Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Olive Branch, West Chester, PA

Olive Branch
142 West Gay Street
West Chester, PA

Recently, Siddharth's parents came to visit me in Philadelphia for weekend. For their first night, we dined in the very-happening town of West Chester, PA. West Chester is filled with nightlife, a perfect collegetown outside of Philadelphia with several bars and restaurants to choose from (see our previous post about Market Street Grill).

We made reservations at Olive Branch after reading several good reviews on Yelp. Olive Branch is a tapas bar with a BYOB service. Reservations were tight, and the host said that they'd only be able to seat us late.

When we arrived at our reservation of 8:30, the restaurant was booming with people. The tables were mostly parties of greater than 6 with one table that seated at least 15. The restaurant is quite small so it was surprising that they could fit that many people in there. Aside from the loud conversations, music could be heard from a talented piano player.

The menu at Olive Branch is pretty impressive in terms of selection. The tapas were varied, and it was easy to order a good mix of vegetarian and meat dishes.

We started with a couple of cocktails (they served 1 complimentary alcoholic beverage per person). Half the table had a plum-based cocktail, while the other half had a mango-mint concoction. Both were decent and fresh, but they were nothing really special. A bit disappointing considering the unique combinations that seemed to be available, but not terribly surprising for a tapas place not known for alcohol. We'd recommend going the BYO option if you'd really like an evening with fine beverages, but the

After drinks we moved on to the first round of appetizers: a prosciutto and fig crostini along with a puff-pastry wrapped baked brie with cinnamon sugar and candied walnuts. Let's be honest: it's hard to go wrong with these ingredients! Sure enough, both of the initial appetizers were delicious, and we were off to a great start.

Prosciutto and fig Crostini
Baked Brie
Siddharth's mom is a vegetarian, so we made sure to get some more meat-free options for this meal. As I mentioned, this was pretty easy given Olive Branch's extensive menu. Next up were the scachetti. These were pasta "purses" filled with spinach and asiago and served in a lemony cream sauce. Outstanding! Possibly the best and most creative dish of the night. The pasta was expertly formed, and the purses didn't leak and were very fresh.

Following the scachetti, a steaming order of mussels and the lobster mac & cheese came out, and it was served with braised chorizo in a tomato broth. The mussels were cooked well, and the broth was very flavorful. Chorizo was a great accent for the mussels. Another very enjoyable dish.

The lobster mac & cheese was not quite as good. While the lobster meat itself was well-cooked and sweet, the cheese sauce was a little too mild and bland. The creaminess of the sauce was fine, but perhaps a sharper cheese would have helped. As it was, this was one of the less-liked dishes at the table. Not awful, but not our favorite.

We also ordered a braised lamb dish, but we were very disappointed by it. Unlike the other dishes that were flavorful and bold, the lamb was underseasoned (and a bit overcooked). Lack of salt is a criminal offense! However, this dish seemed like an outlier, because the rest of the food was extremely well done, and overall we really enjoyed the meal. The pace of the meal was a bit slow, likely due to the business, but it made the experience a bit more relaxed. We felt really full after the tapas, but that didn't stop us from ordering a few desserts! An orange cream cake, a chocolate silk pie, and a key lime pie were next up on the docket.

Our waiter told us that all of the desserts were made in-house by the owner and her daughter. This was nice to hear, as made from scratch is always the best! The orange cream cake was quite tasty, and it showed up as a massive 3-tower layer cake. The icing was coconut, so Siddharth really likee that. This was a bit of a unique cake due to it's extremely large crumb size, and it wasn't a super dense or moist cake. Siddharth liked the cake the most, while some of us would have preferred a finer cake.

The chocolate silk pie was executed perfectly. Rich, but also light at the same time. This isn't a unique dessert, but it was done well, and we were happy to have ordered it.

Finally, the key lime pie may have been the best of the bunch. Many citrus pies fail because the filling is too sour or too sweet. Olive Branch got it just right, creating a filling that was positively refreshing. The cream and crust were done right too. Again, not an unusual item, but the key was in the execution.

Despite a few dishes that weren't perfect (lamb, mac & cheese), the overall experience at Olive Branch was great. Getting in to West Chester in the evening is also a nice experience if you don't mind the crowds. We recommend trying out Olive Branch, as it is one the best restaurants that we have eaten at in the suburbs of Philly so far. Their selection is outstanding, and the tapas concept is one of our favorites.


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