just took over and inherited the menu, and some of the menu items, and had to work with what was in place, so take the above with a grain of salt. Winter/Summerlicious is not the time to see what a restaurant can do.

      "who use the opportunity for Summerlicious/Winterlicious to serve subpar skimpy portions of food"

      Opportunity? Do you think restaurants have huge profit margins? Ask some owners if they are making a killing. They are money pits. If a restaurant charges high prices, odds are the ingredients are pricey, and there is a large crew that costs money. When prices are usually $100 a head, and they have to serve dinner for $35, how do you expect them to get by serving the same premium ingredients. On top of that, business slows to a crawl for weeks before and after the event. It might be worth while for restaurants to participate, but believe me, they can't do it without making compromises.

      Having said that, its not hard to make premium ingredients taste good. It takes skill to make cheap ingredients into something superb.

      1. Um, just my 2 cents, but if I were a resto owner, I would be willing to take a minimal or 0 profit for a 'Licious event with the hopes of attracting a regular customer (& perhaps that ever-valuable word-of-mouth) that might bring in some profits down the line. Isn't that the entire point? If they are not interested in this, why on earth do they participate????? Serve simple, but delicious food that highlights the chefs/restos strengths and leave it at that (see: batifole) - it will make regulars out of the pickiest amoung us........