Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review of Olivia's Cafe

Olivia’s Café, Old Key West Resort

1 July  2010

We had received an email a few weeks prior about the passholder preview for the return of Captain Eo at Epcot.  Since both Bret and I had very fond memories of that attraction at Epcot, we decided to head down after our respective work days and catch a showing. 

We were able to head out in good time, and planned to stop off at Olivia’s café before heading over to Epcot for our 8:20 showing of the film.  There were, however, several crimps in our plans.  The first was traffic.  Since we were travelling the Thursday night of a holiday weekend, traffic was a little heavier than usual, but I wasn’t overly concerned.  After being stuck in Tampa, the turnpike to Orlando is pretty tame.  The real complication came in when we hit a true Florida downpour.  Thunder, lightening, and rain so thick it was hard to see through.  Traffic slowed to a crawl.  Our hour and a half drive turned into a 2 hour and 15 minute journey.  I-4 was bumper to bumper, and I was pretty enervated by the time we finally reached the turn off for Epcot and Downtown Disney.  We debated whether to even try for dinner with only an hour left before our 7:50 required check-in at Captain Eo, but Bret wanted to try it, and I was game. Besides, we were curious about Olivia’s new menu, which we had not yet tried.

Olivia’s is a special place to us.  There have been several times in our visits to Diisney property where something we planned has utterly flopped.  A restaurant we wanted to eat in was utterly packed, or the line just to check in for a reservation was 30 minutes. On a few of those occasions, we’ve had something magical happen – we’ve tried a different restaurant, and it has saved us.  Olivia’s was one of those places.  

Several years ago, we were unable to get into a restaurant, and, terribly disappointed, we decided to head over and try Olivia’s at Old Key West.  We were seated immediately, our server was remarkable, our food was delicious, and we had an overall delightful experience.  Since then Olivia’s has been one of our “home” restaurants – one of the places we could count on. 

Even at 6:00 on a Thursday night, we had less than a 5 minute wait for a table at the restaurant, which was comforting to say the least after the drive we’d just survived.  We were seated at one of the tables in the center of the airy dining room.  Again, I was grateful – Olivia’s is designed with ample space between the tables, so we were comfortable and felt that there was a measure of privacy for our conversations, even in the midst of the dining room.

We looked over the menu (something we’d already checked out online) and quickly decided what we wanted.  Our waiter arrived to take our drink order, and I was delighted.  It was the same gentleman who had served us the very first night we had washed up on the mercy of Olivia’s, and for the first time, I felt that the evening might work out all right.  He was charming, professional, and warm.  I let him know that we were on property for Captain Eo, and that unfortunately, we were rushing dinner to make our show time.  He asked our show time, and reassured me that we’d have a great dinner and get out in time…what a comfort!

Bret ordered a Buzz Lightyear punch, and a Sultry Seahorse (disaronno amaretto, crème de banana, pineapple juice, orange juice, and a float of cherry brandy), and our waiter warned us not to let Buzz at the alcoholic beverage.  I stuck with soft drinks – after the journey down and the possibility of more rain, I didn’t want to drive with any impairment. Bret’s drink was, as usual, amazing; it was tasty and had quite a kick to it.

We started off with the Taste of the Keys for Two (shrimp & smoked cheddar grits paired with conch fritters and dipping sauces).   The plate was beautifully arranged, with two clusters of fritters (3 on each side of the plate) and a pair of barbecue shrimp skewers in the center of the plate, nestled on a scoop of grits.  Being me, I immediately went for the grits, and they were a little bit of heaven.  The smoky cheddar flavor paired beautifully with the sweetness of the corn, and the texture was lovely.  Although shrimp are not my favorite food, I did try one of the little skewered barbecue bits, and it was lovely. It was tender, but not overdone, and the barbecue sauce was smoky and tangy.  The conch fritters were delicious – crisp on the outside and tender-savory on the interior.  Our waiter also shared that, although they weren’t on the menu, one could just order conch fritters as an appetizer, and that the fritters with dip was growing in popularity.

We polished off the whole appetizer, and I thought it was perfect.  For me, “appetizer” portions are often so massive that dinner becomes irrelevant.  I usually find myself ordering soup because I’ve wasted my “dinner” on the appetizer.  The Taste of the Keys was what it was advertised to be – an appetizer.  It was a delicious combination of tastes in a portion just enough to take the bite of hunger off for two.

As a main dish, Bret ordered the Slow-Roasted prime rib with Olivia’s potatoes, rare.  It came with a rich red wine sauce for dipping.  From the moment he popped the first piece in his mouth, he started cooing.  The steak was really amazing – and that’s in the context of having eaten at Yachtsman 2 weeks ago.  It was tender, well cut, and the spices on the exterior coating were succulent.  The dipping sauce was remarkable. It was full bodied and sweet-smoky without overwhelming the taste of the steak.  I actually had a piece (although I don’t usually do rare), and the steak really was wonderful.  The way it was cut produced a shorter grain, and the texture was silky and soft rather than the chewy, slimy texture I often associate with rare steak.  The Olivia’s potatoes were also lovely, paper thin slices of potatoes with a creamy sauce between them.  They reminded me of my mom’s scalloped potatoes, just thinner sliced and fancier.

I chose the Olivia’s pasta with chicken (olive oil, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and spinach in a light cream sauce) because I needed comfort food before venturing out again.  The portion was generous, and the smell coming up from my plate was mah-vellous.  I dug in and was pleasantly surprised.  The pasta was perfectly done – the al dente that all pasta should be. It was soft enough to offer no resistance (not gummy), but it was firm enough to give a wonderful texture and distinctness.  The sauce was an incredibly delicate cream sauce based off a wine that gave it a sweetness, almost like a sweet marsala.  It paired beautifully with the mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes.  The chicken on top was…well…chicken.  The chunks were about 1”, and they were good enough tasting, but they didn’t really seem in any way seasoned to marry them into the dish.  They were the added protein, and they were good enough, but not a real taste addition to the flavors. 

We finished off our meal and boxed up my remaining pasta in time to head out to Captain Eo thanks to our waiter’s consideration, prompt service, and kindness.  I can’t say enough good things about him. He was, as I remembered him being, personable, kind, and efficient.  He chatted with us and made us feel special and cared for, but he never intruded.  He was so considerate of us and made sure that we were done with our meal and on our way in order to meet our reservation at Captain Eo.  Bravo for good Disney service.  That’s why we love Olivia’s.

Overall, the meal held up to my expectation of Olivia’s. The food was good, flavorful, and filling. The atmosphere was “homey,” relaxed, and not overcrowded.  We felt, as usual, well cared for and pleased with our experience.  Of course we’ll be going back!

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