I’ve got a favorite new restaurant—humble Olivar, tucked into Capitol Hill’s statuesque Loveless Building. I felt the first hints of a crush when I ducked through the old cove-shaped door and was met with the warm scent of roasting chicken and saffron.
Last July, Philippe Thomelin, a French-born chef whose résumé includes stints at Il Terrazzo Carmine and Harvest Vine, bravely took over the space, which, having been home to a handful of short-lived restaurants, including Fork and Coco La Ti Da, has been called cursed. If so, I’m betting the curse has been broken.
There’s a seductive ease to the place, with the interior walls covered by smooth honey- and terra-cotta-toned 1930s murals depicting an Alexander Pushkin fairy tale. Thomelin’s robust Spanish fare resonates with the space: patatas a lo pobre ($9) offer the simple pleasure of a perfectly fried egg just waiting to spill over soft, sweet peppers, thinly sliced chorizo and tender spuds.
But his French background shows in his sauce-making: A tarragon-crème fraîche sauce elevates a bountiful bowl of sensationally good mussels ($12), and a perfectly cooked leg of rabbit (conejo al ajillo, $16) is served over a tangle of wide, hand-cut noodles with a rich, glossy jus.
Dinner Tue.–Sun. Capitol Hill, 806 E Roy St.; 206.322.0409; olivarrestaurant.com.