Why: Oliver’s opened up in the restaurant space of the charming Camas Hotel on June 16. This space most recently housed the short-lived Harwoods restaurant, which lasted only a few months in operation. Chefs Morris Fenton and Gywn Manney, formerly of Shelby’s in Washougal, create expertly crafted and satisfying dishes that will win new diners and attract longtime fans to the new location.
Bartender Ben Edel and server Ryan Wong also came aboard with Fenton and Manney.
The restaurant offers a Dinner Menu and Dinner Fresh Sheet as well as Lunch and Brunch menus.
Produce is regularly acquired from the local Camas Farmer’s Market and Fenton ensures only the best goes on the plates. Whether it’s the freshest fish available, or locally sourced Cascade Natural beef, diners can be confident in the quality. Although the cost is typical of a family style restaurant, the quality is far higher.
Atmosphere: Gone is the heavy masculine edge of Harwoods. The setting still reflects past renovations, but it has added a refined, feminine touch. Jewel tones in hanging art and beautiful glass vases reflect the light and bring warmth to Oliver’s. Cafe curtains allow privacy for diners while still providing an outdoor view and natural light. Beyond the main dining room, a handsome bar has room for 13. Outside, there are a few tables for dining during warm months. Limited seating is also available on the second floor private patio.
What I Tried: I stopped in for lunch and tried the Tomato Basil Soup and Chicken & Mushroom Pot Pie. My dining companion decided on the Beef Barley Soup and the Pear and Blue Cheese Salad. For dessert, we shared a Strawberry Shortcake.
Both of the soups were hot and flavorful.
The Tomato Basil was mostly smooth with an occasional small tomato chunk. Though cream can be added as an option, I had mine without. This left the soup fresh and summery. The fresh tomato flavor dominated the beginning of each spoonful and the basil cut in about midway through. Each spoonful ended with a harmonious blend of the two. This flavorful, aromatic soup is on my list of favorites.
The Beef Barley was classic, with fresh carrots and tender pieces of lean beef that gave it a melt-away quality.
Instead of being restricted to a pie crust, the Chicken & Mushroom Pot Pie’s filling is placed on top of a light flaky pastry square, with another pastry square on top. This balanced the filling-to-crust ratio and there was no sad empty pie shell left at the end. Instead of a typical starchy sauce base, Fenton makes a chicken velouté sauce. The result is creamy and appetizingly earthy, with help from the mushrooms and Draper Valley chicken, which is used for all the chicken dishes at Oliver’s. This pie is truly supreme.
My dining companion’s salad contained Crater Lake cheese, herbed greens, toasted pecans and a light drizzle of pear balsamic dressing. It was garnished with sweet fresh pear slices. The ingredients complemented one another and made a delicious lunch salad.
The Strawberry Shortcake was unlike any I’ve tried before and much to my liking. The strawberries were perfectly ripe and deliciously sugary, but the shortcake was what set this dessert apart. Made somewhat crisp, similar to a cookie, the shortcake had bits of fresh basil in it. Although the basil wasn’t detectable at the start of each bite, by the finish there was just a hint of it. I imagined this strawberry shortcake experience equivalent to sitting in a strawberry patch eating a bowl of strawberries, with the essence of the surrounding green making its way to my palate.
Menu Highlights Beyond what I tried: The lunch menu includes a Quinoa Tabbouleh side, Warm Meatloaf Sandwich, Chicken Cashew Salad, and Balsamic Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sandwich. I will have to make many returns to satisfy my curiosity for all the dishes that intrigued me.
Other Observations: My first impression was validated by excellence on every level. Oliver’s is a class act where diners are made to feel comfortable and satisfied. Menus are posted by the entry door and online at Oliver’s website. Menus will change according to seasonal best and availability. Reservations are recommended.
Cost: Lunch menu items are $2 to $10. Dinner items start at $4 and top out at $34 with about half in the mid teens.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Brunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Happy Hour 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: 401 N.E. Fourth St., Camas.
On the Web: http://www.oliversatthecamashotel.com.
Health Score: Oliver’s received a score of 13 on June 30. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.