It's all about atmosphere at Blue olive. In a place like Brasada Ranch every thing is rustic luxury: The views, the big timbered lodge, the perfectly manicured golf course. The dining room is no exception. Deliberately distressed wood floors and high ceilings complement huge picture windows that overlook rolling hills of native fescue and a faux train bridge. The atmosphere conjures images of the Old West, only here it's the Old West without the dust and smelly work animals.
The menu at the ranch's signature restaurant, The Blue Olive, is an ode to the "cattlemen of Oregon who helped shape and tame the wild ranges of Central Oregon" and offers beef from local rancher Matt Borlen. Chef John Nelson has filled the menu with beef dishes as well as a fair amount of seafood, pork and pasta.
Rather than making multiple trips to Brasada, I brought lots of dining companions in order to truly sample the menu. The six of us sat down at a large table flanked with windows showcasing a colorful twilight sky.
We started by ordering drinks and every appetizer available, including the specials. Our drinks arrived promptly; then a long 30 minutes later our appetizers started arriving. Of the ten appetizers we had, it was unanimous that there were only three to recommend. The "Grilled Thick Hand Cut Slab Bacon" was heaven on a plate. If it's pig you like, there are few establishments that will serve it as unadulterated, thick and flavorful as this. The "Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates" were wrapped in this delicious bacon for tasty bites that combine smoky, sweet, sharp and creamy. The "Smoked Trout Plate" was served with a lively dill aioli and the fish was nicely unctuous, tender and slightly sweet.
Among the appetizers that got a thumbs down from the group, were the "Cheese Fondue with Assorted Breads" that tasted like processed cheese spread; "Seasoned Homemade Potato Chip Basket" that was creative in presentation, but the chips were bland at best and limp and greasy at worst; and the "Cross Cut Beef Ribs" which had a pleasant flavor, but a very unappealing presentation and a strange slightly mealy texture. A finger tapping 45 minutes after ordering, our entrees arrived. I love a well-paced meal but 45 minutes between appetizers and entrees is way too long.
Once we dug in the "Double Thick Drambuie Brined Bone-in Pork Chop" had wonderful flavor, was the right temperature (just slightly pink) and was served with a sweet apple fig chutney. Visually, the whole plate was a bit gray but the flavors were very good together. "The Crab Cakes" were first rate with big chunks of crab and very little breading.
The "Sliced Beef Salad" - a salad of chunked iceberg, sliced grilled beef, tomato marinated onion and house garlic and pepper vinaigrette - tasted so strongly of fuel that we ended up sending it back, which they gladly deducted from the bill. The "Butter Nut Squash Ravioli," served in a light curry cream, was so sweet it was almost dessert like.
The service at the Blue Olive has been characterized as casual and I'd have to agree. Actually, I'd say it's a bit too casual. Our appetizers were brought without side plates and only after asking for them, the plates arrived once most of us had finished the appetizer course. Forks were removed with the appetizers plates and never replaced. (We were forced to steal from vacant tables). The overall attitude was friendly but again, casual and more appropriate for a brewery or diner than an upscale resort dinner house.
There's no doubt, The Blue Olive is beautiful and the views may be worth the trip. Chef John Nelson is in the process of overhauling the menu but the emphasis will still be in locally grown beef. Most of the above items will still be available with the exception of the Steak Salad. Hopefully some of the new dishes will shine a better light on the chef's talents.
The Blue Olive
Brasada Ranch, Powell Butte.
Lunch 11:30AM - 5PM, Dinner 5PM - 8PM(541) 526-6862