Olivo Restaurant & Bar – Rethinking Needed

On a bit of an Italian streak here I gotta say. It’s not something I can help – as much as I prefer the Asian cuisines, nobody does carbs in quite the same way as Italian cuisine, it always makes me come back…and makes me work out more and more.

Situated at the awesome location of Darling Harbour, Olivo purports to provide both good food and a great alfresco dining scene. So how does that formula work out?

Date Visited: 11/11/2012
Address: 2-10 Darling Drive, Shop 295 Harbourside Sydney, NSW 2000
Go-to dish: potato gnocchi

Well, they certainly have the alfresco part down pat – as you can tell from the cover photo. Situating yourself on the forefront of the harbour really does pay off handsomely. The rent must be insane though…

Olivo Restaurant

We took some time in deciding what to order, which was a bit odd since Olivo’s is your classic run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant…but we got there eventually.

In the spirit of the sea, we first get ourselves a mixed seafood-themed entrée platter

Olivo Restaurant

Olivo’s entrée starting platter – scallops, calamari, risotto balls (Arancini), fresh oysters & garlic prawns

I love a 3-dimensional presentation – you just don’t see it all that often.

Scallops – flame-seared and quite delicious really, I don’t have much nitpicking to do here, it was “OK” in all aspects, deficient in none, though not excelling in anything either.

Oysters – not particularly to my liking, but I’m not the expert, since I’m not a die-hard fan of them anyway. They just didn’t feel particularly fresh, and had that very oceanic taste which was somewhat gaggy.

calamari – this was as well done as it could be, considering the fish-and-chips nature of it. The batter is crispy and hot, not soggy and tepid, and carried a decent level of flavour that rightly begs to be accompanied by sauce.

Arancini – these were not particularly well done. Risotto is simple in primary ingredient mix (it’s pretty much rice) and thus crucially needs oodles of flavour to impress. These risotto balls tasted like steamed rice with a bit of chicken stock added to it. Not cool.

Garlic prawns – the best morsel on the platter, can’t go wrong with well-cooked garlic prawns! The two are a natural match, one bringing out the goodness in the other. Super stuff.

Olivo Restaurant

other side

Olivo Restaurant

Those lights change colour every few seconds. I just feel compelled to say this for informative reasons.

Olivo Restaurant

bolognese lasagne

The lasagne was one of the better dishes presented to us. If you get the a) pastry:filling ratio, b) flavour intensity of the filling, c) texture of the pastry all correct, then you’ve got a pretty winning lasagne. The texture was much to my liking – quite cheesy but still chunky and soft on the pastry. The filling was well-proportioned with the pastry, and I was only left wanting a bit on the flavour side. Parents were right, I do like my food on the stronger side of flavour…

Olivo Restaurant

risotto funghi – Porcini mushroom, button mushroom and spinach

Remember what I said about the risotto balls? Unfortunately that applies here. It’s a shame really, the texture of the dish is actually technically excellent – not gooey, but not porridge either. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth experience of sorts, and I could easily imagine how good it would be if it were also up to scratch with flavour. As it stands, it was mostly salty and not much of the fungal taste went through as well (but I mind that less since I’m not big on mushrooms anyway).

A missed opportunity, but one that’s easily improvable.

Olivo Restaurant

YAS – Yet Another Salad

This salad was so generic I basically could not recall how it tasted, my tasting notes simple said “tastes like salad”. So uhhh I guess take that how you will 😛

Olivo Restaurant

beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips

Sometimes, the greats are great because of their simplicity. Such was the case with this dish. Pure guilt really, but it sure tastes the part – great batter, good fish (that needs sauce), and chips that aren’t too soggy. Wewt!

Olivo Restaurant

potato gnocchi

Gnocchi is actually my favourite type of pasta – there are things you can do with gnocchi you just can’t do with other kinds of pasta. Seriously.

I liked this particular rendition of gnocchi – the starchiness is absolutely delicious (potato gnocchi – still the classic). and the flavour was on the bat, thanks in no small part to the cheddar layered on top. Now I’d be happy to finish this one down to the last tidbit.

Olivo Restaurant

lemon lime tart w/vanilla anglaise & vanilla bean ice cream

An unfortunately unsatisfactory dessert, there was far less flavour in this tart than meets the eye, and thus I feel like I’m eating a lot of well-cooked flour. Even the ice cream seemed tame in comparison. Was not particularly impressed – it’s all to do with flavour again.

So Olivo’s main problem, it seems, is one of flavour balance. It gets textures right, but flavours are like a really screwed up sine wave – you just don’t know whether your next dish is going to have it or not. I would not go here again, as there are many restaurants around the harbour that are much better. It’s a shame really, as Olivo’s is a classic no-frills Italian restaurant, like Giovanni’s and there is always room for another one.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

The Good: texturally, the food is great, alfresco adds that little bit where it counts

The Bad: flavours are as elusive as Wally

I give Olivo’s a grand total of 5 Caesars out of ten – 5/10

Olivo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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