Olives [Todd English Abu Dhabi]

As the temperatures keep rising here in Abu Dhabi, my desire to cook keeps continuing to plummet.  So this past Friday we drove out to the Venetian Village to taste what is happening in the ever evolving food scene.  Unfortunately, in the heat of the summer, the Village is really quiet, and almost ghost like...well actually, it is really not a "village" at all but instead a cluster of high-end restaurants that surround the water's edge, making a quaint and serene place to walk and look out onto the water...as close to Venice as we can get I suppose.  Because of its location, 20 minutes away from Abu Dhabi's city center, it gets many less visitors than the exact same restaurants would get if they were on the easily accessible Corniche, which is too bad.
  We were headed for the Mediterranean American restaurant, Olives, which is man
aged by the celebrity chef, Todd English.  They do a large seated brunch on Friday, but when we got there for dinner the place was nearly empty except for a few families, and a few other couples that arrived during our stay.  There are two dining rooms, one is more quiet and calm with green leather chairs and leather booths that surround earthy wooden tables.  The other faces into the open kitchen (complete with pizza oven) with simple wooden tables and chairs.  The floor is tiled which allows for the noise of the kitchen to bounce off the walls creating a more boisterous dining experience.  Great for kids.

    B choose the calmer Green Room since we could get our own booth.  They have a strong wine and cocktail list, including a number of house infused gins... but we decided to start with some simple delicious prosecco, paired with the mezze platter (which came with an array of different hummus spreads, and some incredibly tasty homemade crackers, dusted in salt and herbs).  The lentil hummus was earthy and addicting, and carrot hummus naturally sweet and creamy.  We also could not resist the fried calamari, which was a good decision because they were incredibly light and crispy, leaving no hint of oil on your fingers or your lips.  The chef uses the lighter, thinner corn flour as the batter base, to get them just exactly like that.

    Next was our pasta course. We decided to try a few...and all were admittedly excellent.  I am Italian, so it is not often that I can say that a pasta is delicious outside of Italy.  Olive's pastas are all made by hand in the restaurant and that difference is blatantly apparent.  The fresh eggs come through in each delicate bite.  The Crab Carbonara is a twist on the Roman staple.  It is linguine in a light cream sauce, topped with a sous-vide egg.  You break into  the egg yourself, letting the thick yolk run over your creamy hot pasta.  The Bolognese is a special family recipe that highlights warmer flavors of cloves and cinnamon, and is topped with moist beef meatballs topped with just a dab of creamy mascarpone fondue. B's favorite was the rich Seafood Risotto.  Creamy tomato based rice and large pieces of seafood that is so incredibly filling.  It transports you directly to the coasts of Northern Italy, so much that for a moment you forget that you are still, yes, in the desert.

    For the main course we chose the Ribeye that is covered in a glaze of shitake sauce that is not mentioned on the menu (highlighting the American Fusion side of the cuisine), and also the Black Cod with Citrus risotto and bouillabaisse sauce. The fish mentioned "with Crispy artichokes", but actually only came topped with one piece of artichoke heart that was too thickly breaded and fried. I would have loved to have a few more pieces and that were grilled instead.   The Ribeye was tender, and very moist, served with a side of tiny grilled rosemary potatoes and a baked tomato stuffed with peas au gratin.  The Cod was light and bright, a perfect contrast to the beef.  So the key is to know what you feel like eating and to listen to your server's advice about each dish.  As we discovered, there are dishes for all moods and tastes, (although the menu is not overly extensive), you just need to know which mood it is that you prefer.  (Comforting, rich, light, for sharing, Mediterranean, American...etc). 

   I was happily surprised at the good selection of options for dessert, again satisfying a small spectrum of tastes.  However, while the menu reads something that you are familiar with, the actual dish will look quiet a bit different, reflecting the chef's interpretation of the classic.  For example, "NY Cheesecake", is actually a tiny crust-free bundt shaped cake, sprinkled with slivered almonds and accompanied by a scoop of sweet toffee ice cream on the side.  The rendition was a little too sweet and it is a terrible thing to remove the oh-so- delicious cheescake crust, which is such a key counterpart to the creamy cake. The "Cannoli" dessert is  similarly re-invented, creating more of a deconstructed cannoli built into flat layers.  Credit is definitely given for making dessert interesting again.  On the more classic side, we tried the Chocolate Hazelnut Semifreddo, which was very light and creamy with a praline crust and topped with perfect berries.  The favorite of the night, however, was once again, yes, I hate to admit it...their rendition of the chocolate molten cake.  The dark chocolate flavor was a powerful and satisfying nightcap, and is accompanied with a perfectly creamy scoop of milk chocolate ice cream. I was hesitant to taste yet again another molten chocolate dessert, but this dish left our table scraped clean.

Overall, I would really recommend a visit to Olives.  The service is very friendly and knowledgeable and it is clear that the food is created with cleverness and care.  I can't wait to see what they have thought up for Breakfast, launching in September.  

Todd English's Olives Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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