Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me? You know you want to. Or, if you don’t own a magazine or newspaper or media outlet, join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.
Today, it’s all about Olivo Tapas. We had an achingly delicious meal there yesterday, reminiscent of times past at Soubise and Rabbit Bistro. Chef Alejandro Cruz was trained by Chef Gabe Gil, and it shows in his flavors, presentation, details, and sheer joy in the kitchen. We opted for the chef’s tasting menu and watched him in the open kitchen smiling his way through the service. Such a lovely thing to behold, a man who loves to cook and does it well.
The menu was at once unusual and comforting, “relateable,” as my students might say. We had two oysters with a slightly spicy lemon-tabasco granita to start that were delicious but could have been even colder. I’ve grown obsessed with icy oysters in my old age; not sure what’s up with that. The oysters were followed by that sublime combination of watermelon and tomato, kept lively by little bits of cured salmon and pecorino and basil, then a perfectly fresh medium rare fan of albacore with a green olive sauce on squash succotash (corn, tomatoes, and a surprise of summer chanterelles). Colors and flavors popped all over the place. Pork belly over slightly too al dente white beans was utterly enchanted by cilantro; I didn’t want the plate to end. As my dining companion said, “I could go for a do-over on this!”
And the best of all? The pictured dessert. Like a molecular gastronomist’s dream of a deconstructed crisp with cream, oh my. Pecorino custard with charred peaches and crumbled cinnamon Japanese-pan churros (which I happened to recognize because Masa gave me a taste last time I was there). So. Good. Sigh.
The menu’s available all weekend, so hurry down and try it. Nice, simple wine list, too (we sampled very different but equally good glasses of white bordeaux and pinot gris. Maybe when it’s ready they’ll add this year’s William Rose rosé?
Check out my photo album for more snaps of the fabulous food and more information about the restaurant.
We also stopped by the new Oregon Electric Station for a quick cocktail before dinner. Charming host and barkeeps trying hard. I was delighted to run into bartender James West there, who will be presiding over the smaller bar with a specialty menu in the east room off the main dining hall, open officially on Monday. I’ll be glad to see him back in action. Food menu for the OES? Well, it’s large and varied, with an unfortunate collection of customer favorites from the old OES (think coconut shrimp, or rather don’t). Happy to see several varieties of ‘carpaccio’ offered, including beef, salmon, beet, and lobster. And more types of fettucine alfredo than one can shake a stick at. Way too much Maine lobster for a local restaurant with access to Dungeness crab, IMO, and ahi instead of albacore tuna (egads, in season!) but let’s give them a chance to learn our local.
I haven’t had the chance to patronize the new Elk Horn Brewery, run by Chef Stephen Sheehan of Delacata, because it was overrun by fans in its first few days of business. I’ll wait for the chaos to settle, but I admire them for putting an elk burger on the menu with all their fried delicacies.
I *have* had the chance to eat sweet corn honey butter ice cream in this neverending-nineties weather. The patio at Friendly Street Market is the nicest casual outdoor dining space I’ve seen in a while in this little ol’ town, and Red Wagon Creamery’s new scoopery inside the market is perfect.
And last but not least: I’ve urged you to always get the specials, especially the fish tacos, but the sangria special at Tacovore is a must-try. It’s the best sangria I’ve had in a long time. Thanks, bartender Amy Hand!