Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Dining date: 4/10/12
Milo & Olive is the newest restaurant (opened in November) in Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s quickly expanding empire in Santa Monica that already includes Sweet Rose, Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry. I’ve been to both Sweet Rose and Rustic Canyon and enjoyed both so this place has been on my radar, but I never had just the right impetus to make the drive over to the westside. That is, until a friend of mine clued me in to Walter Manzke being in the kitchen! Casual readers may know I’m a huge fan of his work, and I quickly picked a date to come out and check this place out.
Milo & Olive is categorized as sort of a bakery/pizzeria, but its more than a pizza parlor, offering a host of baked goods (displayed in the front; I’m guessing these are similar to ones offered at Huckleberry) and a bunch of small plates from veggies & grains to meat & fish. When discussing his stint here, Manzke’s temporary role seems to be as a chef consultant rather than, say, an Executive Chef. He’s definitely not here to completely overhaul the menu with his imprint.
It’s a pretty small place with two communal tables seating 6-8 each and a kitchen counter seating about 8 more. No wonder the lines are so long; we waited about 45 mins on a chilly Tuesday evening.
MARINATED ARTICHOKES baby spinach, toasted pine nuts, capers, golden raisins, goat cheese
The artichokes were served warm, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette balanced by some sweet raisins. Some goat cheese added a subtle funk to the dish, but not in an overpowering way. Pine nuts added a nutty crunch.
WOOD OVEN ROASTED PRAWNS mediterranean salad
The prawns came out sans shell, cooked to what I thought was a medium/medium-well like temperature. A bit on the firm side, I like my prawns a little more springy and succulent. The accompanying salad of creamy garbanzo beans, juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumber was a fresh and tasty side that I thought went well with the shrimp.
WOOD FIRED GARLIC KNOT extra virgin olive oil, sea salt
This was probably the most memorable dish of the evening, a warm doughy ‘purse’ filled with garlic. The garlic was cooked down to a very soft texture and was sweet, far from the bitter bite of raw garlic. The dough itself was crispy on the outside and pillowy soft and yielding on the inside. With a dash of salt and olive oil, these were some great bites.
Of course, we sampled a couple of pizzas too.
HOUSEMADE PORK BELLY SAUSAGE braised greens, tomato, fresh mozzarella
MIXED MUSHROOM fontina, Parmigiano Reggiano, thyme
The pizzas resembled Mozza’s in size and style – I thought they were pretty well made. The mushroom pizza was expectantly earthy with the clean flavors of the mushrooms, cheese and a hint of thyme. I really enjoyed the pork belly sausage; the sausage itself was delicious balanced by some greens and a really tasty tomato sauce. It’s so hard to compare pizzas across the city since everyone has a different idea of the perfect pie, but that pork belly sausage pizza was one of my recent favorites.
In addition to the baked goods in front, there were a few desserts offered. We had room for two of them.
The lemon meringue was simple but well done, with a fine balance between the light and creamy lemon curd and sweet whipped meringue.
VANILLA CUSTARD TART
I liked this dessert better with it’s rich, subtly sweet custard in a flaky, sweetened crust. Blueberries were a nice topping too.
Manzke came out to chat with us at the end of the meal to share some of his thoughts on the LA food scene and his upcoming restaurant République (it will take some time). This was my first time spending any sort of quality time with the chef, and I was definitely excited to do so. Also at the end of the meal, we were each gifted bags of goodies to take home; a loaf of bread and some type of pasty. I got a loaf of ciabatta and a croissant. Score! It was the end of night and they were presumably clearing out the day’s inventory, but I thought it was a nice touch (per Yelp, it’s a somewhat common occurrence – so go late!). Even the next morning (or days, in the case of the ciabatta), they were pretty delicious especially when reheated lightly in the oven.
Milo & Olive was pretty good. My favorite items tended to be those involving dough, including the garlic knot, pizzas and dessert/pastries (I’m definitely gonna have to check out Huckleberry soon). The two small plates we tried were good but just missing that extra ingredient to make them pop. If this restaurant was in my neighborhood, I’d definitely be back soon. Given it’s across town from me, I’d have to think about it a little – there are so many other places I still want to visit for the first time. But who knows, that garlic knot may be calling my name sooner than I think.