I recently traveled back to Austin for Labor Day weekend and probably gained 10 pounds while I was there (see here for some of my Austin must-dos). But this time around, I ended up at a couple new restaurants - one of which has become a new favorite.
Olamaie is everything you want in elevated Southern cuisine - something which recalls the richness and comfort of hearty, home-cooked meals, while retaining the elegance & sophistication you expect from a restaurant of its stature.
But true to its Austin roots, Olamaie knows that sophistication does not have to equate to pretentiousness, and the atmosphere at the restaurant is nothing but inviting. Walking into Olamaie feels much more like dinner & drinks in a friend's beautiful Charleston sitting room than dining out at a fancy establishment.
The restaurant is a quaint, white cottage complete with a wrap-around patio, and a black & white checkered parlor room where you can sip on cocktails while you wait.
And the cocktails themselves are quite delectable, so arriving early & hanging out is not at all a bad idea.
The drink which stood out most to me was the persistence of memory - a brandy based cocktail with amaro, lime & cacao. I normally steer clear of chocolate in my cocktails, as it often results in sugary-sweet, drinks which I consider close to undrinkable. But the proportions of this drink are perfect - the cacao brings a unique blend of bitter & sweet which complements the brandy and brings a unique depth of flavor to the drink.
Now, onto food - let's start out with the basics. If you go, you must order the biscuits. They're not on the menu, but they always have them. They're the perfect biscuits: warm, fluffy & oh-so-ready to flake apart in your mouth. I should also mention: they come with honey butter.
We opted to pair our biscuits with the beef tartare to start. The tartare has a nice fresh acidity, which was a nice balance to the biscuits. I have to admit, I don't actually order tartare that often, but this one was pretty excellent. It's served with sweet peppers and mayonnaise made from the beef fat itself. It's served with some freshly fried & salted potato chips so you can get in there and scoop up very last bite.
For dinner, we ordered the snapper and the pork chop. For me, what made Olamaie special was the team's ability to masterfully meld together complex & interesting flavors in a single dish. While on its own, each ingredient was good - all together, they were magical.
The snapper is served atop a bed of creamy, almost risotto-like rice, and surrounded by a generous puddle of zucchini & cauliflower puree. Snapper has a relatively delicate flavor, but the the fresh vegetables & creamy complexion of this dish serve to accentuate & heighten that flavor rather than mask it.
The pork is sliced into thick, bite-sized chunks and served with farro & country ham soubise - a butter-based onion sauce. Dolloped into the soubise are additional purees of pear & burnt squash - these colorful dollops are not just for show, each puree brings to bear a beautiful flavor combination which perfectly complements the richness of the pork.
For dessert, if you're a pudding person - you're going to want to try out Olamaie's sweet milk custard. The custard has a thicker, pudding-like texture and is topped with baby figs, pecans & an almost graham-cracker like crumble. It's the most sophisticated pudding you've ever had - but you'll slurp it up just as quick as the jello packs of your childhood.
We also tried the benne oil cake - benne oil is extracted from a sesame-like benne seed, and the cake is reminiscent of an aromatic olive oil cake.
Olamaie tops theirs with black cherry ice cream, complete with actual cherries, encased in a hard chocolate shell. Much like the entrees - the combination of the chocolate, cherry ice cream & the cake elevate this fancy sundae combination.
The homemade cherry ice cream brings a brightness to the dish which cuts through the more bread-like texture of the benne cake & pairs perfectly with the dark chocolate shell.