Olive and June opening night
- chispa_c Feb 22, 2012 06:44 AM
I went with a friend to Olive and June last night. We made an easy, last minute reservation for 6:30 p.m. At 4:30 p.m. they still had reservations available for 7:30 p.m., btw.
The layout has changed a bit from the former El Arbol set up. Although I still love the bar/patio on the second floor, I think there are still issues with servers blocking the end of the bar (entry to bathrooms) and people gathering at the top of the steps to mingle. It's still an odd configuration up there. The main entrance has changed to be accessible from the back of the restaurant, from the small parking area, instead of from the front of the restaurant, which was fine except the new "reception area" is tiny. There were at least 4 - 5 young girls standing around and again, it's an awkward area for greeting, seating and eating. You can no longer access the 2nd floor bar from the parking lot. That stairway has been removed. I didn't make it to the 3rd floor but it's my understanding it's intended to be a private dining area not, as opposed to another bar/patio area.
Here's a link to the menu from eater.com: http://oliveandjune-austin.com/olive-...
Note the $54 entree and the $24 1/2 chicken. Wow. I inquired about the $54 dollar option because at first glance, it appeared to be a pasta dish (served with gold?). I was told it was a steak dish. I'm not used to seeing prices like that from an Italian place but I was intrigued that they were so proud of their food.
We ordered 3 of the small plates. When i say small plates, I mean small; there was only enough served for 2 bites (2 pieces). We ordered the zucchini which was our favorite, the risotto which we both thought would be a serving dish of typical risotto but turned out to be 2 tater tot sized fried risotto things, and the artichoke. The risotto was unremarkable; it just tasted like fried pasta and the artichoke was better than I've had at other places, texture wise but very bland and a tad bitter.
After those 3 small plates, we both decided to skip an entree and went for the Escarole Salad and fried egg. The salad and oil dressing were good and fresh but my egg was a bit overdone (think crispy on the edges). This salad is served with diced bits of thick bacon that is warm, not crispy in any way. It was odd to eat bits of fat with my salad. It's an odd combination that I could've done without. The description said pancetta and I thought thin, crispy strips of pancetta would be sprinkled on the salad. Wrong.
So...I think this place is on par with Gusto quite frankly. Good idea, nice place, food is ok. The prices here make me more cautious about what to order. Hopefully they will have a rotating menu.
I will say that they have 100% improved the bar chairs at the bar on the second floor. The wire ones from El Arbol were very uncomfortable. The new ones at Olive and June are cushioned with backs. Maybe I'll just drink wine next time!
I can see the Bistec alla Fiorentina being $54 as its usually a dish meant for 2.
I'll check out this place when I can. Intrigued by the menu though not sure how it will pan out considering El Arbol closed in the same location with similar, perhaps even a lower price point.
I'm also interested in the pasta with bottarga and the razor clam crudo.
I also went to O&J on opening night, and I agree that it is sort of hit & miss at this point, but I think they'll get things sorted out.
The $54 steak was very flavorful and quite large (supposedly two pounds of meat) -- it could easily be split between two people. But, it was unevenly cooked and not good enough to warrant the entry fee when there are many better steaks in town to be had cheaper than that.
The pasta is all made in house, and the pasta dish with the short ribs and apple slices was the standout for me. I'd love to go back and just eat that dish on the bar patio with a glass of wine.
Our waiter told us that all the items on the menu were meant to be shared and eaten family style. There are a number of dishes that echo other items that are offered at Parkside or Backspace. I'd like to see O&J's menu continue to develop more of a unique identity.
I think they're still working out the kinks, but this is definitely one to watch. I'll check it out again after the SXSW rush.
I also went during their soft opening, and had a really nice experience. The seafood linguine was memorable, as were the meatballs on the antipasti menu. We got the escarole salad, too, and I liked it - but I happen to like fatty pancetta, and it sounds like our egg was cooked better than yours was. We got ten different plates (3 from the small plate section, 1 antipasti, the salad, two entrees, two sides, one dessert), and our bill would have been around $90. That doesn't seem as expensive to me as I remember El Arbol being.
I don't want to toot my blog's horn in an annoying way, but if anyone is interested, I wrote a long post about our meal there with lots of photos (link from my profile).
The $90 was just food - without tax or grat. In addition to that, we got a $40ish bottle of prosecco. Not cheap, but considering the huge amount of food we ate, not unreasonable, IMO. For example, you could easily get away with ordering just the seafood linguine as your meal, and that runs $17.
Would the seafood linguine actually be enough for a meal?
It looks pretty tiny in the picture - portioned more like a side dish. A single parsley leaf and pine nut is enough to cover up a good third of the Beef involtini, and the tiny fried raviolis look to weigh in at about $2.50 per square inch.
It all looks very tasty and could well be worth the $, but based on your pictures it's not what I would call filling or moderately priced.
re: Alan Sudo
Alan, I think the linguine would be enough for a meal. As I'm sure is obvious from the photos, I am not a professional photographer (or even a very good amateur photographer), and the sizes of the dishes probably aren't well conveyed by my photos. The ravioli are actually moderately large - maybe 3-1/2 - 4" long. I'm not saying the food there is cheap, but my recollection from several (admittedly long-ago) visits to El Arbol is that even the smallest appetizer plate there was $15+.
I personally don't think a soft opening or an opening day for that matter is a good way to judge a restaurant. I have a friend who went on Thursday and was completely underwhelmed about the food and the service. I hope the get the links out soon.
That location continues to be tricky IMO. It takes a lot of people to staff.
We went back again tonight and had another excellent experience. The pappardelle with the short ribs was memorable, and their pork chop is one of the best I've had. The hazelnut semifreddo was also wonderful.