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Olives’ owners draw from all over — including Arlington. Brian Hutson

Beirut Rock Café, Istanbul Grill Turkish Mediterranean, and Prince Lebanese Grill are just a few of the top-notch Mediterranean restaurants in Arlington that have inspired Gilley Shah-Hosseini. Along with her family, she recently opened Olives Mediterranean Grill, whose kitchen draws from the cuisines of Greece, Iran, Syria, and even Russia — with delectable results.

You could spend all your money and leave happy by dining from the appetizer menu alone. All of the classics  are here. The hummus was nicely spicy, full of garlic, and garnished with hot red paprika. The dolmades were a fairly standard take on stuffed grape leaves: nothing amazing, just the brined leaves wrapped around mild, spice-infused rice. The falafel was delicious. The crispy chickpea patties kissed with coriander were served with a side of tasty tzatziki.

The baba ghannouj tasted fine but was a little unsettling. Instead of a creamy, smoky dip, Olives offers a fine dice of roasted eggplant with tomato, garlic, and other spices in a vinaigrette-like sauce — Shah-Hosseini says this is how they do it in Syria. It wasn’t bad, just weird, and in place of the expected pâté-smooth smokiness was a chunky heat.

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The best starter was the Salade Olivier. Olives’ version of the traditional Russian dish with the fancy French name was loaded with chicken chunks, chopped hardboiled eggs, boiled potatoes, and a slightly spicy, creamy dressing, served with tiny salted pickle spears. The only drawback was the color: a monochromatic yellow-beige.

The beef-and-lamb gyro was another hit. Served on a soft, warm, lightly grilled pita from Arlington’s Baklava Bakery with tomato, lettuce, and more of that tzatziki sauce, the zestfully spiced meat wasn’t shaved but sliced thickly.

Like any casserole you have to build piece by piece, moussaka is really a labor of love. And Olives’ was a masterpiece. Layers of roasted eggplant, finely sliced, alternated with ground beef and thick potato slices, everything covered in a light tomato sauce. On top was the creamiest, fluffiest, most luscious, and slightly sweet baked béchamel sauce.

The Mediterranean meatballs weren’t as spectacular. Consisting of pork and beef, they were traditionally Italian in style but had been prepared in a Greek-inspired sauce of tomato and chopped kalamata olives. Though the pasta and basmati saffron rice combo served on the side didn’t exactly clash with the sweetly sour olive sauce, the whole dish failed to unite the spices of the meat and starch.

There’s definitely an audience for Mediterranean food in the wilds of A-town. Olives should make for a nice addition.

 

[box_info]Olives Mediterranean Grill
Falafel    $6
Gyro    $7
Mediterranean meatballs    $12
Moussaka    $12[/box_info]

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