Ollie's: Mid East Cuisine for the Masses
The second in our Mid-East Eats series, Ollie's is a relative newcomer to the game. How does Ollie's stack up to the others?
Situated on the corner of strip mall next to a video game store, Ollie's seems out of place, but placement can be overlooked if the atmosphere and food are good. Open for three years, Ollie's is one of many places that opened after the demise of La Shish. In fact, both of Ollie's waiters working during my visit were both former La Shish employees.
Ollie's is the antithesis of Hamido. Where Hamido is simple, Ollie's is ornate. Ollie's interior is setup like a Arab temple–lots of stone and wood work throughout the restaurant. Menus are bound in leather.
Upon being seated, a basket of warm pita bread is brought to the table. The pita oven is behind the counter in the main dining area, so you can watch as pita is placed in and pulled out of the oven. There is something special about warm pita. Its hot, crusty shell and soft, fluffy interior are what dreams are made of. Studded with sesame seeds for added nuttiness, these are exemplary pita.
A simple salad is served with any dinner order. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions tossed with a heavily herbed lemon and olive dressing make for a simple, but bold salad. The flavors are spot-on and exuberant, an ideal dish to prepare your for the oncoming feast.
While the hummus has a delightfully rich and creamy mouthfeel almost to the point of being whipped, the flavor is lacking. It is as though the creaminess is supposed to distract you from the flavor. Slightly lemony with a bit of garlic, this hummus needs to be punched up. That said, maybe my penchant for bold flavors is out of line here. Given the hummus' texture and my inability to stop eating it, it is definitely not bad. Add a spoonful of toum to spice it up.
The falafel is perfectly cooked–not at all greasy, super crunchy exterior with a gently spiced, dense interior. Good falafel is about 70 percent texture and 30 percent flavor. Ollie's falafel is definitely a winner in the texture department.
Chicken shawarma, however, was dry and under seasoned. There are some charred bits throughout the plate, which add both texture and flavor. Even when paired with the toum, the flavor is nothing special. It is one note and fleeting, even the spicy garlicky kick of the toum leaves your palate almost immediately.
While the atmosphere is beautiful and the staff incredibly nice and helpful, the food just doesn't excite. Even the most gorgeous interior design cannot overcome the food's lack of seasoning.
Chicken shawarma 3/10
Total score 14/30 — Ollie's comes in a hair below average. It may be that Ollie's is trying to attract less adventurous American palates; if that is the case, then they will do just fine. If not, then they need to crank up the seasoning on just about everything.