Globe Staff File Photo/Mark Wilson
Olives has been unofficially feeding people for a few days now, getting back in gear and using guests as guinea pigs to try out dishes new and old. (The food was free, but they paid for their own drinks.) Thursday, the reopening is official.
"So many people have come up and said, 'We're so happy to have you back,'" says chef Todd English.
But don't expect English and crew to be serving the kind of Big Food pictured above, the way Olives served customers circa 1996.
"I find more people want to eat a little less. My generation, we're all watching our figures," English says. "They want to go to the bar and eat a few snacks, have a couple of cocktails or glasses of wine, and go home. People don't sit down at the table and have a whole three or four courses."
The bar at Olives previously sat 15 people. Now, English says, it seats about 45. The restaurant has been renovated, and the bar is right at the center of things. "You can't get a seat at the bar all night long right now, and we're not even open," he says. "I bought more bar stools than I bought regular chairs." There will be plenty of wines by the glass, including some special-blend keg wines from California.
The menu reflects the shift in the way we eat. It features small plates, three or four kinds of bread one can order a la carte, pasta dishes, plenty of sides and salads, and some larger plates for those who want them. The dessert menu follows suit. There will be classics like souffles and chocolate cake, but also bite-size options.
"We are going to have a section on the menu that just says 'feed me,'" English says. "We'll charge $20 and send out small plates. There will be some classic stuff, like the carpaccio that's been on the menu for 20 years, the tortelli that's been on since Day 1, the tartare." But there will also be plenty of new dishes. A few he's especially excited about:
- Duck with Berber spices that's cooked buried in ginger, with duck leg confit and foie gras. "It's so very aromatic."
- Sweet pea panna cotta with morel Parmesan sauce.
- Ceviche with tamarind and soy.
- Tarts topped with classic roasted tomato, mortadella and Fontina, asparagus and duck egg, and more. "The tarts I'm really excited about," English says. "I've been playing around with the dough. I don't want to do pizzas there because we do them down the street [at Figs]. It's kind of like a mille-feuille meets pizza dough for the tarts. We roll butter into it and bake it in the brick oven. It's coming out pretty delicious."
English brought over many Olives staffers from Mohegan Sun, including executive chef James Klewin, who more recently worked at David Burke Prime at Foxwoods. As for English, "I'll be there a lot," he says. "My schedule in the summer dies down a little, so it's not as crazy, and I'll definitely be there to get the place open and make sure it's on the right path." Also staffing the place this summer, his kids: Isabelle, 19, will be at the door, splitting her time between Olives and cupcake spot Curly Cakes. Simon, 16, has been cooking a lot with his father, and perhaps he'll turn up in the kitchen -- "depending on his acting career," English says. He got called back for a part in an Adam Sandler movie that's filming in Marblehead. (Oldest son Oliver is following in his father's footsteps, too. He graduates from Cornell's hospitality program this year and spent last summer in Paris, working for Alain Ducasse. "Hopefully I'll hand him the keys and he can take over," English says.)
And the rest of English's family? The brick-and-mortar kind?
Well, Kingfish Hall appears to be done. "There's a new landlord, and I'm trying to renegotiate, but it's probably not going to happen," English says. "I'll probably just move on from there and look for something else down the road. Right now I want to focus on Olives anyway. Things have to change. Twelve years in Faneuil Hall, that's a good run for a restaurant." The New York Olives, temporarily closed, has been renovated and is open again. In the future, he says, he would think about opening something on Boston's bustling waterfront. (He had first crack at the Del Frisco's space but didn't have the resources to do it at the time.) And, naturally, the casinos would be an option. "I've already been talking to those guys."
"I'm still ambitious," he says. "I'm not retiring by any stretch of the imagination."
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ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.