Three years ago when I saw Todd English on his PBS cooking show, Cooking With Todd English, I promised myself I would go to his Charlestown restaurant “Olives;” a restaurant that promises offerings of “interpretive European” cuisine. One recent soggy Boston evening, I took myself up on it.
My date, Andy, and I were greeted by an enthusiastic valet who whisked our car off to some mysterious lot. (Where do valets park cars anyway? Everyone knows that there is no place to park in Boston. I guess that’s why we use valets-they know that magic parking portal.)
We proceeded into the restaurant and gave our names to the snobbish Maitre`d who told us coldly that there was a 45 minute wait for any table. We said fine and made our way over to the bar. The place was packed with the downtown, Charlestown crowd. We ordered some drinks-I the house red, and Andy, the Sam Adams special Olive’s brew-which turned out not to be so special.
After we had a few drinks, the Maitre’d found us in the bar (I was impressed with his recall) and showed us to our table. I realized that Olive’s is a small and cozy place with the bar on one side, the restaurant on the other, and an open kitchen in the back. We had a nice table. I had a view looking onto the city and the harbor (somewhat), Andy had a view of all the goings on of the restaurant-not a bad view either. Olive’s is tastefully decorated with its golden and purple tones, warm lighting and upholstered chairs and benches.
A bubbly waitress wearing jeans came over to introduce herself and the specials of the evening. However, we couldn’t hear a word she said as the place was roaring with conversation. The menu offered many interesting epicurean dishes-from octopus and squid to duck and venison. Andy asked me facetiously if I would be ordering the frog legs. (Who orders frogs legs??) While we were deciding and deciphering the complicated menu, our waitress brought over a generous variety of freshly baked breads-fococcia, baguettes, and whole wheat country bread accompanied by a lovely minced olive and garlic olive oil dipping sauce/spread that perked up the taste buds quite a bit. We practically devoured this offering as we had already been in the restaurant for an hour-a very long and hungry hour.
We deduced that ordering anything on the menu would be a good choice. As such, I decided to order squash ravioli and Andy went with the cheese trio tortellini. Our dishes arrived in a timely manner and we were looking very much forward to that first bite. The raviolis were very rich-the filling tasted like sweet potato pie. The saving grace of this dish was a light but creamy white sauce that was drizzled over the top and the garnishment of crispy greens (perhaps fried basil??). The cheese trio tortellini was also a very rich dish and tasted more like down home baked macaroni and cheese than anything else. We were disappointed that both the dishes were served sans any sides; had we known, we would have ordered appetizers to challenge our pallet a bit more.
All in all, it was a luke-warm dining experience. If you decide to go-get a group and call ahead. Otherwise grab a friend or date and eat at the bar. Make sure you get your fair share of the minced olive spread-definitely the highlight!