Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Three Olives

As my husband Dave and I drove up to Williamsburg’s Three Olives Greek Restaurant, I had visions of fat gyros and fluffy falafels.

I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumption.

Three Olives sets a slightly upscale tone with flashy modern architecture and the ever-popular hanging art glass lighting. On Saturday evening, the room was buzzing with diners — a reservation assured that we weren’t sent to the lounge to kill time while tables cleared.

The host led us to a four-top with banquet-style seating. We quickly parked ourselves on the bench for maximum people-watching. After about 10 minutes, another couple was seated beside us. In moments, they had water, a complimentary appetizer and the assurance that their waitress would be with them soon. Somebody finally came by our table with water, adding that our waitress should also be with us in a moment. Almost 20 minutes after we sat down, she finally showed up.

We selected a bottle of Greek wine — the only option available in this appropriately focused wine list. Before any further time was lost, we went ahead and placed the remainder of our order. Another server came to present and pour the Kouros Red of Nemea 2003 ($24) — a pleasantly dry red table wine, neither overpoweringly tannic, nor too frivolous with fruit.

The pace of service finally began to pick up when our waitress returned with the complimentary appetizer.

The simple bread rolls came with a plate of herb-enhanced dipping oil. I’m not sure what the herbs were, as I couldn’t get past the bracingly sharp vegetal character of the oil.

The appetizers are divided into hot/cold choices, and as usual, there was some difficulty coming to a decision. Presciently, there is a Hot Greek Sampler ($9.95 for two) offered. Soft triangles of warm pita bread provide the perfect utensil to sample the tzatziki. This cucumber-yogurt dipping sauce was creamy and smooth, with the requisite tease of garlic tamed by a bright splash of lemon.

Good things in small phyllo packages continued to please as we reached for the tiropitakia and spanakopita: feta cheese and spinach/feta/green onion, respectively. Each golden bite released the warmed, salty cheese in perfectly allotted amounts. Fried zucchini sticks played good cop/bad cop with the fresh, good-for-you squash coated in a crunchy, crispy, undoubtedly bad-for-you crust.

Dolmades, rice-filled grape leaf bundles, were attractively presented, yet fell somewhat short. The rice was subtly seasoned, tasting mostly of lemon. Not bad, but not great partnered up on that particular plate.

The 3 Olive Greek Salad ($4.95) was a large portion of fresh crisp lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and feta, covered in a light, zippy house dressing. Garnished by one spicy pepperoncini and a pickled purple beet I couldn’t help but to notice: there were no olives in the salad, not even three.

Dave decided to keep to tradition with his entree of pastichio ($12.95). A large wedge of bechamel-laced pasta was mixed with ground spiced beef, then baked casserole-style. It was good, but a generous dollop of a powerfully cinnamon-enhanced tomato sauce fought to take over the melange of comfortably baked flavors.

I skipped tradition and went straight for seafood in the form of whole grilled rainbow trout ($16.95). This very petite fish had been stuffed with crab and shrimp, and tasted strongly of the advertised bath of olive oil, lemon and oregano. Its accompanying sides didn’t seem to have garnered quite the same amount of attention. Fat potato wedges were disturbingly under-cooked, while the horta (braised greens) were limp and bland.

As we called for the check, a belly dancer shook and shimmied her way across the dining room, something you’ll catch if you come by on a Friday or Saturday night. While younger couples seemed taken aback, the older folks were appreciative, and children looked on in open-mouthed awe.

We took dessert home along with the check: baklava ($3.75). This honey-soaked classic was generously portioned, and just the right mixture of rich nuts and cinnamon-laced phyllo. Truly the perfect way to end the night— or in my case, begin the next day.

Three Olives Greek Restaurant
203 Richmond Road, Williamsburg
Phone: 259-7300
Specialties: Greek/Mediterranean food
Price range: appetizers: $5.45-$9.95; salads: $3.95-$4.95; traditional entrees: $9.95-$15.95; seafood: $10.95-$16.95; from the grill: $12.95-$19.95; kabobs: $12.95-$15.95; desserts: $3-$5
Hours: open 7 days a week, 4:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: no
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit card
Noise level: rather noisy
Atmosphere: casual
Additional Information: lounge area, belly dancing Friday & Saturday evenings from 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Star rating:
food 3,
atmosphere 3 1/2,
service 3 (out of five stars)


Blogger Courtney said...

Didn't that place move in to where Cornerstone used to be? I'm a W&M Alum ('05) and thought that bright olive sign looked familiar. I'm pretty sure it was up and running last time I visited this December.

4:39 PM  

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