There's a funny trend happening with everyone that I talk to who has gone to the new, hot restaurant in Mid-town, The Optimist. They have ALL enjoyed their dining experience, but usually they can't tell me what they've eaten. For that reason, I've been slow to try the place. However, last week some "foodie" friends came to town from Denver and Texas, and they were game for some serious sampling, so away we went! Four of us feasted on a wide variety from the menu and, in case you don't make it to the end of the post, I'd recommend building a dinner off the small plates and skipping the entrees. This is where Chef Ford (from JCT Kitchen and No. 246) showcases his most creative and flavorful dishes.
Here's a quick look for your visit (and I DO recommend a visit!)
The Optimist bills itself as a "Fish Camp & Oyster Bar," so it makes sense to partake in the oyster offering. You won't be disappointed. Loved the fresh oysters most. We split our selection East/West coast.The fried oysters were pretty, but not nearly as flavorful as their raw counterparts.The garlic clams with pork belly were nothing short of divine!
However, the hands-down, unanimous favorite dish of the evening was the grilled Spanish octopus with olive oil, cilantro and melon. Wow! The green salad special of the evening was an arugula with feta and figs and we didn't leave a single leaf.And, if you're so inclined, you can't go wrong with the beet salad.
Of course, since it IS summer, we had to try the melon salad with mint. You can practically see the sweetness in the photo.Finally, it was time for the entrees. While all of the dishes were fine, only one was memorable. The best was the Halibut with Hen of the Wood mushroom. YUM.The chicken was moist, but otherwise not a standout.We had high hopes that the swordfish would be more exciting than normal swordfish because it was poached in duck fat. Alas, the fish was bland, but the crispy pancetta added a nice touch.Finally, the striped bass with figs and grapes was delicious but SO rich that you couldn't finish it. Since we had doubled up on starters, the only side we ordered was the potatoes. Delish.After all of that food, we decided we needed to top off the evening by ordering all five selections on the dessert menu. Each of us had a different #1, but we had a consistent #2. I think there's some crazy scoring system (gymnastics perhaps) that makes the #2 REALLY a #1. And so, the favorite was.... (drum roll) the peach cobbler with the thyme ice cream.Next up was MY #1, the Lemon Pound Cake. As you know, I love making my own pound cake, so if I find one that compares favorably AND comes with lemon curd, well, you've got me!The most "talked about" dessert at our table was the doughnuts with lavender blueberry ice cream. The donuts themselves were "meh," but when you dipped them in the ice cream -- whoa!The smoked chocolate pie was too rich for my taste, but the person who loved chocolate at our table picked it as #1. I'd say if you have a thing for rich chocolate, go for it. The toasted meringue top was impressively attractive.Finally, the last dessert was a rum cake/ toasted banana ice cream / hot fudge dessert that seemed as if it was trying too hard. One person LOVED this dessert, so that's that.On top of all of this, what's really fun about The Optimist is the wonderful space. Unlike Watershed which has some serious design flaws, this large space somehow feels warm and welcoming. The service was great, and I'll definitely be back when I want to order a bunch of small plates.
I'd love to hear about your experience!!