Let’s try something new. I’d never been to Olio e Limone before. Yeah, that’s right! Let’s also take a few risks and try going there at 8 pm on a Saturday night without a reservation.
You’d think we’d fail, and you’d be so wrong. But we did arrive with a queue going out the door. We murmured amongst ourselves that we might not get in without the reservation and maybe we should think about going to another Italian restaurant just on the east side of Victoria St. This makes the smug couple in front of us turn around and say, “oh, if you don’t have a reservation for here, you are not getting in. And that other place is no good.”
All condenscending like.
Then something amazing happened. The woman at the front desk said there was one open 2-top left and beckoned us in. We left the couple standing there at the front and were promptly seated, all smiles and eyes sparkling with happiness. Maybe a little smugness.
The restaurant was packed, elbow to elbow. I didn’t bother with photos.
To start: Carpaccio di Bue. Thinly-sliced raw beef tenderloin, goose liver paté and celery hearts with Olio e Limone dressing. Uber tender, the beef fell apart like pate itself, which I scooped up onto my spoon or a slice of ciabatta. The goose liver was so smooth, like a Michael McDonald song. It was my favorite part of this small plate. Underneath it all was the tender slivers of celery.
Main: Ravioli d’Anatra ai Funghi Porcini. Housemade duck ravioli with creamy porcini mushroom sauce. Oh, hell yeah. You had me at duck. Why is duck such a luxury item in the US? Ducks are everywhere! Just look at your nearest park. What’s the deal. We need duck nuggets and kentucky fried duck, and duck fajitas. But duck ravioli will do. These were DERICIOUS, and quite substantial little pasta pillows. These are also the favorite item of our waiter’s, he said so while we were waffling over the menu earlier in the evening. I’d agree, I really enjoyed them, I had to contain myself while eating them, like not using my fingers to scrape up the last of the sauce, or licking the plate.
My dining companion again got one of the specials, a sauteed sole in butter and lemon, which included some greens and potato on the side. Pasta was also tempting, and so initially there was a lot of indecisiveness over what to pick on the menu. Our waiter saved the day – he said we could get half portions of pasta. DONE. So all at once, three large plates appear before my one friend containing the fish, the vegetables and a portion of pasta that looks way bigger than a half. Sorry, I don’t recall what it was! I was too busy face down in my DUCK ravioli, but only in the most dignified lady-like manner.
There’s no way we had physical room for dessert, but there’s mental room and we feasted on the extensive options our waiter recited to us. Next time, dessert FO SHO. Maybe two! But I was as stuffed as my raviolis. Good times.
Olio e Limone
After a lovely wedding ceremony in Inkberrow, the crew drove on about 20 miles to Stratford, home of William Shakespeare, for the wedding reception.
After reception cocktails, which went quickly in the heatwave most of England was experiencing, there were two rounds of meals, and the first was a proper sit-down banquet. We were served the best wedding food I’ve had in my life. Well-coordinated, well-plated, served at the right temperature, and good quality, especially the vegetarian items (and for Britain, too!).
The vegetarians got to start the meal with a fruit salad made of melon and berries in wine. We meat eaters had smoked duck with a Thai eggroll and a salad of sprouted beans. The Brits and even a few Americans were confused by the sprouts, finding them “more Californian” than British, but they still ate them. It was good.
For the main course, we had a roast chicken with gravy, and the vegetarians had mixed greens in a cup of phyllo pastry. Both were accompanied with platters of roast potatoes and roast vegetables.
Dessert was a selection of items, all included on the plate. An apple tart with spun sugar, ice cream, and berries in a rich berry sauce. And somewhere is some wedding cake, as well! Finally, after coffees, some champagne to toast the wedded couple.
The second feast came later in the night, during the more casual party atmosphere. It was a whole roast pig with piles of gorgeous crackling!
Oh dear, this looks almost too human to eat. But we got over that quickly. The staff pulled the pork and served it in soft rolls with coleslaw. Here’s where things got tricky – they didn’t plate the crackling when they served up the sandwiches! You had to *know* it was in a large bowl under the roast pig and grab it yourself. Luckily, we have that kind of intuition, plus I asked for a portion of pork without the roll and got a nicely plated dinner instead.
The night went on with music, dance and we drank ourselves merry. I recall a conversation about peanut butter? Nevermind, just play the music. The Hotel guests had been pre-warned of disco music already, why not take full advantage of it.
The Shakespeare Hotel
It’s First Thursday! That means browsing the galleries and studios downtown, checking out the art, listening to some music, catching up with friends, and grabbing a bite to eat at Square One.
Pink recommended the grilled apricot salad, mizuna, manchego crisp, champagne vinaigrette.
This was followed by:
It seems like dinner on a Friday is a tradition best pursued at home.
Of this five: two of us were tourists, one of us was leaving the country the next day, all five of us love food, three of us could food talk anyone under the table and one of us was very very hangry after a bad day at work. Avignon had a lot of work ahead of itself to sate and please us. And it succeeded!
Cocktails were good, wine was good. For food, we shared an assortment of goodies. We started with oysters and an order of duck fat fries.
Next was cheeses with little accompaniments like local honey served with the blue. And lovely juicy house-cured smoked salmon with roasted beets and walnuts.
Then duck rillettes, chicken liver mousse, breseola (above photo).
We grazed, with two types of bread throughout the meal – a soft chewy rustic white and thinly sliced crisp and sweet dark bread. And for dessert, pineapple upside-down cake, pecan pie and chocolate mousse.
Nobody could pick a favorite of the savories, everything was good. As soon as one person would spotlight the salmon, our eyes would go back to the duck, then to the chicken, then the cheeses. No, everything was perfect. But for the dessert I particularly liked the pineapple cake, fully caramelized.
Really, though, I can’t criticize anything.
Bar Avignon (Clinton, SE)
Ming Dynasty caters to a diverse Goleta crowd and the variety can be distracting to the menu that suits each person best.
The prepared buffet on a Sunday afternoon seemed very popular to families, and non-Chinese. It was cheap, $13, and plentiful. It is also not for me, so of course I did not order it.
The Mongolian BBQ looked very good, and freshly prepared according to your own sauce and ingredient concoction, and there is a list of flavor combinations to guide the uninitiated, in English and Spanish. Meat options were beef, pork, chicken and lamb. The price of the BBQ was included in the buffet. Maybe this is not always true for other meals, but for Sunday afternoon, it was. We were very tempted by this, only for the bbq, but opted to try it sometime later during a work-week lunch.
The sit-down menu had three distinct parts: the English menu, the dim sum menu and the Chinese menu.
The English menu looked fine, the standard stuff most people go for.
The Chinese menu, not offered to the average diner by default, seemed very similar to the English one, but there were some differences, like having items that were more Taiwanese than Chinese and this is where we enjoyed our meal most.
* Clay Pot 3 Cup Lamb – on the Chinese menu. This is thin-sliced lamb cooked in wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, with fresh basil. Served in a clay bowl over a bed of cabbage, we took the cabbage and buried it under the hot lamb to give it a quick blast of heat before eating.
* Half a roasted duck – not made in-house. It was okay, but drier than duck roasted in-house. Served with plum sauce. On both the English and Chinese menu.
* Sauteed pea shoots – yummy! Eat lots of pea shoots while they are in season!
* Rice. I guess I suck at making my own Chinese rice. I quite liked this rice.
The place was very busy with customers, lots of gweilo but also a good number of asians, particularly in groups.
There is also a cocktail lounge! Reminiscent of asian exotica kitsch. I think that’s pretty cool.
For my meal, I’d put this at 3.5 stars. But, my best item was on the Chinese menu, which you will not be able to parse without understanding Chinese or someone at your table understanding Chinese. So, I knock off a star to match better with what another diner could best replicate.
It was my last night of the New York and Hoboken trip, and for the first time, I duplicated a restaurant. Cynthia and I thought it would be a nice way to wrap things up. I’d be off early the next morning.
We were started off with some bread and white bean dip while we pondered the menu. All I knew was that foie gras was listed and I had to have it. Everything else was supplementary.
No dessert! We were full. And I had some packing to do. Goodbye, New York!