It was really good to see another restaurant move into the old Mihalis Chophouse digs at 1603 McCausland Ave. late last year. The building sat empty for a good two years, surprising since it had so much going for it inside and out. Luckily, restaurateur Sam Kacar saw the potential in it and decided to use it for his latest venture, Pan D'Olive.
The space had plenty of room to dine on multiple levels, including lounge-style soft seating, tables and cozy semi-enclosed booths. The bar area was hopping with happy hour revelers during our visit, but the resulting cacophony was well-buffered and couldn't be heard in the main dining room at all. The overall vibe of the restaurant was definitely upscale but not stuffy, and there were plenty of interesting decor details to take in, like the illuminated bar top.
The restaurant takes its name from the house-made olive bread used for bread service, which came to the table warm and fresh, with plenty of accompanying olive oil on the side. The Pan D'Olive website describes the overall cuisine as "Mediterranean with a California twist," with an emphasis on Greek and Turkish flavors. There were many favorites from these regions available, from marinated olives and humus under the Small Plates section to the lamb shanks under Entrees.
Our choice to start was the Lamb Kofta Sliders ($5) from the Small Plates list, rare lamb patties on crusty mini-buns served with tangy mint yogurt, cucumber tomato and greens. The order consisted of just two of the juicy, petite burgers, just enough to whet the appetite for another round of small plates or an entree.
The menu also had a modest selection of flatbreads, bruschettas and salads available, which are definitely on the must-try list for next time. This trip, though, we headed straight into the bigger plates.
Mediterranean cuisine also encompasses Italian fare, and there were several classic pasta examples on the menu. The Lobster Ravioli ($17), finally got the nod after much deliberation. The tender, sweet pasta was served with rock shrimp, spinach and tomatoes all in a thick, rich sherry cream sauce. To balance out the relatively heavy pasta, we opted for some fish. The Grilled Salmon ($18) was a perfect example of simple deliciousness. The thick slab of pink salmon had a light peppery crust on the edges, and was served on a bed of spinach and accented with capers on top and a light lemon sauce.
To cap everything off, we went with a flaky honey-drenched order of Baklava ($5), another simple and utterly delicious rustic Mediterranean favorite that we always order when given the chance.
While the food and ambiance were definitely high-end, the prices at Pan D'Olive were really reasonable, making it a good spot for everything from a casual light meal to an elaborate anniversary celebration.
-Pan D'Olive, 1603 McCausland Ave., 647-8000, pandolivestl.com.