Serve yourself well at Olive Tree Cafe
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
|Olive Tree cook Reyes Gutierrez shows off the souvlaki chicken sandwich.
Photos by Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertise
Olive Tree Cafe
4614 Kilauea Ave.
Credit cards not accepted; BYOB
Dinner: 5-10 p.m.
The Olive Tree is by no means a reflection of ancient Greece. It is a modern, hip and affordable cafe with a couple of twists.
It has outdoor dining, something more restaurants should offer, but no waiters: You place your order at a walk-up counter and wait until your order is ready. This can take some time, especially if you order several items.
This place gets packed early and feels a bit frenetic, especially in finding a table. If you allow yourself to calmly enter these waters, you can enjoy a nice meal of fast and yummy Greek food. Open up the bottle of wine you brought along and watch the people. At times, it feels like a sidewalk cafe in Athens.
Avgolemeno soup ($2.88) is the ubiquitous Greek egg-lemon soup, similar to egg drop soup, but with a lemony kick. It's a savory and refreshing way to begin. Two appetizers served with pita bread include hummus ($3.84), the creamy garbanzo-bean spread/dip, and baba ghanoush ($4.80), the roasted eggplant dip. This name is more the Arabic and Middle Eastern term for this dish, known in Greece as melitzanosalata. Either way, it's delicious.
Dolmadakia ($4.80) are stuffed grape leaves with rice and herbs. These can be quite addicting a flavor that's a bit herbaceous and tangy. A slight departure from standard Greek cuisine but still a must-try is the mussel ceviche ($4.80) made with lime juice, ginger, cilantro and herbs. Order this app for sure.
The regular menu offers three luscious salads. Tabouleh ($4.80) is a cracked wheat, tomato, herbs and lemon creation; the Greek salad ($5.76) has mixed greens, tomato, feta cheese and olives; and the domata salata ($4.80) is a ripe, ruby red tomato salad with feta, olive oil and pita bread.
|The menu is Greek with a few liberal interpretations added. The inexpensive Kahala dining spot has a devoted following.|
There's a shaorma ($8.64), a pita sandwich made with a spicy ground-lamb patty and served with a sesame-paste tahini sauce and salad. It's different from similarly named dishes, being ground instead of sliced off the spit. I suggest you skip the lamb burger and instead order the falafel sandwich ($6.72), which is a spiced mixture of mashed garbanzo beans, herbs and spices, shaped into balls and deep-fried.
You'll find specials throughout the week that have become quite popular. Tuesdays you can get the tender chicken saffron ($9.60) in a saffron-tomato sauce over basmati rice. Wednesdays bring lamb shanks ($14.40) baked with a red wine and tomato sauce over tiny Greek pasta. Thursday's offering is a baked and stuffed eggplant specialty ($9.60) called imam bayaldi (loosely translated, "so good your head'll fall off"), with a tomato sauce and sheep cheese. And Saturdays the spinach and cheese-stuffed filo pastry, spanakopita ($8.64), makes its appearance as the daily special.
The Olive Tree has a devoted following. If you're in the mood for something a bit different, both experientially and flavor wise, give it a try.
Reach Matthew Gray at email@example.com with your comments, questions and suggestions.