The Italianate building that houses the new Olmos Park Bistro on McCullough Avenue is long on Old World charm. I felt some of that European allure last Saturday night, as we sat in the bar next to a long bank of doors pulled open to the surprisingly mild evening air. Following this promising beginning, we found the food at the new Olmos Park Bistro to be good — and more than good.
The site housed Valentino’s di Olmos a few years back. Its new bistro identity comes from restaurateurs Michael Burkle, Patrick Lanchais and chef Laurent Rea. The trio formerly worked at L’Etoile, a long-lived French restaurant in nearby Alamo Heights that is now closed.
The menu ranges from fresh oysters — apparently very popular by the number of iced bowls crowned with glistening bivalves that went by— to steak frites (and the frites, or fries, were truly some of the best in town).
Steaks, roast chicken, moules (mussels) frites, a Fisherman’s Stew and other bistro fare were among the generous variety of choices.
My friends ordered the mussels in a buttery curry broth that was tastefully subtle on the curry seasoning while rich in pure shellfish flavor. What they liked best, though, was the very generous serving of mussels that came with each order.
Buttery crumbs topped my Duck Cassoulet, which was a treasure trove of duck sausage, a confit duck leg and a mound of well-cooked white beans. The sausage and the beans were rich, but the deep, green flavors of herbs — rosemary and thyme — get equal billing for taking this homey dish over the top.
Firm white chunks of monkfish in an order of Fisherman’s Stew were impeccably fresh. We loved also the halved fingerling potatoes, as well as the clams and shrimp in a flavorful broth.
Dessert was something we didn’t catch the name of — all we heard was “warm chocolate”. It turned out to be a small cake, molten inside, with a little surprise dish of coconut ice cream. All was well.
Some of the servers need a little time to get up to speed. We had to ask for water on several occasions and silverware taken away with one course was not always replaced at the next. The maître d’, on the other hand, was too hyper. Observant, yes, as a good maître d’ should be, but we suggest he chill and take a cue from our server. She admitted she was in a learning phase — but her calm, fun attitude helped us relax, adding significantly to the pleasure of our meal.