Courtney and I went to the Black Olive for dinner Friday night. I had been there years ago, but had sort of given up on it based on service complaints. While the food was good, I've been ignored and not given the kind of attention that a place at this level demands, which is especially annoying when you recommend it as a place to have a business dinner.
Part of the problem is inherent in their service philosophy. Each diner is given a tour of the fish case -- a description of all the items available that night. While this means that they are serving the freshest and best fish available, it also takes each waiter away from the other tables for several minutes.
Nevertheless, after ordering our drinks we were given the tour, which took nearly ten minutes.
After being reseated, we were brought an amuse of a small toast point heaped with ground black olive and a tiny square of goat cheese. It's hard to imagine how that couldn't be delicious.
We ordered two appetizers -- grilled octopus salad and grape leaves stuffed with fresh sardines. These were both excellent. The salad was essentlally chunks of smokey, tender grilled octopus with a bit of red onion and some capers. The grape leaves were also grilled. This was the first time I'd eaten fresh sardines, and I'm already ready for more.
For entrees we shared grilled scallops and grilled bronzini. The scallops were large diver scallops, tender and very good. The bronzini was filleted tableside and served with a light sauce of lemon juice and olive oil. The only thing that bothered me slightly was that the vegetable of the day was grilled potatoes. They were quite good, but I don't really think of a starch as a vegetable, even though in this case it technically is. Something green would have been nice -- asparagus or squash maybe.
For dessert we shared one of the best baklavas I've had in recent memory.
Service was prompt and professional. Like many of Baltimore's older restaurants, The Black Olive doesn't get a lot of attention here. But for seafood lovers, it definitely needs to be on the short list.
814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231