April 12th, 2009

Olives, Charlestown

“It was a bookend meal,” R aptly declared. We started with great appetizers and finished with satisfying desserts, but the stuff in between was forgettable. It seems that this is often the case, that entrees never live up to the promise of the starters.

 

Olives is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year by offering 3 specials every Friday from their 1989 menu at 1989 prices. This past Friday they had goat cheese en crozza ($5.50), shrimp and spinach risotto ($13) and a sausage and rabbit dish ($14). R and I ordered all three, and also got the black truffle foie gras flan as a second starter. The flan was easily the best part of the meal; it had an rich, smooth and creamy texture and the mushroom and foie gras ragu underneath was delicious. R wants me to report that he was the one to order it. (There you go, sweetheart, now the world knows that you are getting credit for the flan.) I also enjoyed the goat cheese, but let's be honest, it was a huge fried triangular wedge of cheese, so it's hard to go wrong. It accompanied by lovely, meaty mushrooms.

 

We had the 1989 entrees, and this is where the meal took a dip. I never had the experience before where food felt dated. On Top Chef, sometimes the judge will criticize that dish was so 80's/90's, and it's strange to think about it, but certain foods (or preparation styles) can feel old. It funny to think that 20 years ago this was new, innovative and cutting edge, as Olives was.

 

For dessert, a stunning vanilla bean souffle and a competence, but boring, molten chocolate cake cake came to the table. The souffle was light and airy with true vanilla flavor. My only complaint is that the creme anglaise that came with it was thin as water. The chocolate cake was good, but the raspberry sauce was lip puckeringly sour.

 

I do want to mention the bread basket; it had a nice crusty Francese and a soft, yielding onion focaccia. It was great with the plate of complimentary olives with 2 types of olive tapenade. Our service was also excellent.

 

The anniversary specials run till April 24.

 

www.toddenglish.com

 

Highland Kitchen, Somerville

Finding a restaurant for a large group of people is hard, especially with different tolerances for spending and there's a faux vegan in the group (sorry, Danny, but you can't really call yourself a vegan, I've seen you with my beef stew). I suggested Highland Kitchen for our annual Easter outing and I'm proud to say it was quite successful.

 

I started with the mussels in a coconut curry lobster broth. I have ordered this before and it was just as delicious as I remember it. R had Devils on horseback, which is a bacon wrapped date stuffed with blue cheese, an almond. R really enjoyed it, but it was too blue cheesy for me. I sampled Alice's grilled littleneck clams with BBQ sauce and bacon. It was really delicious. She also got a cup of the asparagus soup, which I thought was underseasoned, but she thought it was her favorite dish of the night.

 

My entree, braised pork shoulder and smoked bacon was really excellent. The pork was so tender, and flavorful. I loved it. It came with grits, that were good and collards that were vinegar based, which is not my favorite style of preparation, but still good. R got the cheese burger and chili cheese fries on the side. It was a solid burger, cooked and seasoned correctly. The fries were good, but the chili was heavy and make the fries soggy. Maybe we'll just get cheese fries next time.

 

I also sampled the lamb skewer (tender and delicious) and the roasted chicken (juicy, but boring). The mushroom lasagna was down at the other side of the table, so I didn't try it, but I was told it was “excellent, the flavors really blend together well. This is some of the best lasagna I've ever had.”

 

Desserts were: warm banana bread pudding, bourbon pecan pie, and chocolate pudding. I would say the banana bread pudding was the best of the bunch; it was an extremely generous serving of warm, moist banana goodness. The chocolate pudding was rich, but light and silky at the same time, a perfect texture. I was not impressed by the pie, the crust was stiff cardboard.

 

Three hours later, everyone left full and happy. I can't really ask for more. Highland Kitchen is quickly becoming a favorite restaurant. I've been three times in the last year and have yet to be disappointed. The food is soul satisfying, the service is good and the prices are extremely reasonable, if they took reservations it would be perfect.

 

www.myspace.com/highlandkitchen