These days, a new restaurant is a rare occasion. Plans for the Black Olive have been underway since before anyone whispered the word recession, so the fact that it opened at all is cause for celebration.
Situated in the Plaza complex, the Black Olive has a decor that fits the Downtown Arts District. The dining room is casually upscale. Tables have stone-look tops and plastic weave placemats. Boothback fabrics have a patina that is reminiscent of an antiqued mirror; chairs are upholstered in white leather.
It’s the sort of atmosphere that makes you want to don your best toga.
A large frieze on the far wall, under moody lighting, dominates the room. According to manager David Miles (old-timers might remember Miles from Peter Scott’s in Longwood), people have arguments trying to decide if the figure in the frieze is supposed to represent Bacchus or Caesar. (Not Jim and Sid but the god of wine and the Roman emperor, who just thought he was a god).
It’s Bacchus, but Caesar is well represented. When was the last time you saw a classic Caesar salad prepared tableside, complete with mashed anchovies and coddled egg? It’s nearly impossible for a restaurant to open without a Caesar salad on its menu, but of the thousands offered in Central Florida -- yes, thousands -- precious few are prepared with this kind of care. Indeed, most figure all they need is romaine lettuce, some croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese and something from a bottle with the word Caesar on it. No bottle here. The dressing is crafted before your very eyes with crushed garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, those salty little anchovies and Dijon mustard. A Caesar worthy of praise.
Chef Dan Kernan’s mostly Italian menu has some creative touches, but it’s nice to see some traditional fare, too.
Grilled octopus on a bed of olives (black, of course), drizzled with olive oil, was a fitting antipasto. The pasta course featured large-format ravioli, filled with wonderfully rich wild mushrooms and toasted pine nuts, kissed with truffle oil.
Entrees included grilled bronzini, a Mediterranean sea bass, complemented with fennel risotto. Filet mignon was served with caramelized cipollinis and topped with pan-seared foie gras. Perfection.
Service was first rate, knowledgeable and professional. There is an extensive wine list with a fair number of by-the-glass selections. A wine room doubles as a private dining space for parties up to 10.
The Black Olive’s location is unfortunate. It’s in the very highly visible Plaza complex but around the corner on Pine Street. Not something you see while driving by. But management is hopeful that the newly opened movie complex will help drive traffic.
To that end, Black Olive is offering a very attractive deal for movie goers. They have a three-course dinner for $19.95 available between 5 and 7 p.m. for those going to see a movie. But here’s a nice twist to the dinner and a movie deal: you can go have your appetizer and your entree, go see the movie, then return to the restaurant for dessert. A brilliant plan. What’s more, Black Olive validates parking in the Solaire garage, accessible off Court Avenue between Pine and Church Streets.
Following the loss of Manuel’s on the 28th, Graze and who knows what other restaurants before I hit the save button on this review, it’s nice to have another choice for fine dining in downtown Orlando.
The Black Olive is at 22 E. Pine St. (corner of Orange Avenue), Orlando. Lunch is available Monday through Friday and dinner is served Monday through Saturday. There is a full bar. Dinner entrees range from $19-$29. Web site: eattheblackolive.com.