Winter is coming: A dramatic shift in the cuisine at The Wobbly Olive

As The Wobbly Olive expands their brand with a second location in Old Colorado City, set to open in mid-February of 2018, the winter menu debuts from Supansa Banker, corporate executive chef at The Wobbly and The Collective: A Social House. The new direction showcases an undeniable uptick in the level of intentionality, execution and progression in the cuisine that supports the already notable craft cocktail program.

“What she brings to the table is, not only her background, she’s an amazing cook who can make anything,” says Sean Fitzgerald, co-owner of The Wobbly Olive, Sakura Speakeasy and The Collective. “She legitimately cares about everyone she works with. She listens and she wants to learn from everybody. Her ability to empathize with her staff is pretty amazing. She’s the most sound chef we’ve ever had.”

Banker now resides over The Collective and both Wobbly Olive properties after an extensive stint on the Westside at 2South Food + Wine Bar, which closed in October, shortly after her departure. But Banker appears more than capable and is outspokenly eager to please consumers in all areas of Colorado Springs.

The Wobbly Olive understands that there are unique challenges on the Eastside and purposefully implements broad strokes to attract a diverse range of clientele.

“We’re really blessed to have this kind of smorgasbord of demographics that keeps us on our toes,” says Fitzgerald. He even credits their strong military presence, primarily U.S. Air Force personnel, with helping their businesses establish quality control and consistency.

With the Eastside location next door to a movie theatre there are more “get in and get out” options that allow patrons to dine quickly whereas the Westside spot serves as a forum where “we’re going to play with some really creative ideas,” says Fitzgerald with a grin.

The majority of the menu is cohesive, regardless of which Wobbly, but small sections dedicate select dishes to their respective side of town. Guests can expect more updates to also coincide with the Westside opening and as springtime approaches.

Signature items like the chicken and waffles, poutine and calamari (the sauce takes a traditional turn to marinara from Thai sweet-chili) thankfully stay put, but the remainder of the menu undergoes dramatic alterations with a subtle nod to Banker’s Asian roots.

“Everything she demands is fantastic,” says Fitzgerald on Banker’s decisive direction on food and sourcing choices. “Giving her the reigns to say this is what I want and this is what I will have, is really fun.”

The dining experience begins with bowls of truffle butter popcorn, with the idea “to give something to every guest before we ask anything of them,” says Fitzgerald. The same sentiment echoes at their Sakura Speakeasy, where patrons receive a complimentary cocktail immediately upon arrival.

Appetizers like the popular tartare return under a new guise with a Thai influence, a brilliant concept that replaces the typical egg yolk with coconut milk. The pate yields a satiating, round mouthfeel where an intangible sweetness lingers with cilantro and lemongrass to pair with crisp, oblong potato chips on top of a pink, Himalayan salt block.

A marriage of tapas and bar food comes together on an undulating plate with large, buffalo-style, fried shrimp and a carrot and celery blue cheese salad.

A banana tree creates an exciting presentation as house-made, smoked lamb sausage (proteins are subject to change) suspends above pickled vegetables, crusty bread, whiskey mustard and a tomato relish.

Seemingly simple additions provide necessary, cold weather comfort foods, like the baked potato soup, or sizable 12-ounce, bone-in, cider braised pork chop with battered onion curls and apple cranberry chutney on top of wild rice and al dente, sautéed green beans.

The lobster fettuccine features supple, homemade noodles with hunks of fresh shellfish and slices of andouille sausage in a creamy, Creole sauce with roasted, baby heirloom tomatoes.

The tamarind pork belly shines with a bourbon glaze as it stretches across the plate, like a small tenderloin cut, with green papaya slaw and a small mound of coconut, almond rice.

All the entrees are noticeably generous portions of protein and with price points that average in the mid-to-high teens. Even amidst a string of surrounding chain restaurants on Powers Boulevard, The Wobbly maintains a competitive edge as they couple sustenance with affordability.

“Just because I could get it, doesn’t mean I should get it,” says Fitzgerald frankly.

An interactive experience takes shape in the form of table-side dining with the Ishiyaki tenderloin, inspired by stories of Japanese fisherman who cook their first catch of the day on hot stones. One plate holds the thinly sliced raw product while another carries the square, mineral surface where guests bring the cocoa, cumin and chili seasoned steak to a temperature of their preference. Roasted mushrooms, rosemary potato frites and an oversized dollop of herb-laden, bone marrow butter rests beside the cooking stone. We spread ample amounts of the paleo-centric condiment onto the layers of red meat, watchful as it slowly dissolves.

Dessert continues to delight multiple senses as our eyes are drawn to the bar cart that carries the ingredients for Rudesheimer kaffe, a boozy, German coffee. Fitzgerald sets fire to Asbach Uralt brandy and sugar cubes that morph into a hypnotizing blue blaze. A piece of Banker’s chocolate chip and pistachio biscotti sits alongside the adult beverage with a dainty, gold-gilded spoon that swirls the organic cocoa powder and cloud of whipped cream together. We dip the Italian cookies and notice how they absorb the hot liquid while maintaining perfect texture, failing to break apart before we take our first bite.

The table enjoys an apple and cranberry patisserie made from philo-dough that swims in a rich, vanilla sauce. The flakey, biscuit texture of the crust gives off a savory, buttery quality that balances the viscosity of the dense fruit mixture inside.

As winter ushers in, so does a new chapter at The Wobbly Olive and exhibits what they can offer the whole of Colorado Springs in terms of service, cocktails and cuisine. Banker freely flexes her culinary muscles in these venues with a hungry and supportive following that yearns for her style of democratic leadership.

“She asks the entire staff to elevate,” says Fitzgerald. “Not just in their cooking, she’s making them better people.”