Olivia, reinvented.

Olivia is a chef-owned restaurant, by chef Dennis van Daatselaar, on Wilhelminastraat, and I will start praising the chef with what he is NOT.

He is not lazy, and he is not afraid.

Which is refreshing on our restaurant landscape.

Olivia checked into the space formally occupied by Maroc.

Her older two sisters, Wilhelmina and Carte Blanche, are famous.

Apparently, we were not crazy about the offerings at Maroc, or maybe the chef decided he needed a refresh, thus he closed shop, ripped out the roof, and ceiling, got rid of the windows, which opened the space up considerably, left the decorative bottles hanging on the wall, then composed a new menu from a virtual trip around a Mediterranean, which requires a glossary.

You will find the glossary on the last page of the menu.

I noticed the following:

Chef calls menu items by their names of origin, Fattoush. Horiatiki. Pomodoroni, Zuppa.

He introduces exotic aromas, Zaatar, Dukkah, Ras el Hanout, harissa oil, sumac

He cooks fantastic yet underappreciated veggies, fennel, and white beans, and serves the goldilocks of sustainable fish, Barramundi, an Asian sea bass.

He introduces old/new sauces, Gremolata, and Virgin Sauce – just a simple tomato salsa with herbs, yum. He brings back the forgotten Pernod.

And makes goat cheese falafel.

Over the past 20 years we learned to worship the Japanese and Peruvian kitchens, why not Mediterranean? And not just Spain and Italy, but also Greece, Lebanon, northwest African countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

When I asked about the muse, I found out Dennis’ mom has Algerian roots, hence the fondness and the courage.

I love a restaurant that’s prepared to enrich my food vocabulary and challenge my taste buds.

So, what do you do when it rains, we asked our super-friendly Dutch-born waitress? We have umbrellas for you, she answered. That should be cool, we agreed.

What’s cooking at Olivia: We were greeted with just-baked pita bread and a small dish of labneh, sprinkled with zaatar and olive oil, then I ordered the Carciofi Olivia, marinated & roasted baby artichokes, parsley, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, spinach leaves and pine nuts, followed by Ravioli Ripieni di Caviale di Melanzana, ravioli stuffed with eggplant caviar, muhammara, roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach, asparagus, portobello and gremolata.

*Mahammara is a red pepper and walnut dip.

*Gremolata is a Mediterranean version of the French remoulade, a zippy green sauce.

For dessert the baklava, a most popular Turkish sweet, raised my blood sugar level for a week!

From FB: Olivia — A new Mediterranean restaurant located in the heart of Oranjestad, Aruba, next to Wilhelmina restaurant. We welcome you to dine with us and experience our exclusive menu that focuses on seafood and vegetarian dishes, wines and cocktails.

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May 22, 2022
Rona Coster