Bistro Ole has been a favorite restaurant of mine for years. It is located in Asbury Park, NJ and specializes in Latin infused, Spanish, Portuguese cuisine. While it is a bit pricey, it is also BYO which is a major plus for my wine-loving family.
It is always hit-or-miss at restaurants on Christmas Eve because of the crowds and limited wait staff willing to work on the holiday. Bistro Ole did not disappoint us. Since we had a party of 8, we had a nice table in our own little room away from the large crowd in the other part of the restaurant. We did have to wait a bit for our main meals, but we were in no rush and were happy to have more time to enjoy our wine!
For appetizers we ordered two orders of the "cala, cala, calamari", which is pan-fried calamari served over a chile chipotle reduction. Every time we go to this restaurant, the calamari is always ordered. Here's a picture of some that my brother served for himself (and decided to garnish the plate with a piece of lettuce..)
The sauce that is served with the calamari is soo flavorful. We all mop up the remaining sauce with warm bread. It was a bit spicier than usual, which I usually don't complain about, but sometimes spiciness takes away from the flavor. It was still delicious though!
We also had two orders of the verde salad for the table. I love creamy goat cheese in a salad, and the almonds on top added a great crunch.
For the entree, my uncle ordered the Chef's Best Seller Sea Bass, which was topped with a Spanish pesto, bread crumbs and guacamole. The presentation was wonderful and it definitely tasted like a best seller dish. The fish was cooked perfectly and was super flavorful.
My grandma got another version of sea bass with a mild pine nut sauce. It had a surprising amount of flavor and was a little lighter than the chef's best seller. I would definitely order it the next time I go!
My mom ordered a shrimp and scallop appetizer as her main course. She gets this every time she's there and usually loves it. Unfortunately, this time the portion was smaller than usual and she was not satisfied with her meal.
My brother ordered the paella, which was a very large portion of mixed seafood and spanish rice. This is another specialty item and was excellent as always.
My sister and grandpa both ordered one of the dinner specials, braised chicken in a white wine thyme sauce, served with spinach & bits of bacon and mashed sweet potatoes. The chicken was flavorful and juicy, but I thought it was weird how many thyme stems were left on the dish. I don't really like garnishes that are not meant to eat. The sweet potatoes that were served on the side were very sweet.. kind of like dessert!
My dad ordered his usual dish, Skirt Steak with sauteed onions. He loved his dish as always. I had a small taste of the fried plantains that were served on the side and the onions--they were fantastic! Yet again, the presentation is beautiful:
I ordered the second dinner special (there were only two), Baked Red Snapper with Romesco Sauce and spinach & asparagus. The snapper was very good, especially with the romesco, but I didn't like the bread crumb topping. It just added a weird, tough texture to the fish. The spinach & asparagus on the side was very tasty, but I kept getting large chunks of garlic which is never too appetizing (good thing I wasn't kissing anybody ;) ).
Overall, dinner was excellent and I can't wait to go back again! Rico, the owner usually stops by our table and give us all big kisses, but I guess he was super busy and didn't make it to our table tucked away from the rest of the crowd. We chose to skip dessert since we had Christmas cookies waiting for us at home, but if you all ever go there, I highly recommend the chocolate dipped strawberries with fresh whipped cream! mmmm