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Olivia (S. Lamar near Oltorf)

There's a new restaurant under construction on S. Lamar just north of Oltorf. I saw that today it finally has a sign -- Olivia. All I know about it so far is that the architect is Michael Hsu, who designed Uchi.


Does anybody have any intel about the restaurant like what kind of food it will be, who's behind it, or when they plan to open? It looks like they're putting a lot of work into the building, and I hope they'll put just as much into the food.

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  1. They had an ad for help on Craigslist. It said it was going to be "A French/Italian-inspired Restaurant & Wine joint".

    1. The manager of Vino Vino is leaving to work at Olivia as well. At least in my opinion, this bodes well for the wine aspect.

      1. I just love, love, love the building. I'm really curious about the restaurant. Any news on who the chef is? The owners? Food? I'm excited about the Vino Vino manager going there too. That's a great indication of good wine!

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodiegal71

          former TCA instructor and and former asti chef will be doing the space on lamar that michael hsu is designing, should be open in the very near future...

        2. I found their website today. No menu posted yet, but looks promising!

            1. re: SlickTheCat

              My wife & I went last night - for what turned out to be the best meal in Austin we've had this year.

              The place is as gorgeous inside as the exterior building. The service was extraordinary - our waitress was engaging, very quick with with suggestions and very attentive.

              Upon being seated, we were brought a spoon of fresh local melon balls, mint & Italian sparkling wine - a great taste of what Olivia seems all about. Locally grown, Italian/French influenced - with a sense of the fun of Austin.

              We started with a local salad, with tomatoes that must have come from someone's backyard. The hangar steak I ordered was sensational - the orka a great compliment, the fries truly exemplarys. My wife loved her coq au vin, with a sauce that was light & meat that fell off the bone. We finished with a lemon cake, which the waitress said she hopes she can have at her wedding. It was the essence of summer.

              We moved (back home) to Austin a year ago from the Bat Area. In our eating out bingo card, we have been missing a casual elegance that Olivia fits - right on par with many of the foodiest places in San Francisco & Berkeley. They say they will be adding lunch and a communal Sunday supper - we'll be back !

              1. re: bobcarlton2

                What was the second best meal in Austin? What was the worst? Where is the Bat Area?

                  1. re: televiking

                    My bad - Bay (not Bat)

                    2nd best meal: probably at El Chilito, one night last Feb

              2. 3 of us went for dinner on opening night (well, public opening night - they had a private opening on Thursday) and were very impressed by both the food and the space.

                It's a nice menu, that apparently will be changing with the availability of local ingredients. We shared the charcuterie plate to start - nice, homemade versions of pate, head cheese (listed as fromage de tête - ha) and rillettes. The waiter delivered the plate, saying "you'll probably need more bread, just let me know when you do". There was about a third as much bread as you'd need - so he was very right. Wondering why the proper amount didn't just come out with the dish as we had to flag him down about 60 seconds into eating the dish.

                Then moved on to the tuna carpaccio and lamb’s tongue fricasse. The lamb's tongues were delicious and tender.

                Then the 3 of us shared the duck confit rissotto and and the braised lamb shank w/ semolina gnocchi. Both were very good - though I thought odd menu items when it's 100 degrees out. But hey, we ordered them, so maybe not. The risotto was very rich and delicious. The shank, falling off the bone tender. The gnocchi was interesting in that there weren't little rounded balls, rather a pancake under the shank. Delicious anyway.

                Finished with the duck egg creme brulee - which I thought was one of the nicer creme brulees I've had in a while.

                We'll be back for sure.

                2 Replies
                1. re: potluck

                  Semolina gnocchi are generally very different from potato gnocchi. They're Roman style, and more like polenta made with semolina than cornmeal. I would like to try Olivia's version, as they're one of my favorites. "Gnocchi" can mean a lot of different things...

                  1. re: pankofish

                    Speaking of gnocchi, stay away from it at Parkside on 6th. I was not merely disappointed; I was practically outraged at what they call gnocchi. Six or seven little oily ball-shaped mashed potato things. For $9. Ridiculous.

                    Sorry to change the topic. Olivia sounds fantastic! Can't wait to try it.

                2. For an inexperienced kitchen staff, my husband and I were impressed. We split the vichyssoise, which was well flavored and light, and the "beautiful salad" with green apples, fennel, greens and a lemon-tarragon viniagrette...we both loved the flavor of the tarragon. He had the summer coq au vin, which we both loved due to the quality of the chicken and the flavor of the apricot and olives (only problem was the potatoes, which were a minor part of the dish, were undercooked). I had the spaghetti alla chittara with escargot and bread crumbs, and I thought it was well executed. The housemade chittara was well done and cooked a nice al dente. We finished with the duck egg creme caramel, and it's now my favorite dessert in town...creamy, not too sweet and a little addictive. I agree with a previous observation that this fills a restaurant void in Austin, and I wish them the absolute best.

                  1. Those who have been there, what were the prices like? They're omitted from the online menu.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: magicbus

                      Pretty much like Vespaio. Entrees $18-30, starters $9-14, salads $9-12, and wines by the glass varying between 7-15...the prices are an estimate (can't remember exactly).

                    2. We tried out Olivia last night for dinner and enjoyed it but were not wowed by it. The menu is more ambitious than most Austin menus which is a nice change of pace.

                      We started with two oysters--I like the fact you can order however many you want ($3/each). The oysters were very fresh, but however they came with bits of scallions on them which really dominated the subtle oyster flavors.

                      For appetizer we had a yellow jack carpacio which I enjoyed more than my companion. The waitress says they have a fish provider from the Gulf bringing up daily fresh catches and this was one. It was a bit fishy and I've never really had a fish preparation like it so I think that's why I enjoyed it.

                      For entrees, we tried some pastas: butternut squash ravioli and squid ink fettuccine with squid. The butternut squash was tasty but the ravaoli's edges were a bit undercooked even for my very al dente tastes. The squid ink fettuccine were much better. Some nice red pepper added some nice spice and I thought the pasta was cooked well.

                      Dessert, we tried the el rey flourless chocolate cake. It was so so--not enough chocolate flavor for being a flourless cake.

                      Apps were in the $10 range and entrees mostly were between $16-$25 with an exception for the beef fillet. It seems they change the menu daily.

                      Will we be back? Probably at some point, but this is the sort of new Austin restaurant that is going to draw a massive crowd.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Carter B.

                        Oysters three dollars EACH? My word...that makes a half dozen $18, and a full dozen $36? Wow. Are they Gulf oysters, brought by their fish provider? Man...I'm floored.

                        1. re: televiking

                          The $3 each oysters are not gulf oysters. They do gulf oysters cooked casino style to great effect ($6 bucks for five oysters). The raw oysters are Osprey Point (Prince Edward Island) which obviously means they are flown in. $3 is completely resonable. In my time living in the bay area of San Francisco, we were a lot closer to the Pacific Coast oysters than Austin is to these North Atlantic oysters and fresh oysters that you would want to eat raw such as these were in the $2.25-$3.00 range. I am glad they do these raw oysters even though they do fall out of Olivia's all local construct and I find the price completely reasonable given the nature of the product. Go check them out! If the Osprey Point oysters don't fit your budget, you will be more than happy with the Oysters Casino. Olivia is awesome.

                          1. re: chub512

                            Wow - live around the corner from Olivia - and will be visiting regularly. First, I love the idea of a limited menu. They only have a half dozen appetizers, salads and entrees, but they are each gems. We started with oysters casino – a good dish – my only hesitation is a personal preference – I’m a raw oyster lover and was with a cooked oyster companion. The casino topping was wonderful – I was just longing for the PEI raw oysters myself. For entrees, we tried the butternut squash ravioli and the coq au vin. Both excellent – the coq au vin was more amazing – yes, a summer, white wine based coq au vin – very rich but somehow also light. In the bar area, there were several small groups who seemed very happy with the aioli/fries and a glass of wine – I hope/anticipate that they will make good use out of this space. The area could really use a nice happy hour place. Also popular was the chacuterie plate, which I’ll be trying next time.
                            I’ve left the best two things for the end. First, they have one of the best wine lists in town. I’m a fan of Vino Vino, so part of my reason for visiting Olivia was finding out what Jerry would do with a different sort of opportunity. It’s a wonderful selection of things you would never expect. The wait staff is really working hard and was eager to bring out samples of any wine we expressed even the slightest interest in. And the wines were wonderful and unusual – two dozen Italian reds and not a Chianti on the list. Every wine seemed carefully selected and designed to be food friendly. So – big plus to Olivia on the wine list (I don’t think they have a full-bar, just wine/beer.) Then, the surprise of the evening – dessert. I often don’t go down this path, but my partner impulsively decided on the lemon-ginger basque cake. It was amazing – salty, lemony, rich and unique. (I’m stalking the internet trying to find a recipe.)
                            Caveat – yes, they aren’t cheap – and the portions are on the small size. If you are in the mood for a bunch of food – go to Buffet Palace or Polvos. But, for a nice treat – I really think Olivia has a chance to make it and I’ll be doing my best to keep them in business as much as I can afford!

                            1. re: chub512

                              Yeeeehhhhh....I don't know chub512...I will check them out, to be sure, but that is going to have to be one miracle of an oyster. I'm not familiar with Osprey point in particular, but I mean, Bouchon in Vegas charges $18 per half dozen of exemplary oysters, and I assume they are flown to the desert. Swan's Oyster Depot in SF charges $8.00 for 6 Blue Points. Places all over SF charge about that for East Cost oysters, even higher end places like Zuni never got up that high for PEI. Parkside is flying in good oysters, not charging that much, and doing a 1/2 price happy hour. I don't know if it is completely reasonable. And when craving good oysters on the half shell, Oysters Casino would make me less than happy, but thanks for looking out for my budget!

                              1. re: televiking

                                Hmm, I remember Parkside's oysters being around $15 for half dozen so that's pretty close to Olivia pricing.

                                1. re: Carter B.

                                  $12-16, lots of options, with the aforementioned happy hour cutting that by 1/2...did I ruffle some feathers by proclaiming to be floored about what is, so far, the most expensive single raw oyster I have ever encountered, or contemplated encountering? In the original context (local sourcing) it was mind-boggling, but even allowing for being flown in from PEI, it is still comparatively expensive.


                                  1. re: televiking

                                    no worries, no ruffled feathers. But I will point out the the Bouchon example = $3 an oyster. It's not quite fair to compare to Swan's because you aren't having the product in a full scale restaurant. Swan's is going to beat any restautants price. I am just trying to keep it positive. Olivia, in my opinion, is a super exciting development in the restaurant scene here and I really feel strongly about what they are doing there. Give'em a chance. I hope you didn't take offense to the suggestion that Oysters Casino would scratch your itch. I actually agree with you there.

                                    1. re: chub512

                                      Hey -- I will give them a chance...the menu looks intriguing, and I really do hope it is as wonderful as you say. But the price of that oyster gives me pause - I do think it is worth noting that we are comparing the prices of oysters at a new restaurant on South Lamar to the vaunted Zuni in San Francisco and Thomas Keller's Bouchon. Aiming high!

                                    2. re: televiking

                                      No ruffled feather here, I just don't agree. I just had dinner at Zuni last week and all the oysters were 2.25-3.25. It's really not worth quibling over. I hope I didn't offend with my recommendation of the Oysters Casino. I agree with you, thats a different itch to scratch! Anyhow, I think Olivia is the best thing to happen to the Austin scene this year. Just trying to keep it positive.

                          2. Did not enjoy the food at Olivia. Did enjoy the atmosphere and architecture of the building.

                            I had the

                            >> beautiful salad, fennel, apple, greens, lemon-tarragon vinaigrette 8


                            >> braised lamb shoulder, semolina gnocchi, tomato sage sugo 26

                            The salad made me crave the best fennel-included arugula soy-orange salad I've had in Austin at McCormick & Schmicks in the Domain. I was hoping to experience another great salad. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't nearly as delicious and interesting.

                            The braised lamb shoulder seemed... flavorless.

                            Under the braised lamb shoulder was something that looked like a pie slice-shaped wedge of polenta. It tasted like how a pie slice-shaped wedge of bland polenta would taste. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the menu description.

                            I couldn't convince myself to eat much of either, and left still hungry.

                            1. I ate there for the first time a few nights ago and loved it. I looked at Yelp beforehand and most people gave it 5 stars and one person gave it 4 and said it was because 5 indicates no room for improvment and altho he/she thought Olivia was great, there is room for improvment. I agree with that person.

                              The building and decor ARE beautiful. Very Uchi-esque gorgeous wall paper and things are very clean, simple, and fairly organic. We went right when they opened because my friend has a newborn and it was his nap time, so we were the first seating. We didn't have time for a super-long, lingering meal but everything we DID have was really good. We started out with a summer cocktail made with white port, soda, and lime -- very refreshing, not sweet. I got the panzanella salad to start. The greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta were all delicious and obviously local, however the bread was probably my biggest disappointment of the evening. It was more like croutons than a real panzanella, where the bread should have absorbed the vinegarette and be somewhat mushy. It was a good salad but I not what I think of when I order a panzanella. Oh, well. The entrees.......yum. I told the waitress that this was the first time in a long time that EVERY entree (minus the lamb, which I don't really count b/c I don't eat ANY lamb) looked good to me. I was very tempted by the duck confit risotto and the coq au vin but the waitress told me those are permanent items on the menu so suggested I try on of those on my next visit (which I will). I ended up ordering the arctic char which was fresh and fantastic. I loved the side dish which was a ratatouille-type eggplant and zucchini in a tomato sauce: so fresh and delicious. My friend got the beef tenderloin and loved it......the smashed potatoes looked scrumptious, too. One of the highlights was the yeast roll they brought out during the meal -- it melted in your mouth. If they would have brought more I could have eaten four of them. For dessert I ordered the blackberry galette with lemon sorbet......it was good but unremarkable. I could have easily made it at home and I'm no pastry chef. Next time I want to try the lemon ginger cake that was mentioned in previous post.

                              I really liked the service. It was attentive and professional but not formal. There doesn't appear to be a "uniform" for servers which actually seemed nice, especially in South Austin. Our waitress seemed so genuinely proud to work at Olivia and was really excited about the menu; I love that. Like other posters, I was glad to see Jerry from Vino Vino there as I know the wine will be good. I had not read all the Chowhound posts beforehand so I was suprised to see him & I wondered where he went after he left VV.

                              Overall, I think Olivia is a great addition to the Austin dining scene and recommend it highly. Oh, by the time we left there was a wait and the parking lot was completely full. Good for them.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: eyesoftexas78704

                                one word: EXCELLENT. I was prepared to love olivia when i went there this past saturday and have to say it met my expectations. gorgeous space, nice buzz (impressed that it already seems to have drawn a crowd --- the wait was about 45 minutes, but none of them painful, as my dinner companion and i sipped a beer outside in their lovely waiting area and chatted with other people who were waiting to be seated.), terrific food, attentive yet not invasive service(even the bartender who served us our beer popped by to see how we liked our food). i couldn't decide between the arctic char and the hanger steak, and our lovely waitress (an uchi refugee) came to the rescue, suggesting the fish. every bite of it was delicious, and the ratatouille, as eyesoftexas78704 says, was a highlight too. our waitress enthusiastically recommended wine pairings for our meals; the wine did not disappoint. and then finally, we shared the lemon ginger cake at the suggestion of our waitress, (who claimed she wanted to get married so that she could have this cake at her wedding -- love imaginative exaggerations like that -- wasn't surprised to find out she's a writer) and once again, it was mouth-watering. i want to go back to try the things i didn't get a chance to, but may have to wait til next paycheck. yum. only negative -- my dining companion was less impressed by her main (the lamb shoulder, which had been pimped out by our waitress as the main attraction -- i don't like lamb so i wasn't even tempted).

                              2. Those of you who've been - what's the wait like, and when's the best time to go if I want to avoid anything over 30 minutes or so?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: addlepated

                                  It's a fairly bland restaurant. The space is gorgeous and the atmosphere is fun. However, the food is just not that good. My fiance and I asked our waitress for recommendations, and the three things she suggested (an app and 2 entrees) were lacking flavor. The lambs tongue, while fine, was well below other preparations I've had. My duck confit risotto was pretty disappointing. The portion of duck was small and overly dry and my fiance's tomato broth and seafood was lacking any and all flavor. Furthermore, the waitress that walked by our table while saying "I cannot f***ing believe this" certainly caught our attention. I wish Olivia was better because it is near our home, but this is not a restaurant worth $100. There are certainly better ways to spend that cash.

                                  1. re: mkbrew

                                    Olivia had some ads for kitchen help posted on Craigslist a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if some staff newness had anything to do with your unfortunate experience. I haven't talked to anyone who had the lamb tongue but I have heard excellent things about the duck confit risotto. Maybe things will stabilize soon and offer you a better close-to-home dining experience.

                                  2. re: addlepated

                                    We went on a Monday night at 7:45 and there were plenty of tables full, plenty of tables empty.

                                    1. re: toripowell

                                      A group of us will be going Tuesday and we have room for 2 more, check out the austin chowhound group if you want to be included.

                                  3. Went last night, had the cheese plate appetizer ($18), arugula salad ($10) , duck confit w/ risotto ($26) and ginger lemon cake. Everything was delicious, the ambiance was nice( although a tad bit warm inside)... but the entree portion size was simply too small. The duck confit was shredded and mixed into the risotto. I wager there was only 2 oz. of duck in the entire dish. I've been in France and had duck confit before, so perhaps my expectation was too high. Either way, I would go back and give this restaraunt a second chance. The potential is there...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MGucci

                                      I went earlier this week. I had the duck confit risotto and split the ginger lemon cake. My risotto was pretty good, but I thought the butternut squash was a too undercooked for my taste. There was plenty of duck and I found it to be juicy and tender.

                                      The ambiance is great, and I love the building. However, I just wasn't that impressed by the offerings that night, nor the quality of the food, which was fine, but not what I was expecting.

                                      I'll give it another try in a few months, but for now, I'm not all that impressed. It doesn't help that I ended up with a stomach bug that happened to hit the minute I walked in the door from dinner and lasted a good 4 days. Whenever that happens, the last thing you ate seems to be the thing you never want to see again!

                                      Still, I'll go back once they've had a chance to hone their skills a bit.

                                    2. Does any one know if Ralph, the bartender from Bess, is now working at Olivia. I know he is friends with Jerry who left Vino Vino and he went to Olivia.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: gulch

                                        Yes. Rauf left Bess and is now working at Olivia.

                                      2. After waiting for several weeks for the smoke to clear we went to Olivia on a Tuesday night. The room was airy and seemed far roomier than its square footage would indicate.
                                        Unfortunately, as in much of Austin at this time of year, the AC was cranked so low that woman were hunched over in their chairs, shoulders bent and hands clasped. No one dresses for the AC!

                                        The food, however, was absolutely great.

                                        We ate course by course and loved:

                                        The Smoked Arctic Char and it's unexpected presentation as a sort of 80's-esque cylander of crispy warm semolina cake, a mousse of the salmon and black lentils (al a caviar) over the top with creme fraiche. This one disappeared in a heartbeat.

                                        The perfect Fries with ho-hum catsup, but stellar aioli.

                                        A tasty (but way over-chilled) Charcuterie Plate. Once the tete de fromage and pate de campagne sat for nearly ten minutes we could taste them. I'm sure the rabbit rillette was better than it's bulb of rabbit glace at the bottom of the ramikin might have indicated. Just too cold and the hard toasted bread just doesn't work with something spreadable. Good flavors; just serving flaws.

                                        The Fricassee of Lamb Tongue! Back to fabulous; this dish was perfection, with a perfect foil of grilled Dapple Dandy pluouts and a dab of honey in the sauce. We had to ask for bread to make sure we got the rest of the sauce and got bready, state focaccia, though.

                                        Spaghetti Squash and Duck Confit Salad with Arugula. Another cylander presentation and another smile-causing surprise combination of flavors. None of us had ever had the two main ingredients together and to our great surprise and pleasure, they worked just fine. There was just enough duck fat to combine with a light vinaigrette (?) to make the flavors blend perfectly.

                                        Housemade Cheese Ravioli with Parmesan Brodo and Arugula. Yes, it was housemade ravioli and yes, the outer edges were a little dense and chewy, but the rest was heaven. A nice neutral filling set off the richness of the onion soup/Parmesan combination in the broth. Definitely a hearty dish for a colder night, but hey, when the AC is set for semi-numb, it works.

                                        And yes, The Lemon-Ginger Cake and The Duck Egg Creme Caramel.
                                        A lot has been written on the "Hound" about these two and everything good that anyone said is true. For the three of us, the Creme Caramel was a rich and gooey treasure, but the Lemon-Ginger cake was perfection. It was just warm, had a delicate crumble from the polenta (cornmeal?) and the subtle hint of the lemon and ginger both just lingered long enough on the palate. We could easily each have had one and been happy.

                                        A very nice dining experience and perhaps some of the best food I've eaten in Austin in the eight months that I've been here. The kitchen is obviously paying attention to flavor; a simple concept, but one not always executed.
                                        Service was professional with the exception of one (perhaps new) over-zealous busser.

                                        We'd all go back tonight if we weren't so full.
                                        Thanks, Olivia

                                        1. We ate at Olivia tonight. I would classify it as a nice experience, but not on par with our favorite restaurants (Parkside, Starlite, Aquarelle), and definitely not worth the money. There were some excellent points of the meal. We started with the seared foie gras. Now, I am a bad judge of foie gras, because I love it all. This appetizer was expensive - about $21 (maybe $24?). It was a HUGE piece that was marvelous. My husband liked the chutney side, but I personally don't like anything to get in the way of my foie gras. Ironically, for me, was that there was TOO much. I would've liked a less expensive dish with a smaller portion. It was just too rich for a portion 3/4 the size of my palm.

                                          For entrees we had two dishes new to the menu today: a "mixed grill" of rice stuffed quail and house made sausage, and risotto with chicken liver pate, mushrooms and peas. The quail was excellent and quite tender. It had a honey glaze that was flavorful but not overpowering. The sausage was good but so strong that it overpowered the quail. This came with a side of haricot verts, which were severly undercooked. I do not like my vegetables limp, but these were hard. We both had mixed feelings about the risotto. I liked the creamy flavor of the pate, but the risotto was slightly undercooked, and the whole thing came together in a fashion that reminded me of baby food. Maybe it was the peas.

                                          We had the now nearly-famous duck egg creme caramel for dessert. I adore custard, and liked this alot. We also had a nice glass of pinor noir rose.

                                          So I'm in the middle between people that loved Olivia and hate it. For $150 with tip, though, I need better than middle of the road.