I'm fresh from my first meal at the soft opening of Olive & June, and so inspired that I wanted to sit down to pen this post right away. Olive & June is the newest venture from Chef Shawn Cirkiel, already well-known as the palate and the mind behind Parkside and The Backspace. If our meal tonight is any indication, he's hit another home run with Olive & June.
The space hasn't changed much structurally from when it used to house El Arbol, but they've played with the layout a bit, and the decor is warmer and feels more open than the previous incarnation. Word to the wise, though - they did change the location of the front door (you now enter through the garden) - so if you try to enter through the previous entrance (like we did), you won't be able to get in.
Ground floor, with a view into the kitchen.
Second floor dining area.
For the sake of full disclosure, the food during the soft opening was complimentary, so all we paid for was our alcohol and gratuity. Our sweet server repeatedly encouraged us to order a smattering of dishes from all over the menu, and as you're about to see, we enthusiastically took her up on her kind offer. Thank goodness I had skipped lunch.
We started with several dishes from the Piccoli Piatti section of the menu, which our server described as "just a few bites to try." First to arrive was their fried ravioli stuffed with swiss chard ($5). These lovely pillows were really light and delicately fried, which somehow made the earthiness of the chard inside that much more comforting.
Next up was their clam crudo ($5) - fresh, raw razor clams were dressed with just the right amount of meyer lemon and arugula to give them a little bite without taking away from that just-out-of-the-ocean flavor.
Beef involtini ($4) arrived next. In my haste to try these, I neglected to ask what the fruit was in this dish; I can, however, tell you that whatever it was went perfectly with the very flavorful beef and the toasty pine nuts.
We ventured into the antipasti section of the menu with our next dish, a wonderful serving of hearty, spicy meatballs served in a tomato sauce with a fig mostarda ($11). Our server confessed that she had overindulged in those during a "family meal" at the restaurant - one bite and we could see why.
We thought we might use our salad course to convince ourselves we were eating light momentarily, but the warm runny egg that graced the top and the surprise bites of pancetta scattered throughout the plate quickly dashed that plan (escarole salad, $6).
When we saw the pasta course, we had to rally ourselves a bit. Olive & June's seafood linguine ($17) features their house-made pasta topped with mussels, squid, shrimp, peppers and tomatoes, and garnished with fennel fronds. The surprise of this dish was the broth, which had all the richness of a pot that had been simmering on the stove for hours. Really fantastic.
A generous filet of orata ($22) arrived next. The skin on this was wonderfully crispy, and the fennel and tomato served with it were cooked just right, so the vegetable flavor was still there, but there was enough juice to permeate the fish.
We also tried a couple of sides ($6 apiece) - a bowl of lacinato kale that would have been quite healthy save for the rest of our indulgences, and a fabulous dish of what was billed as "pumpkin" but was actually grilled kobucha squash (we later learned that kobucha is also called Japanese pumpkin). The texture of the squash was a little dry, but the wonderful oaky-grilled flavor still made this a dish we would order again.
We ended the meal with an order of their bombolini, which is a fancy way of saying "doughnuts" - of course, they were fancified by the ethereal orange mascarpone and the housemade nutella (ahem, housemade nutella!) that was served with them.
We were super impressed by our first meal at Olive & June, and the fact that they are in our neighborhood virtually guarantees that there will be many return visits. Congratulations to Chef Cirkiel and his crew on what we are sure will be another successful venture.
Olive & June
3411 Glenview Avenue
Austin, TX 78703
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