It's been a year since I've entered anything on this blog! I cannot believe it, but it's true. Primarily it was because we keep going to our old favorites, and when we do go to a new restaurant, I feel as though I need to go back to it at least one or two more times to do it justice. Then, there were times when I was so busy eating, enjoying the people that we accompanied there, that I plain forgot to give the food the attention it deserved in order to report on it.
Ben Poremba has changed all that. He has opened two excellent eating places; one, Olio, is an informal, delightful small plate establishment in a former gasoline station, and the other is Elaia, a sophisticated, elegant and exploratory dining room that shows off his considerable talents.
Today I will only tell you of my experiences at Olio. It is located just 2 blocks north of the Missouri Botanical Garden on Tower Grove Ave and McCree Street. The transformation from a filling station to a charming eatery is absolutely wonderful. I can't wait until the weather is warm enough so the sliding overhead glass door that used to be used to bring the cars in for repairs, is opened for outdoor dining.
The space as it is right now, works beautifully. There's a bar area with great looking, very comfortable stools, where you can sample the amazing wines and cocktails that are available, as well as have your choices off the menu. The adjacent space has several ice-cream marble tables that seat 2-4 people each.
The prep space is small, but, wow, what comes out of that space is remarkable. In the evenings there is a rotisserie and every evening there is a different choice of a rotisserie item to be had.
These are some of the dishes I have sampled there. CELERY ROOT REMOULADE, julienned celery root with a lovely, light creamy dressing. I am a big fan of celery root. It is a remarkable vegetable. It looks pretty rough when it comes out of the ground or when you find it at your grocer, but the flavor is spectacular. Julienned, the texture is crunchy and truly elegant. Do try it.
I've also had the KALE AND ANCHOVY SALAD. Tiny green ribbons of baby kale that are crunchy and never bitter, are married to a dressing that is made of anchovies and a very fine olive oil. Sharing is a must, and the portions allow you to do so handsomely. Even so, I wish I had had more to enjoy of that dish after my table mates helped themselves.
The CHARRED EGGPLANT DIP is smokey and amazing. It is served with great bread. It's a true winner.
Soups change daily and are only available at lunch. Most recently I had the CELERY SOUP which was thick with minced vegetables and came with a soft cooked egg in the center! Lovely, lovely.
In the sandwich department there's the "FAMOUS" EGG SALAD. It is better than your mama's, I promise. It is also huge, so plan on sharing. The bread it's served on is fabulous as well. I've also sampled the MORTADELLA, BUTTER AND PICKLED ONION sandwich. Yum.
The menu has CHEESE SELECTIONS that are very different from any selections I've seen on any menu around town. There's a VEGETABLE AND SALAD group, try the MARINATED BEETS AND RICOTTA. SPREADS AND DIPS are wonderful with your first glass of wine. SALUMI AND CHARCUTERIE are all home made and cured. Ben began his food adventures in St Louis with his Salumi Beddu, first at Farmers' Markets, and then at his first establishment on Hampton Avenue. All the selections in this category are worth your interest. There's FISH AND SEAFOOD and under this title I am anxious to try the OCTOPUS SALAD WITH CHICK PEAS AND EDAMAME.
As you can see there are plenty of choices for all kinds of appetites. After 5:30PM there are selections by the day of HOT PLATES AND ROTISSERIE. So come and try them out.
I have never made it to dessert yet...but one of these days.
Take a look at the menu on line at oliostl.com.
1634 Tower Grove Ave