The Olive Press

Coming home late from work on a cold night, I normally don’t feel like puttering around my kitchen and making an elaborate meal. These are usually the nights when I call home to the boyfriend and the roomie to see if either of them are feeling particularly adventurous to make dinner, or better yet, if anyone wants to go out for dinner. It’s always a small victory when I manage to convince both of them to go out for a dinner with me so I don’t have to cook.

This particular evening, we decided to go to the Olive Press because I have been numerous times before and the both of them wanted to try it. It’s usually fairly busy near the end of the week, with people parking along Dundas because there are no spots in the lot. The boyfriend called before we left and was told there was a 20 minute wait – not bad enough that we wanted to go somewhere else, so we all piled into the car for the short drive.

Once there, we were a little worried about the parking situation as there were cars parked along Dundas – usually an indication that the restaurant was going to be busy. However, we got into the parking lot and there were plenty of spaces and we lucked out with one close to the entrance. The restaurant is already decorated for the holidays, and there is a gorgeous trimmed tree right by the front door. The restaurant is softly lit with white, floating balls as light fixtures. Dark wood tables covered with strips of white paper (again, with the paper table covers. I don’t get it.) and dark wood floors create a warm, cozy atmosphere. Nostalgic music streams through the speakers softly enough to notice during a lull in conversation, but not too loud that you had to yell to be heard. We were seated right away by the hostess in a table that felt like it was in the middle of the walkway. I noticed that the restaurant was less than half full, and asked if we could be moved to one of the empty booths along the wall. We were told that the booths were kept empty for groups of four or more, and since we were only three, we had to stay where we were. I wasn’t overly happy with that since it was already past 8 p.m. and there were plenty of empty booths to choose from.

We were seated with our menus for what felt like an inappropriate length of time before we were acknowledged. A busboy came by and said although he wasn’t our server, he could take our drink order since our server was busy with a large group on the other side of the dining room. We gave him our drink orders (a Pepsi, a root beer and I ordered a Shirley Temple) and proceeded to continue waiting. Our server finally got to our table along with our drinks, and apologized that she had been busy with another table. Had we been approached when we sat down and given the explanation that our wait would be a bit longer, I wouldn’t have minded the slow service at the start. However, as it was not explained until long after we waited, I felt like we were neglected.

As we waited for our appetizer, a basket of fresh bread was brought to the table and olive oil and balsamic vinegar was poured onto a side plate for our dipping pleasure. The bread was warm and crispy on the outside with a soft middle. It made me wish there was more than one piece for each of us, since I’m pretty sure I could have eaten my weight in that bread alone.

Our appetizer came out next, and we had opted for the Three Cheese Bruschetta ($9.95). Four thick slices of rosemary focaccia topped with fresh chopped tomatoes, romano, mozzarella and feta cheese were baked until hot and crispy. The bread was amazing – the edges were crunchy but the middle was soft and fresh. The thick slices prevented it from becoming too soggy and everything held together well. The bruschetta itself was a slight letdown because it tasted like fresh diced tomato, but had no other distinguishing features to make it stand out as a bruschetta. The server mistakenly listed goat cheese as one of the three cheeses, and we were confused that there was no goat cheese taste. The portion was huge and was a good sharing option for the three of us.

The roomie was in the mood for pasta and ordered the Seafood Portofino ($21.95) as her entree. There were a handful of large black tiger shrimp a few scallops and seven mussels. The menu described the dish as having a white wine cream sauce coating linguini noodles, but it was disappointing and tasted similar to a bland alfredo. The dish was not very hot, which made the sauce thick and easily tiring. The roomie said that although it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t anything special either.

Parisian Chicken pizza ($16.95) was the boyfriend’s choice for the evening, and was easily the best dish out of everything we ordered. Roast chicken breast, chilis, spinach, bacon, mushrooms and cheese are layered on top of a parmesan sauce and a crispy, fresh baked crust. Though I could not taste the chilis, the combination of all of the other ingredients coupled with the creamy yet slightly tangy parmesan sauce made this one of my favourite pizzas ever. The portion size was healthy and even after sharing with the roomie and I, he still had to take some home.

Following the recommendation of the server, I decided to try one of the Olive Press’s new dishes, the Italian Braised Beef Ribs ($19.95): three beef ribs slow-roasted in a house barbeque sauce, served with roast potatoes and vegetables. The dish came out and looked impressive – these ribs looked like they should have belonged on a brontosaurus and I felt like Fred Flinstone when I was eating them. The dish itself did not taste as good as it looked. The vegetables were extremely overcooked and were a soft, mushy pile that I couldn’t eat more than a bite from. The roast potatoes were nicely seasoned and had a crispy skin and soft middle. The ribs themselves were the biggest disappointment of all – the house barbeque sauce was reminiscent of cheap grocery store sauce mixed with ketchup that was overly sweet but left no flavour.

Our server came by after we had started our meal and asked how our meals were, especially the ribs since she recommended them. I mentioned that they were “okay” and to her credit, she asked if there was anything else I would prefer instead. I didn’t want to be a bother, so I politely declined and said that I would be okay with finishing my meal. She came back at the end of our meal and said that we could have a dessert, compliments of the house because she felt bad that I didn’t like my ribs. We were very impressed by her genuine care, and we opted to share the Triple Fudge cake as our dessert.

The cake itself was unfortunately not a dessert I would try again. My general concern with chocolate cakes when I go out to a restaurant is my fear of it being too dry. The Olive Press unfortunately fell into this category. The thin cake is sandwiched between layers of chocolate and topped with a chocolate ganache. Though the dessert is not overly sweet, the cake was dry and the chocolate layers tasted almost like melted chocolate chips. As a whole, by far one of my least favourite chocolate cakes I have had in a restaurant.

Though our experience started off on a low note, the service we received picked up and was fantastic after we were finally acknowledged. The food had some strong high notes (the bruschetta and the pizza), some low notes (the chocolate cake and the vegetable medley) and the majority was average. The prices are reasonable for the portion sizes you are served, but the service and food seem to be inconsistent. I would go back simply because the service we did receive at the end was better than many restaurants I have been to, as well as for the Parisian Chicken pizza. If Santa could bring me that pizza, I would be one happy girl.

Olive Press on Restaurantica
Olive Press on Urbanspoon
The Olive Press
2322 Dundas St. W., Oakville


theboyfriend said...
November 30, 2010 at 12:20 AM

Speaking for myself, The Olive Press has ruined pizza for me. The Parisian was SO good, I doubt any pizza hereafter will live up to the standard set by this restaurant.

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