The Black Olive

739 Pandora Ave tel: (250) 384-6060

The Black Olive has a lot of reputation, some people absolutely adore it. I was hard pressed to get excited about a Greek restaurant, after all, they tend to be incredibly formulaic. While much of the menu and dining experience was predictable, I was happy to find professional service, some menu innovation and an interesting wine list.

We'd called twice to bump our reservation time up, which is always a little embarrassing, but we were greeted promptly and politely and the host managed to convey 'happy you made it,' rather than 'finally, what took you so long.'  Since we were late, we were also really hungry. We scanned the menu and ordered a first course of saganaki with our cocktails. The host took the order, and didn't  make any grimaces of discomfort or ask us to wait for our server to order.

Our server appeared shortly, asking after us as we read over the menu. I was happy that there wasn't many cliché Greek restaurant dishes. On first peruse I didn't have any questions, but a few minutes later I called him over to clarify a menu item. I was interested in the veal chop with blueberry demi. The idea of berries in my demi was making me nervous, I didn't want a bunch of sugary blueberry juice squirted into a nice demi.  The server took my question seriously and went back to ask.  He returned quickly with an answer - no blueberry juice, extract or reduction, just dehydrated blueberries. OK, we're in business.  Patty ordered the rack of lamb, which I have been told is a specialty of the house.

As I perused the wine list, the server was keen to offer advice. He wasn't pushy, but pointed me to a good value Italian wine with a few years on it. He seemed to know a lot about Italian wine and admitted he'd been studying it recently. He also admitted he'd only been working at the Black Olive for a few days. Wow - you'd never have guessed!

Our saganaki arrived and I was a little disappointed it wasn't on fire, as the goat milk cheese is usually served, but was interested in the presentation nonetheless. Usually it's just cheese, fat and booze in a pan - not today, this presentation was loaded with olives, artichokes among other things and drizzled with olive oil. Yum - this was a far more satisfying dish than the classic.

Our main courses arrived with a warning: - they're huge, don't feel bad if you can't get through it. Well, I was pretty happy with everything, but monstrous portions are a big no-no for me - I don't want to pay for food I can't eat. Indeed, it was huge. My veal chop must have been 10 oz cooked and was loaded with a pile of veggies and Greek-style potatoes (cooked in lemon). I'm a pig and I got through about 80% of it. The demi was indeed not overly sugary with blueberry, but I was a little disappointed that the meat wasn't a little pinker (I'd asked how the chef liked to cook it, and the server suggested that wouldn't be any more well done than medium - it was medium-well). Generally, however it was a nice dish, simple with good flavour.

Patty's lamb was indeed tasty and perfectly cooked. I was a little jealous. The dish wasn't anything remarkable, but it was well executed and Patty finished it off, even gnawing on the bones (which is normally my job).

Clearly, there was no room for dessert. We'd hoped for an interesting digestif menu, but unfortunately, the spirit list didn't compare to the wine list. We had a pretty run-of-the-mill grappa that the server kindly split between us.

Everyone was extremely friendly and not at all overbearing.  The menu wasn't inspiring, but was refreshing compared to regular Greek restaurant fare and the the wine list was above average. The Black Olive is never going to be my favorite restaurant, but they're definitely doing something right.

reviewed June 14, 2007