Thursday, March 13, 2008

DallasEats Reader Picks: Olenjack's Grille

Olenjack's Grille
770 Road to Six Flags E, suite 100
Arlington, TX

We'd like to begin this post by reiterating the fact that these Reader Pick evaluations are not "reviews". When we set out to thoroughly evaluate a dining establishment, we visit it at least twice. In many cases, we may go three times or more, attempting to hit the place at different times of the day. That way we can try to evaluate both lunch and dinner, or at least a different waitstaff shift. We felt the need to offer this intro because it pains us both to make negative comments about a restaurant we've only dined at once. That being said...

Olenjack's Grille in Arlington seems to have a split personality. The first, we'll call it Jack's, is a posh steakhouse crossed with a Star Canyon-esque Tex-fusion restaurant that strives to impress and often succeeds. Jack's has classy, if dated, starched burgundy tablecloths and a nicely appointed wine list. Jack's is a place we'd drive out of our way to go to again.

Personality number two, which we'll call Olen's, is an average eatery with a hotel dining room decor, butcher paper on the table and a staff that languishes between courses and drink refills. At Olen's, they take a diner-like approach to service, sending each plate out with a food runner as it's ready, leading to an auction at the table ("Who had the pork chop, guys?"). This was a sticking point for us. When you're paying upwards of $30 a head for dinner, ladies should be served first, gentlemen second and it's not out of the realm of reasonable expectation that the kitchen have everything ready to roll at the same time.

Olenjack's split personality crosses over onto the menu as well. Starters (listed as "small plates") were impressive, and a few of these with wines to match would have made a lovely meal. Salt and pepper shrimp were perfectly cooked - no rubber tires here - and the spicing offered a pleasant bite. Steak-cut calamari was surprisingly tender, but the runny, bland tomato sauce it was served with kept it from achieving greatness.

Entrees were a similar mixed bag, with our group of six split 4-2 in favor of "eh". The standout dish was a vegetarian pasta ordered with extra mushrooms. The kitchen was more than happy to accommodate and we were presented with a plate that would have made the most ravenous hobbit happy. Shrimp and grits also pleased, although the grits themselves were so salty that they almost threw the whole dish off course. Fortunately, the andouille sausage and mustard greens added enough of a bite to keep the dish at least somewhat on track. Those members of the party ordering from the grill were most disappointed, one commenting that his pork chop was "OK", but that it had a strange, metallic aftertaste. For these grill-ees, however, side dishes such as a succulent roasted cream corn and maple mashed sweet potatoes came to the rescue of their ho-hum entrees.

Dessert left us with smiles on our faces. From the surprise appearance of Henry's Homemade Ice Cream (a DallasEats fave), to a luscious "Key Lime Tart", it was the most enjoyable course of the evening. A word of warning: "Key Lime Tart" is placed in quotation marks because it is better described as a piece of key lime cheesecake (at least texture-wise) or creamy key lime pie. It is also better described as enormous and scrumptious, although FP freely admits that she's a sucker for anything key lime.

Our only quibble with the dessert course was that we wished that coffee had been served *with* it, instead of ten minutes ahead of the game. Those who wanted to sip a little after dinner joe while their companions had a sweet nibble were already down to the cold dregs in their mugs by the time dessert arrived. Refills were not offered. Sigh.

This new restaurant is promising, but DallasEats is hesitant to pass along a recommendation. Another appearance from Olen's might ruin your visit to Jack's.

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