August 12, 2010

Todd English's "OLiVES"

Todd English's "Olives" at the Bellagio... oh dear....where to start....

For all the hype, all the chatter about this place, we were let down immensely. In fact, "let down" is hardly the right way to describe our experience. Even Friand, who had the added advantage of being able to order anything he wanted off the menu, walked away incredibly disappointed.

We decided to dine at Olives because we've heard off Todd English & his wonderful establishment at the Bellagio. And reading the menu, both of us found several items that made it worthwhile to make a reservation. In fact, I saw two items (other than the obvious salad reconfigurations) that looked promising for a vegan: Portabello Flatbread (sans cheese) and Spring Pea Mezzaluna (again, sans cheese).

Our server arrived and of course it was time to face the music: "I'm a vegan" and what did we encounter? Lovely faces & sounds of disgust by the server. "Ooooh...." she groaned and gave us the face that says "Danger! Danger!! Vegans not welcome here". We all know it well, and even Friand cringed and squirmed when he saw her reaction. I should have ordered the flatbread, but I figured I would try the Mezzaluna. She told me that the mezzaluna was made with a cheese filled pasta. Fine. Any other server would have suggested that we just substitute the cheese pasta for a "not-cheese" pasta, say like all the other 300 varieties of pasta available at any grocery store in the world. But no. She said she had no idea what the chef could do for me, but she'd ask.

Ok. That's not an uncommon reaction by any server. Let's see what the chef at a high end, high profile place like Olives can whip up for me.

She returned to tell me that the chef could make me spaghettini with tomato sauce. Ooooh!! Can he? Really? That would be fantastically special for an expensive meal out.

Yeah, no thanks. So I asked if there was a way to have vegetables with the pasta instead, and she said sure. Now, if I had been smart, I would have just changed my order to the flatbread... but no. I decided to take my chances with the pasta.

Friand ordered the Alaskan Halibut, and the nicest thing he could say about it was that the risotto was "creamy". Wow. Go Todd English? He was sadly disappointed in his meal and this was a rare meal that was not finished by him. In fact, he picked at his meal in such a way that only a picky eater such as myself can fully appreciate after years of pushing around things I don't like to the edges of my plate. He did a great job at making it appear that he'd eaten more than he actually had, while choking down some clear swill that barely passed as a martini with a chunk of ice.

So this pasta that I was served... yeah, I'm not 8 years old. I don't go out to eat to get spaghetti and tomato sauce, but there I was poking around at this poorly executed spaghetti & sauce. To the credit of the kitchen, they did at least toss in a few broccolini, a few leaves of spinach, some peas, and (one of my favorites) fava beans. But, my trust in the sauce was second only to my trust in the veganistic attributes of frosted pop tarts. I'm not entirely certain, but I think that the server heard "no dairy" but no the "no meat" part of my description of "vegan", and there may have been some meat in this sauce. Needless to say, 5 bites into this meal I discovered what I thought was a questionable lumpy thing in my dish and quickly lost my appetite and quit eating.

The server returned to see that neither one of us had finished our meals with the comment, "I see we're taking a break..." Um, no. Let's call it quitting time, lady, this meal is over. Take our dishes, give us the check, and let us run free through the streets of Vegas.

Todd English's "Olives"... gets an enthusiastic thumb's down from both myself and Friand (who, by the way, was just making yum yum noises at a Denny's commercial while helping me write this). "Olives" gets 2 sprouts, even from Friand, which says a lot regarding your omnivorous friends' possible enjoyment of this restaurant. If you're expecting a gourmet meal, forget it, this isn't the place. But enjoy the people watching, watch the fountains, and if you're lucky you'll be buzzed enough to finish most of your meal.

  • Hours of Operation:
    Lunch and Dinner Daily
    Lunch: 11:00 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.
    Dinner: 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
    Bar Open Daily:
    3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Bar menu available 7 days a week
  • Reservations:
    Suggested by calling 866.259.7111 or 702.693.7223
    • Location:
      Within the Via Bellagio shopping promenade.

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