Olivia’s surprises with creative dishes, sleek setting

We’d heard that things were changing at the Boulevard Mall, but we didn’t know how much they were changing until we dined at Olivia’s Mexican Restaurant.

Visually, Olivia’s is something we’d expect to see on the Strip or in the ’burbs instead of as part of the resurgence of what has been a down-at-the-heels mall. The blue-and-white exterior, fronting the parking lot near the mall’s cab stand, is sleek and contemporary, which carries over to the interior with its roughly textured stacked white stone (limestone, maybe?) and black accents.

The better-than-its-environment vibe carried over to the food, too. But a few days after we were there, we learned that the opening chef and the owners had parted ways — something that’s not real unusual in a restaurant’s early life, but which can turn out to mean big changes, no changes, or anything in between. Olivia’s already has gone through some rejiggering in its first four months, moving from a self-proclaimed Latin restaurant to a Mexican one, though a few vestiges of the Latin identity remain.

But we hope changes to the food won’t be sweeping, because there was a lot to like on the evening of our visit. That started with the salsa, one of the most complex I’ve had in a long time, with chipotle undertones and brash cilantro contributing to an alchemy that resulted in lots of layers of flavor. With it came chips that tasted as though they’d been fried in-house and that were especially crisp, which we liked.

We knew Olivia’s was different when we were served our starter of pulled beef brisket flautas ($9). The three crisp rolls were not at their heart all that unusual, but their treatment was — drizzled with regular and avocado crema and sprinkled with some cotija cheese, pickled (in-house, we suspect) onions and an avalanche of arugula, its bitter austerity effectively balancing the richness of the beef and cremas.

We figure the chef is/was a fan of arugula because that also played significantly in our chile relleno ($16). From the menu description we knew this wouldn’t be a common chile relleno, and it wasn’t, the only similarity being that it was indeed a poblano pepper, and it was stuffed. In this case, though, the pepper was lightly par-cooked and retained its bright color and crisp-tender texture, and the filling was a mix of cubes of grilled carne asada and roasted potato and slices of wild mushroom, covered with a blanket of melted Oaxacan cheese before being showered with arugula and surrounded by a tomatillo-based sauce. The pepper rested on a bed of the restaurant’s way-above-average cilantro-corn rice.

We knew we’d have to try the garlic shrimp ($15) because I’d been informed by a reader who’d been in awhile back that he was rather surprised to be served head-on shrimp in this familiar dish, as a lot of people would be. The heads were gone, though, the seven plump shrimp optimally cooked and bathed in a super-garlicky butter mixture, which is a good thing. On the side was more cilantro-corn rice and some frijoles that not been squashed and refried; these were whole and just soft enough, a refreshing change.

And a sweet corn tamale ($6), somewhat diminutive, with an appealing sweetness and lots of crisp kernels of corn.

Service was friendly, polite and well-intentioned but scattered, beginning with some apparent confusion about who actually would be serving us and continuing with forgotten drinks and poorly timed courses. This was one area in which Olivia’s didn’t measure up to its more ambitious brethren.

Successful restaurants continually evolve just enough to capitalize on their high points and weed out the low ones. Olivia’s already has done some evolving, and it’ll be interesting to see how the chef change affects it. We just hope the owners are cognizant of both sides of the equation and adjust accordingly.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like