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Las Vegas -- Olives rates two thumbs way down (long story)

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Las Vegas -- Olives rates two thumbs way down (long story)

lilcath | Jun 2, 2005 05:54 PM

My husband and I just returned from four days and three nights at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. We had great, great meals and experiences at Mon Ami Gabi, Lotus of Siam, Picasso, Rosemary's, and the Bellagio breakfast buffet, and even our smaller meals and snacks at Palio, Jean-Phillipe Patisserie, and the cafe in the Bellagio were terrific. Only one meal was a (huge) disappointment -- Olives. I would strongly recommend that anyone planning their eating in Las Vegas avoid it.

We had a 7:30 reservation and were squeezed into one of the many tables for two, which are all about 18 inches from each other. I was worried about our adjoining diners hearing our conversation and vice versa, but I shouldn't have, for the din in Olives was so extreme that my husband and I couldn't hear each other, much less others. Alas, what we could hear all too well was the DUM-doo-DUM-DUM bass line of a song that played endlessly on and on and on and on... The beat reminded me of that song that Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan used to jerk their heads to during the One Night at the Roxbury skit on SNL. It's the only time in my life I can ever recall wanting to ask the wait staff to change the CD.

Our waiter brought two olive spreads, some herb-marinated olives, and a basket of bread to our table. Fortunately, one of the three breads was a deliciously savory fluffy offering dotted with pieces of sauteed onion. It's a good thing we liked the bread, because after placing our orders (flatbread with white bean puree, lemon clams, and broccoli rabe puree for me, and a greek salad flatbread for my husband -- we'd had a late lunch at Rosemary's and weren't that hungry), that was all we had to eat for at least an hour. I should have known something was up when the couple next to us came in after us, ordered, were served their food and were paying when all we had was a now-empty bread basket. (No, no one checked back about the bread, more drinks, etc.) Finally, a person who referred to himself as an "expediter" (!) came over and told us that unfortunately our order ticket had been torn up and it would be about 10 minutes until our food was out. He was apologetic, but again there was no sign of our waiter. Ten to 15 minutes later, our waiter comes out and tells us they are plating our flatbreads (which doesn't seem like a particularly labor-intensive process, now does it?) and we'll have our food in a "couple" of minutes. Ten minutes later, he plops down our food and is gone. No apology, no "anything else?", no nothing.

My white bean-clam-broccoli rabe flatbread was at best mediocre. The topping needed something for crunch or burst of flavor. It was bland and a little greasy. My husband fared better, but not a lot. We live in Birmingham, Alabama, where Bottega Cafe serves a version of the same dish that's ten times better.

Then came the check, which our waiter dropped without comment as he removed our plates. That was the last we saw of him. I'm sure there are regional differences as to how restaurants handle lost tickets or other occurrences that delay orders. In our area, an Olives-priced restaurant that lost a table's ticket would have apologized profusely, stepped up the level of service, and provided a free dessert or perhaps even comped both entrees. I didn't really expect that in Las Vegas, but at Olives' prices, I expected something. Our waiter obviously could not have cared less whether we were satisfied or ever came back. He just wanted to move us on out.

I mention this incident in part because judging from the experiences at adjoining tables, it appeared to me that service is not a big priority at Olives. One of the tables next to us seemed to be waiting an inordinately long time for their food as well (and they didn't even get a visit from the expediter!) Perhaps we would have gotten better treatment had we ordered more food, but you know what? That shouldn't have mattered. We ordered according to our appetites, and had the service been up to par, we would have tipped based on a larger order. To add to our disappointment, our rental car was still parked in the garage, which meant we could have had a second, far more enjoyable meal at Lotus of Siam for less than the price of having our heads rattled at Olives.

In short, if you're looking for an enjoyable experience and good value in Las Vegas, don't even think about Olives. If you're determined not to set foot outside the Bellagio, try the hotel's other 16 restaurants first.

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