I finally made it the Black Olive in Fells Point this weekend for the occasion of my girlfriend's birthday. (One disclaimer I must make about this review is that her family are old friends of the owners, and as such we enjoyed very nice service.)
But that said, I found none of the problems with the service or food that were raised here a few weeks ago. And I'm happy to report that the fish case was back in service. The new expansion is simple but nice, with exposed brick and hardwood floors. I particularly enjoyed how much space they gave each table. Even when the room was full, we felt like we were practically alone.
On to the food. Stelios treated us to a half bottle of champagne to start (for the birthday,) and with that we enjoyed fish roe spread on crusty olive bread and grilled sea scallops on field greens. These were huge, juicy scallops cooked medium rare, spending only enough time on the fire to leave grill marks. Awesome with the bubbly.
Then came the fish case. I'm sure there were some delicious meat choices available in the other glass case, but I didn't even bother to look because I knew this place was all about the fish. After much deliberation we ended up ordering grilled sea bream and pan sauteed dover sole. Both were served whole at the table, where we got to watch two servers fillet them with nothing more than serving spoons, even extracting the cheek meat. Roasted winter veggies accompanied. The sea bream was rich, oily and full of flavor, and the sole was like . . . buttah. Seriously, it tasted like butter, and not because it was drowning in sauce. Just delicate, golden, unadulterated fish.
The wine list was impressive, particularly the whites from Greece, Italy and France. (one of the largest selections of white Burgundy I've seen in the city) Which is nice, because it would be a shame to overpower their delicate fish with an over-oaked California chardonnay.
I realize we might have been treated with extra attention on this night, but I can say that the five tables on our side of the restaurant had multiple servers attending to them, and all were visited at least once by Stelios himself. I think the service shortcomings of Jon's recent post must have been the exception, not the rule.
If you want to spend a lot of money to be dazzled by the artistic brilliance of a flashy chef who is competing for the tallest food prize, this is not your place. At the Black Olive you pay for the absolute finest ingredients and for the skill and restraint used to not screw them up. I will definitely be returning.
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