This week Austin food critics review Parkside chef Shawn Cirkiel's new Olive & June in Bryker Woods and tackle the bevy of bars and restaurants down on Rainey Street.
The Austin American-Statesman's Matthew Odam awards a seven out of ten to Olive & June, where diners "are in for a lesson in Italian flavors and language." On the small plate menu, Odam especially enjoys the involtini and the swordfish spiedini, "another small-plate wonder." He wasn't into the meatball antipasti dish and deems the burrata overpriced.
Fried dishes "met with mixed results," and the meat ragu was too salty. Odam praises the "unfussy" grill menu and likes the $49 bistecca alla Fiorentina even though it "comes without sides and would have trouble sating two people."
On the service side, Odam is disappointed with occasionally clueless wait staff and "one of the most awkward hostess stands in the city," especially when he was told by phone that he could get a walk-in table, only to be denied when his party arrived. Ultimately, Odam's take-away is positive: "Olive & June should have the same kind of staying power as Parkside."
It's a Very Rainey Street Episode of this week's Austin Chronicle, wherein writer Claudia Alarcon profiles developer Bridget Dunlap, bar-hops at Icenhauer's, Javelina and The Blackheart and eats at El Naranjo, G'Raj Mahal and Cazamance. (Actually, the last part is a guess; the food review blurbs lack a byline.)
Alarcon's verdict? Rainey Street is pretty great. Bridget Dunlap is especially pretty great because she helped usher in the Rainey Street "Renaissance"—as everybody knows, quiet residential neighborhoods are the ignorant, backwards Dark Ages and yuppie bars are bastions of cultural, social, political and scientific enlightenment. To that end, Alarcon finds that Icenhauer's is good for quiet conversation, Javelina has a "super friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable" staff, and the Blackheart has a "comfortable vibe and courteous service."
For Rainey Street eats, the Austin Chronicle's mystery reviewer who is maybe Claudia Alarcon gives a rave review of an El Naranjo media tasting, so Austinites who are planning to stop by with 11 of their closest pseudo-local-celebrity friends while the kitchen caters to their every whim for several hours will have a great idea of how that'll play out. Mystery reviewer also loved G'raj Mahal, where he or she ate "exceptional" garlic naan and "the most perfectly textured black lentils" in the dahl makhani. And at Cazamance, Mystery Reviewer found everything he or she ate "cooked to perfection."
UPDATE: The Chronicle's added bylines to the Rainey Street reviews. Virginia Wood wrote the El Naranjo piece and Wes Marshall covered G'raj Mahal and Cazamance.
Olive & June. [Photo: Raymond Thompson/EATX]