It's been a while since we visited Olivia's At Fifty Three. We decided to go for their Sunday and Wednesday complimentary wine tasting. We tried a number of their wines, called Below Fifty Three cellars, and they were all very good. I didn't realize this before, but they produce some of their own wines in a small 'micro winery' downstairs. Has anyone heard of this before? Very interesting. Our server explained the process to our table. The owner's parents are both A list winemakers from Argentina, and they import whole grapes from a number of wine regions then make the wine in the 'micro winery'. I guess it's the same sort of concept as a micro brewery?
Anyway, very impressive, and I don't think anyone else in the city (or possibly country?) is doing this... I'm not sure why I haven't read about this anywhere. Surprisingly Toronto Life hasn't found out about it yet.
We also happened to walk in on the first day of the new fall menu. The one thing I noticed immediately was that there was no live jazz. The last couple of times we've gone in the past, there has been phenomenal live jazz. Now it's more sporadic, we were told. I must admit, however, that in such a small place the music was sometimes overwhelming, and it was difficult to carry on a conversation. So this was a welcome change for us.
The place really looks beautiful. It's such a romantic spot, with old jazz playing softly on the sound system and the feeling of a European bistro from a long time ago...
To the food. I shared a very nice fresh dungenese crab with avocado and mango concassee with my partner. When we walked in for an early meal we could see live crabs on the kitchen counter awaiting their fate. Needless to say, it was very fresh crab meat. We also shared a fennel salad, which was well balanced by confit cranberries and grapefruit. Then we shared a 'pulled lamb parmentier' with truffled mash and rosemary. I've never had lamb cooked this way, but it was a pleasant surprise. Very delicate, perfectly seasoned. The final item was rabbit in a prune-armagnac sauce. I'm not fond of prunes or dates, but my partner enjoyed it very much. The rabbit was perfectly cooked. So often rabbit is overcooked and dry.
The server told us they have a new chef who had been heading kitchens in top restaurants in Italy and France. It definitely showed. Our previous experiences with the food at Olivia's were always fairly good, but this seemed to be a definite and conscious step up.
The entire experience was very pleasant. The cuisine, and the wine, was very delicious, and the atmosphere was nearly impeccable.
My only suggestion would be to cut the live jazz out completely. As a huge jazz fan it pains me to say this, but it makes for a more comfortable dining experience.
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