Good Greek Fare, Lackluster Service at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen

In Eatontown, a lively Greek-inspired menu is overshadowed by inattentive hospitality.

Octopus appetizer at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our meal at Olive & Ivy Mediterranean Kitchen, a Greek-inspired BYO in Eatontown that opened earlier this year, got off to a rough start.

I was meeting my good friend Julia, a native Jersey girl who grew up in Monmouth County but now calls Los Angeles home, while she was back in town visiting family. It was a Tuesday evening and the large, modern restaurant wasn’t even half-full. Yet we were seated off in a corner, away from the rest of the tables—and as such, out of the single server’s sight.

It took several minutes for him to greet us, and even longer before he poured us water. When I put our BYO bottle of wine on the table and asked for two wine classes, he demanded to see our IDs. I thought he was joking, as male servers sometimes do when you’re a table of two younger women. But he didn’t back down, not even after I told him I’d just purchased the bottle of wine down the road at Circus Wines in Red Bank.

Five minutes after being carded, which felt more like a way for him to learn our names or where we lived, he finally remembered to bring us wine glasses, disappearing before we could put in an order for appetizers. The exchange irked me, making me feel like an unwelcome guest. But I didn’t want to ruin the few hours I had to catch up with my friend, and so we delved into the food.

Olive & Ivy boasts a Mediterranean menu of mezze, mousaka, kebabs and seafood. There’s also more American items, like burgers, pork chops and steaks. We started with the saganaki ($12), flaming Greek kefalograviera cheese that’s lit tableside and drizzled with lemon olive oil; and the grilled octopus ($18). The cheese hadn’t fully softened before the flame went out, but it was still cheese, and so we devoured it. The octopus was slightly overcooked, chewy and tough instead of tender and soft.

Scallops and Shrimp Santorini at Olive & Ivy. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Our mains quickly followed. Julia ordered the scallops ($30), which came with five pan-roasted scallops over small rounds of polenta and basil. She remarked about how happy she was to be eating good East Coast scallops again, which you don’t find easily on the West Coast. But the entrée didn’t seem substantial enough, plated more like an appetizer than a main event. I opted for the Shrimp Santorini ($30). Served in a cast-iron dish, it consisted of prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce over rice, with crumbled feta on top.

Almost two hours had passed since we’d walked through the doors, and while the food was fresh and enjoyable, our hospitality experience hadn’t improved. We passed on dessert, and asked for our check, which was over $100. If that’s what it costs for an average dinner for two, with no alcohol included, a restaurant should really pay more attention to their guests, and treat them as such.

After settling up, we decided to continue catching up over a beer at an Irish pub in Red Bank, where we were greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere and more.

Olive & Ivy, 78 Route 35, Eatontown; 732-389-0000. Open Tues-Sun for lunch and dinner.

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