We stopped into Olivia for lunch, having read all sorts of accolades about it, from Eater Austin calling it restaurant of the year to Bon Appétit putting it on the 2009 list of the 10 best new restaurants. Chef James Holmes's menu has all the hallmarks of neo-American cuisine: an assortment of animal parts prepared in tasty ways—familiar enough to not seem intimidating to unaccustomed diners—locally sourced ingredients from produce to cheeses, and the blending of classic preparations (fries, terrines, sabayon) with a touch of modern technique (powders, gelées).
From the outside, Olivia looks kind of like if Frank Lloyd Wright designed a giant greenhouse. Inside it was filled with a ton of natural light and was comfortable for lunch.
We tried the short rib terrine with arugula gelée and brown butter powder, and a composed side of roasted beets with dime-sized truffle meringues and mushroom "dirt." But the dish called a twice baked potato was the best for hitting the sweet spot of familiarity with a twist. And copious amounts of cheese sauce. Gnocchi was piled into a hollowed-out potato shell and covered in sharp cheddar cheese cream with tiny pieces of broccoli, bacon, and a pile of thin strips of fried sweet potato. It was perfect comfort food in the middle of the weird cold snap that left us scrambling to find any scrap of winter clothing we could in town. (No easy task: I guess you don't often need gloves and hats in Texas.)
2043 S. Lamar Boulevard, Austin