The experience

Olea Mediterranean BistroAh, another Monday.  Monday to me is now starting to mean how much money will we unexpectedly spend at dinner.  I guess I should be expecting the unexpected?  I went with a restaurant that we have a coupon for in hopes that it would save us some much needed de niro and there happened to be one of these restaurants right near Mina’s school.  Olea’s Mediterranean Bistro would be subjected to Team Phipps tonight. 

Mina and I arrived well ahead of Ogre and Benji and while we waited in the car, I thought I’d look up the restaurant on my phone after seeing some white cloths on the table.  Grreeat.  Another pricey restaurant for Monday night.  Eh, oh well, at least this time I have a coupon.  When Ogre and Benji arrived, we walked up and found the doors locked at 5:15.  Hmmm, a closer look at the window by the door revealed that they didn’t open til 5:30 contrary to what their website says.  We decided to browse through Sur La Table for a little bit.  We came back at 5:25 and found the doors to be unlocked and we were seated right away in the back corner, perfect for us. 

Benjamin was very impressed with the decor of the restaurant as there were olive branches everywhere.  He pointed to every single one and said “Laloo!  Laloo!” and would say this with urgency if I did not acknowledge him.  Thankfully, our waiter took away the “laloo” from our table.  Oh!  “Laloo” is Benji’s word for anything flower or plant-like.

Our waiter very promptly came over to greet us and let us know that while they do not have children’s menus, they could make a cheese pizza or some pasta for the kids.  We knew exactly which one the kids would want, so we told him and he apparently immediately put it in.  We ordered our drinks and asked him for some help with choosing some tapas and dinner entrees and after we put in the tapas order, the bread arrived, which was perfect timing because Benji was pretty gosh darn bored and that meant he was going to vocalize the desire to “go go yah.”  Mina was also bored and was lounging this way and that way on the bench.  She got a warning for nearly knocking over the table slouching with her feet on the the pedestal of the table.  He came around again to get our dinner order and after we ordered, I went out to the car to get Mina’s trusty I’m going out to eat at place that doesn’t entertain kids pack full of crayons and a coloring book, among other things.  When I got back, the kids’ pasta arrived.  Very quick service.

Benji loving noodles


Mina asked if she could let the pasta “cool off” while she colored; we told her this was fine since it really was pretty hot and we put aside some for Benji also.  The calamari and Ogre’s olives also showed up and so we were all able to munch on something. 


Unfortunately for Mina during this time, she again decided to slouch on the bench and shoved the table back towards me nearly knocking my drink over and she got in trouble for it.  Ogre commented that she was becoming very stoic these days as only a tear ran down her cheek while she ate.

Ogre and my entrees came out and I gave Benji some of my couscous (which he called “rye” (rice)) and we all shared the risotto.  Ogre got Mina to try it, which is sometimes an impossible feat and she told us she liked it! Mina was being very good about eating now and not complaining about anything, I’m sure in hopes of gaining favor with me.

Benji was also in a better mood now that he had food in front of him, but the bigger problem for the restaurant is that couscous is VERY messy, he was starting a little collection of couscous beneath him.  Ogre and I finished up our dinner and the waiter came by to collect some of the empty dishes.  Benjamin offered up his little plate to the waiter also, which I always find extra cute.  What was not extra cute to the patrons of the restaurant was that after he gave the waiter the plate, Ogre and Benji were exchanging high fives and this led to Benji screaming for no apparent reason.  I finally had to distract him with letting him touch my nose to get him to chill.  Jeez.

Mina asked me if she was still going to have her punishment for not listening and I told her yes (I’m a very consistent, you will have to endure your punishment kind of disciplinarian) and another tear rolled down.  Luckily for all of heart strings, the dessert conversation was about to ensue, which will cheer up the saddest and crankiest of Phipps (and now that he’d given away his plate, Benji was fussing again).

When the waiter brought out the dessert menus, fussy Benji wanted my menu and kept crying for it.  Assuming that this would lead to torn dessert menus, I tried to just give the waiter back my menu.  This PISSED OFF Benji and he sunk in his chair, glared at the waiter and cried.  The waiter obviously felt sorry for little Benji and offered the menu for him to play with.  I decided it would be okay.  So we let Benji play with the menu while we finalized our dessert order.

We, again, asked our waiter for his suggestions.  His favorite was the flan.  Ogre likes Baklava.  I told Ogre he should get the Baklava since we are in a Mediterranean restaurant, but little Mina pipered up, “I want flan!”  So, Ogre got his daughter the flan and himself the Baklava and we would all share.  Then he and Benji gave the waiter back the menus.

Ogre ate most of the Baklava by himself.  I did not want any and Benji and Mina each had a bite.  But we liked the flan much better.  Mina was trying to shovel as much of it in her mouth as possible, which prompted another chiding.  She slowed down and asked if she could have the last bite and I told her no because we are all sharing and we are all just going to eat it until it is gone.  As we neared the last bite, she said “Benji can have the last bite.” But as soon as the words came out of her mouth and I was prepping a bite for Benji, here comes Mina’s spoon to swoop in and grab the last bite.  I got the shaft.  Then, when I set the spoon done ASSUMING we were all done, Benji grabbed the spoon to grab some of the whipped cream we’d left behind.  Cute for the photo op, but I made Ogre take the plate away.

Benji's not done

Benji's not done

Mina presented our 25% off coupon and we ponied up before heading home.


The food

I’d mark this one as average to above average food.  They had a nice array of Mediterranean dishes on their menu, which is fun and it’s definitely on the more upscale side of things. 

I have to mention their olive oil dip for the focaccia bread -it’s done my favorite way…with a splash of Balsamic vinegar, okay, almost my favorite way.  I like A LOT of Balsamic vinegar and the waiter picked up on this and brought me out a little bottle. 

CalamariThe calamari was good, not excellent, but good.  It came with a bright yellow sauce that has a mayonnais-y taste.  Ogre and I thought it was fine, Mina did not, but I blame that on her “the look of the food” bias. 


Lamb ShankI ordered the Braised Lamb.  It was very tender and fell off the bone very nicely.  I love lamb.  I want to taste the lamb.  I thought the sauce it was braised in was a little overpowering and would have preferred something more subtle or something that brought out the lamb flavor more.  Ogre does not LOVE lamb, he thought the lambiness was just fine.


Chicken KabobOgre ordered the Chicken Kebab and he thought it was excellent.  It was tender and juicy with a good yogurt sauce.  He remarked that although there was a lot of spice-flavor, it was not spicy. 


RisottoWe also ordered a side of risotto (I don’t like couscous, which is what mine comes with and Ogre was looking out for me).  The whole family loved the cheese risotto.  Benjamin, by the way, loved the coucous, basmati rice that came with Ogre’s Kebab and the risotto.  Mina liked the risotto.


Penne with MarinaraThe kids penne pasta with marinara sauce was also good.  Well, Ogre, Benji and I thought it was good.  Mina said something about there being a “weird taste after you eat it”  (you mean a weird aftertaste??).

What's that aftertaste?



Baklava Flan shaped like a crown

Desserts were also very good.  I don’t know anything about baklava, but the flan was pretty good.  More dense than I would like but that didn’t stop me from practically fighting off my children.  Ogre said that the baklava was one of the better ones he’s ever had and that it was very “honey-y.”


The service

Excellent.  Certainly noteworthy.  We were, of course, seated right away since we got there before they even unlocked the doors.  Our waiter was quick to greet us and very quick to let us know that although they did not have a children’s menu, they could whip a child’s plate of penne pasta with butter or marinara sauce or make a cheese pizza for us.  We chose the penne pasta and he was off to put in the order.  I think he might’ve done that before we even got our drink orders in!

We asked him for his advice on the tapas as we thought we’d order one as an appetizer and he was very helpful.  In fact, we ordered our dinners based on his recommendations.  He brought out bread in short order as Benji was getting a little antsy (translation: fussy, more literal: LOUD).  And he still acted as if it was no big deal.  He even called Benji adorable and then made sure to compliment Mina also.  He was very attentive and gracious. 

Benjamin liked him, too.  Benji, on occasion, has offered up his “finished” plate to the waiter or waitress and he did so tonight with this one, who thanked Benji.  Then, when he brought out the dessert, Benji very badly wanted my menu but I did not want to give it to him and Benji got very upset, like, he started crying.  I tried to give it back to the waiter.  The waiter shrugged and said, “He can have it to play with…if it’s okay with mom and dad.”  I like it!!!  When it came time to really give back the menus after we ordered the dessert, Benji happily gave the waiter the menu of his own volition.

Also, the food came out in a very good (fast) tempo, so there was also something coming out to keep Benji entertained.


The kids

So, this is not a kid friendly restaurant in the sense that I felt like I could enjoy my dinner and hang out and hey, kids, do whatever and order off the kids menu while they colored on paper.  Nope, none of that.  BUT they are definitely kid-accommodating and not kid-anxious.  They let us know right away what they could whip up for the kids and got that out pronto.  They tried to be helpful and THEY did not make me feel uncomfortable that the Benji was screaming and making a huge mess, but the ambiance of the restaurant did and I did feel bad for the restaurant patrons who did not expect Team Phipps to be in their restaurant while they were trying to have a quiet dinner.   We did come early, so the restaurant was not packed, but they did have a few tables occupied.

This is good Mediterranean food with a nice quiet ambiance, take your kids here if they are well-behaved and you’re willing to roll the dice on ‘em.  I won’t be back with the kids for the sake of everyone else.

And FYI, their website says they have a “dress code.”  Business casual.

The total: $68.54 (with 25% off and 1 glass of wine)

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