Downtown's new darling: Olivia.
5 weeks after their opening, Olivia is quickly becoming the darling of the local foodie scene. Here is the lo-down.
This is a new one right here, so new its location is not available on Instagram, no reviews on Tripadvisor. Olivia didn't have a grand opening or a hype campaign on social media. No paid ads, no YouTube spam. They just opened their doors and welcomed the wonderers.
The corner where Olivia is was once the home of Maroc. A tapas bar that we all loved back in the days. Situated next door to its big sister Wilhemina (Google maps location here), Olivia now wears a shiny new vibe and some hand-me-downs from Maroc. It is really easy to get there and to park around the area.
The biggest change the place has undergone is the ceiling. There's no air conditioning situation in Olivia and they have removed a big area of the ceiling to offer natural airflow. They also removed most of the front windows. I didn't know how that was gonna go but it went great, it was a fresh night. Let's hope the best for the summer months. I recommend you to wear a fresh outfit anyway.
The atmosphere is fantastic. There's no loud music to interrupt you from hearing your tablemates or the staff. The area is tranquil, with no loud cars, no crowds on the sidewalk, and no party buses passing by blasting music, something that definitely could not have happened if the restaurant was in Palm Beach. The layout is very well-thought-out, and the tables have room between them so there's privacy. I could say that this is an environment for grown-ups that enjoy calm and good conversations.
We arrived at 7ish. The sunset just happened and you could still feel the heat of the afternoon so a cocktail was in order. The lovely Susana made sure we were treated like royalty. I ordered a Za'atar Paloma. Olivia's version of the tequila-based cocktail. When I read that it was made with Casamigos, immediately knew these people know what they are doing.
Generous and refreshing. $16. Of course, they have a wine menu that I didn't care to read. I wanna save surprises for the next visit. Here's the cocktail menu, which I find very original.
Once we were enjoying the first sips of our cocktails, flatbread was served to our table accompanied by labneh, za'atar, and olive oil to spread. Off to a good start. I will be genuinely happy with any version of bread that is served to me.
Before I continue, let me explain that Za'atar is a blend of spices, seeds, and Sumac and that Labneh is a firmer version of greek yogurt.
The menu has options but it doesn't feel overwhelming. What I can mostly recall is the variety of vegetarian, gluten-free, and lactose-free options. All prices are in U.S dollars and the tip is not included so, the bill can be hefty. Click here to read the entire menu.
Albinjar & Labneh. It is a red beet salad vibe but elevated. The description lost me at the fifth word. It was fantastic though, very fresh, and diverse. Felt the hit of different tastes and textures, the sweetness of the beet, the acidity of the labneh, the crunch of the seeds, and a good look of course. $19
Tortellini Calabasa. A mega-hit. Cooked al punto, creamy inside, felt lightweight to be pasta. The browned butter, a hazelnut taste, and the mushrooms all play in textures and flavors. MUST HAVE! $16
Pulpo alla griglia y Gamberetti y Baramundi. Barramundi or Asian Sea Bass, according to thebetterfish.com is the "it" fish, with a gentle, mild flavor. Grilled octopus, pan-seared shrimp, eggplant, tomatoes, 30 more things probably... but the beauty comes right after serving when they pour a little bit of lobster bisque to marry everything in the bottom of the dish. Highly recommended! $43
Pomegranate & za’atar Lam. It would have been a shame not to try the Lamb at a Mediterranean cuisine restaurant. The description contained several things I like: fennel, artichokes, and lemongrass. I knew it was going to be amazing. $48
Knowing we had reached the end of the savory portion of the evening, I could not help but wonder... whatever happened to the side dishes? is it not on trend anymore to offer side dishes? what is happening? Olivia does not have side dishes and some other restaurants as well don't offer them anymore. I am not talking about a baked potato or fries... I am certain there are ways to re-invent incredible side dishes that can round to a more fulfilling meal. After all, I am a man in his 30s writing here. A side salad won't do it for me.
Crème Brûlée Catalana. Well, talk about a great presentation. Peeled and sliced citrus will always feel luxe. Beyond the zesty and great taste of the Crème per se, the cinnamon ice cream was it for me: just powerful. $13
Spiced Ricotta Cheesecake. I was convinced to order this one by the lovely Susana. It would have not crossed my mind to ask for a cheesecake and here we are.
Divided into two parts, the silkiest passion fruit sorbet on top of a homemade crumble that tasted like Stroop waffles. The cheesy part is ricotta, less dense and fatty than the usual cream cheese. Topped with cream and some Amarana cherries. Everything rests on top of some swirls of chocolate sauce and basil oil. *Chef Kiss*
Ok, what did we learn? Well to me Olivia indeed is becoming the darling of Downtown. The service provided was top tier, detailed and kind. Susana, our host, and Isa were truly dolls. Olivia's bill will not be cheap fellas, but compare it to the usual steak house, the sunset restaurant, or Italian on the strip and you could spend the same or even less... So it's about choices.
And it's expanding: Next door they are putting together an eclectic mid-century vibes space.
You don't need to go to Olivia and indulge in a 3-course dinner... bar bites are a possibility. Drinks and snacks could also be a vibe.
Congratulations are in order to Chef Dennis van Daatselaar, the manager Jeffrey Bosch, and the team. I will place Olivia on top of my list of restaurants for the summer in Aruba.
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