While living in Singapore, most of my Sunday mornings consisted of out reading by the pool and sweating profusely. One Sunday in August, as I was perusing the most recent Bon Appetit magazine, I saw something that made me wonder if maybe I had been outside too long. It appeared that a pair of connected restaurants, located at Tower Grove Avenue and McRee Avenue in St. Louis, had made BA’s “Top 50 New Restaurants” list. Surely there couldn’t be two new stellar restaurants there? I’d never even been man enough to drive down those streets, let alone go out to eat there.
None of my friends or family had ever mentioned either Elaia or Olio. I felt out of touch. Why hadn’t anyone told me? Maybe they were afraid I would become irrationally jealous that they were eating Bon Appetit worthy food and stop speaking to them.
Since returning to St. Louis, Elaia and Olio have been on my list of places to try. When I got the text last Wednesday asking if I was interested in grabbing lunch at Olio on Saturday, I typed yes as fast as my fingers could go.
We arrived at Olio before it was open, which gave us time to go next door and try La Patisserie Chouquette next door. It was a diabetic’s fantasy & nightmare in there. You can sit and have coffee, tea and pastries, but we chose to get ours take away. I bought six macarons (Earl Grey x2, Jasmine Matcha x2, White Chocolate Raspberry and Chocolate Covered Strawberry), a break-up cookie (it said “Skank!” on it) and a piece of Strawberry Lemonade cake.
We crossed the street again and headed into Olio. It’s set in an old gas station that has been somewhat renovated, giving it a cool, urban vibe. I meant cool literally as well as figuratively–it was surprisingly cold in there! Everyone knows that the best way to keep warm in winter is to drink booze, so booze did drink. Their Bloody Mary was tasty and potent, plus it came with a tiny beer on the side. I’ve never had a drink come with a drink. Bonus points: +2.
The menu is full of smaller plates that are good for sharing, so that’s just what our foursome did. Sort of. Some of the dishes were shared, some were not. First to arrive at the table was the Burrata with cracked pepper, oregano, maple and extra virgin olive oil ($12). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snap a picture of it before it was inhaled by everyone. I’ve had a lot of burrata in my life, but this was without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. The creaminess of the cheese and the sweetness of the maple was nearly orgasmic.
Next out was the Tuscan Kale salad with Pecorino Sardo, chili flakes, breadcrumbs and a lemon-anchovy vinaigrette ($10). I only managed to steal a small bite of the salad, but it too was delicious. I’m not quite sure how the chef took something simple that you see pretty often in restaurants these days and took it to the next level, but he did. The specials of the day joined the party next: lamb meatballs and a lentil soup. The meatballs were tasty, but didn’t stand out as something memorable and unique.
“My” dish for the meal was the Lahmacun, a Turkish pizza with spiced ground beef, pine nuts and caramelized onions ($14). It certainly tasted like a Turkish flatbread, but I’d put it in a category with the meatballs as something that was tasty but not worth the drive.
The final addition to the meal was my favorite. Their take on a Baba Ganoush, the Charred Eggplant with Beluga lentils, kefir and chives. I know that the picture below just looks like a normal dip, but it was far more than that, my friends. The charring of the eggplant gave it a distinctively smoky taste and smell which was countered by the kefir. The Beluga (black) lentils and chives added a wonderfully earthy flavor to the dish. I literally could not stop dipping bread into it. They had to bring us (me) another basket. What a fatboy I am.
Whatever. It was worth it.
St. Louis, MO 63110