Overview of Restaurant and concept: Ovinte is a newer addition to the restaurant scene in Jax. Opened December of last year, the trendy lounge and tapas joint is currently the only large indpendent restaurant in the St Johns Town Center. Walking into the restaurant I instantly thought wow this is the sort of spot I’d want to take friends to hang out relax and have drinks. Ovinte has a very hip and energetic feel to the place with nice comfy sectionals in half the room and tables each lit with a candle on the other side of the room. They do a nice job of offering something for those who want to just drink and hang out without making the restaurant feel like the red headed step child. Out back they have a very nice large patio with huge heaters so it still may be enjoyed in the winter months. Overall it’s a really nice space and a great vibe. Everything on the menu is tapas and small plates. No one plate is going to be an entire meal unless you have a very small appetite. Get a few and share around the table. They have a fantastic variety of food and there’s something for all tastes.
St. Johns Town Center
10208 Buckhead Branch Drive,
Jacksonville, Florida 32246
Food: We started off with a nice cheese plate with 3 cheeses($15). Aztec Cheddar (Flat Creek Lodge Georgia)- A traditional cheddar cheese layered with chocolate and chili flavors. This one was good. It had a medium cheddar taste and a nice blend of flavors. You didn’t distinctly taste the chocolate and chili flavors but they were a nice mild addition to the base cheddar. 5-year Gouda (Netherlands)- Cows milk, Salty sweet caramel, with a hint of Butterscotch. This one I didn’t really enjoy. I normally prefer pretty strong cheeses but this was just too overwhelming. It reminded me of cheese that’s been left out too long. Hard, funky smell, funky taste. One of my favorite things to do when I order a cheese plate is allow the waitress to pick a couple. So we chose the first two cheeses and allowed the waitress to pick the 3rd. A great waitress usually knows which cheeses people tend to enjoy most. She chose the Bellatoir (Belletoile,France)- Cows milk, buttery, rich, triple cream. This one was by far our favorite. It was essentially a type of Brie and it was mind blowing. It was very soft with a great rich full flavor. Don’t miss this one if you order the cheese plate! I think I’d stop in and order a cheese plate to go just to get this one again! The cheese plate included a generous portion of grapes, some nuts, a strawberry sauce ,local honeycomb and of course crostini’s. These greatly amplified our enjoyment of the cheeses.
The waitress recommended we try the Pumpkin Raviolo($6). This is a seasonal item. A huge Raviolo filled with pumpkin puree and Spanish goat cheese topped with brown butter cream sauce and fried sage. This was the highlight of the meal. A perfect blend of buttery and sweet with a great fall flavor. It was fairly rich and pretty amazing! I’ve never been a huge ravioli fan. This is one I wouldn’t want to miss. Next we tried another seasonal item Butternut squash risotto($12). A blend of butternut squash and wild mushroom flavors topped with parmigiano and fresh herbs this dish was great. The wild mushrooms nicely accented the butternut squash and parmigiano was the right cheese for the dish. The lowlight of the meal was the sautéed Calimari($9) made with house tomato sauce, garlic, kalamata olives, Piquillo peppers, and fresh herbs. I had sautéed calamari for the first time recently at Taverna which I fell madly in love with so I was really excited when I saw it on the menu at Ovinte. It fell far below my expectations. It was chewy, a bit fishy and almost tasted like squid and tomato soup in a way. I was disappointed. The final course of our feast before desert was the Filet Mignon($20). The Filet is Certified Angus beef over Yukon gold whipped potatoes, rapini and surrounded by a garlic cream sauce and a bit of red wine-veal reduction. It looked to be about 4 ounces of steak. The temperature of the steak was perfect. It was a good solid steak. It was enjoyable and pretty much what you’d expect. The whipped potatoes were good and a bit thicker than what I’d normally expect from whipped potatoes. The garlic cream sauce was really good. It added the taste of the steak and the potatoes both. For desert was tried 3 of the seasonal gelato/sorbet flavors Blood Orange Tahitian Vanilla and Salted Caramel. I think I’ve tried blood orange sorbet twice before and this topped my prior experiences with it. Great strong flavor. Excellent! Tahitian Vanilla was good although maybe too close to what I expect from a typical Vanilla. When I order a specialty vanilla I expect a richer or more unique flavor. Salted Caramel was to die for!!! WOW! It was indulgent, rich, flavorful. I was so full by this point but had to keep eating it until I was almost sick. We finished the meal with French Press coffee.
Service: When we walked in we were greeted and given the option of sitting inside or outside. We opted for outside since it was a nice night. The patio area was really nice, comfy and clean. There are both booths and tables on the patio How often do you see a patio area with booths? They’ve done a nice job adding little touches like this to make the place nice. Our waitress was outstanding. I always worry when I sit outside at a restaurant. Sometimes you become an afterthought. We definitely never felt that way here. Our waitress came to see us just the right amount. Not too often that she was annoying but frequently enough that we never had to want for anything. What I appreciated most about her was that she really knew the menu. Every single thing she suggested that we tried was awesome. We should have told her our general preferences and then let her do the ordering. You could tell that she understood the dishes and she could describe them well enough to add to the experience. That’s the kind of treatment you expect at a local independent restaurant. At the end of the meal the waitress asked if we enjoyed everything. I always answer this question honestly. I shared that we really enjoyed everything but the calamari and described why I disliked it. She promptly offered to check with a manager and have it removed from the bill. It was removed when the bill arrived.
Value for money: The Pricing seemed really fair. It felt like we ordered half the menu including Filet Mignon. We ordered two glasses of wine, 3 different kinds of gelato and French press coffee at the end. All told we spent around $85 plus tip. For an upscale tapas place I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for and independent restaurant.
- Nice atmosphere
- Great seasonal items.
- Fair pricing for an upscale tapas spot.
- Good location.
- Great knowledgeable service!
- Locally owned independent restaurant
- Skip the sautéed calamari and the 5-year gouda cheese