Knightsbridge Restaurant Group has done it again. The hospitable minds behind Rasika and Bibiana– some of the D.C. greats– have now brought us the culinarily exquisite Olivia in Penn Quarter. The restaurant’s space is large, warm, and delicately adorned, like the sophisticated beach home you wish you had. It still has a bit of that center city, corporate feel, but it works. The restaurant is nice, though it’s not overwhelmingly fancy; it’s fun, but by no means is it a party restaurant; and, the food is different but still homemade and comforting.
Taking care of people is a priority at Olivia. The staff is welcoming, gracious, and excited to have you there. Decision fatigue is a real privilege and curse of the modern dining experience. We can’t stand it when we ask a waiter for some recommendations and they respond with “well, it depends on what you like.” What if there was something I didn’t know I liked? I would never ever try anything new and all of you would be left eating the eggs Benedict from Farmers Fishers Bakers every weekend. What this rant is eluding to is that Olivia’s waiter knew exactly what to recommend and wasn’t shy about stating what her favorite things were on the menu. We love her. We miss her. We kind of want her to be our friend. I digress.
If there’s any way to please a patron, it’s the complimentary bread basket. When we unfolded our stark white cloth napkin to find perfectly moist muffins tie-dyed with black and red raspberries, the pleasure was at an all-time high.
Brace yourself for the news we’re about to tell you. I know we said Olivia was slightly upscale and the menu is, well, gorgeous, but the bottomless deal is also quite attractive at $14.00. And, we will attest it’s a very good mimosa at that. Ours was peach, but they can keep it classic for you as well.
To begin, we were tempted by the mezze selection of dips and lavash. We opted for the beef tartare with lavash instead. Though less conventional and a high-risk dish that could make or break a first impression, the beef tartare was highly recommended– as was everything else we ordered.
The tartare was served with a fluorescent quail yolk along with olive aioli, onion, and mint. The buttery components complimented each other rather than competing for stardom to create one award-winning protagonist. The lavash was crispy and heavily dusted with za’atar, adding another layer of texture, spice, and salt to a bite of already poised tartare. The dish was accompanied by pickled veggies, which were delicious, but I think a little too apparent, as they came with a bunch of the other dishes as well.
I’ve been underwhelmed by the quality of the French toast presented my way lately and overwhelmed by its resemblance to an over the top ice cream sundae dumpster of sweetness. Olivia’s French toast arrives at the table and I have a “here we go again” moment. I have never felt so betrayed by eyes when I realized that there is actually nothing sweet about this French toast. That dollop of cream? Nope, it’s unsweetened, tart Greek yogurt. That drizzle of brown syrup? Nope, it’s balsamic. And as for the dredge itself, eggy and simple—just as it should be. You can ask for some maple syrup on the side if you wish, but I thought this was perfect and actually suitable for an entrée, unlike that sugary nonsense.
For mains, we ordered the salmon toast and the short rib. The toast was a hearty portion of gravlax avocado and a side salad. Present on a fluffy piece of sourdough, We already know these flavors work harmoniously together, so a restaurant is going to add this to your menu, they’ve got to do it right. The avocado would have been preferred beneath the salmon on the toast rather than dolloped on top to make it more composed, however, we appreciated the simplicity and integrity of fresh ingredients here.
The short rib entree was everything good about a fall apart brisket, creamy autumn soup, chewy risotto, and salty breakfast hash all in one. You may think to yourself, “why would I want all of these foods to go together?” The answer is because they are the best of the best homemade food of the gourmet variety. The rich brisket and stocky sauce are texturally balanced by grains and slow roasted starch. You don’t even know how much you need this dish in your life. In fact, neither did we, you know, until our baller lady waitress said so.
Our said baller lady waitress also said we needed dessert. We pleaded and cried not to make us indulge, but she mentioned something about the best pannacotta she’s ever had and somehow it landed with it in front of us. It was deliciously unique. Dainty mint meringues floated on a puddle of pannacotta creme and tender berries. Though not needed to make this meal amazing, this dish was a good choice atop our already consumed bounty.
The Bitches say: 4.5 flutes for Olivia.
Pleasantly surprised to have another reason to venture to gallery place. Even if it’s just for warm berry muffins and bottomless mimosas.
Olivia serves brunch every Sunday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm