Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oleana

This will come as no surprise, but to acknowledge the obvious, I dine out a lot. I realize what probably seems like all the time - between blog events and family celebrations, date nights and girls nights, and can't forget summer lunches, there is never a shortage of restaurants deserving praise. (I swear though, I don't go out every night!) A good portion of summer evenings have me confined to my couch engaged in this seasons horror show that is The Bachelorette or the highlight of summer television, So You Think You Can Dance. However, this past Wednesday evening I finally got to experience dinner at a restaurant I have long lusted over. Certain restaurants in Boston and Cambridge, be them old or new, generate high praise thus striking a burning desire to visit (looking at you Coppa, Bergamot and Mistral just to name a few.) They give constant inspiration and remain a huge motivational factor behind this blog; tonight's dinner at Oleana was no exception. Opened in 2001 by Chef Ana Sortun, this neighborhood treasure situated between Inman and Central Squares in Cambridge serves exceptionally innovative and inspired Mediterranean cuisine with strong Arabic and Turkish influences. Oleana is home to an award winning patio, embodying a truly unique caliber of outdoor dining space. A plush herb garden surrounds inlaid brick, lights are strung overhead from a fig tree and a fountain bubbles in the background. Cozy nooks are created under a trellis accented by large clay pots blossoming with pink and purple flowers.Patrons line up prior to opening at 5:30 pm (even on a Wednesday) to ensure they score a seat in this Near Eastern inspired Zen-garden. If pictures are doing no justice, take my word for it, it's a pretty magical place to enjoy a summer evening meal. Oleana has an extensive wine and beer list, but the small and elegantly simple cocktail menu beckoned. I chose the The Sortini ($10) a balanced creamy yet light combination of unfiltered sake, rose and lychee. We began the meal with a bread bowl and some meze. Starting in the top right corner and moving clockwise: Deviled Eggs ($6) with tuna and black olives, Warm Buttered Hummus ($5) with basturma and tomato and Whipped Feta ($5) with sweet and hot pepper. I don't know about you, but I typically eat hummus cold, so the warm dip took on a unique quality which was nicely accented by the thinly sliced basturma (cured meat.) The whipped feta with a bold kick from the peppers was plain addicting. I adore deviled eggs, these were an exotic take on a classic. A bottle of German Riesling Leitz Eins Zwei Dry was ordered for the table to accompany the next round of meze. This dry Riesling is something of an experiment by the winemaker. What is typically known as sweet white wine, the fruity definitions are not lost while the dry counterpart creates an approachable and full bodied texture. A visually stunning presentation of the quintessential Mediterranean delight - a perfectly prepared ball of Spinach Falafel ($12) comes with beet tztaki spread over a rectangular pita slice and topped with a spoonful of creamy yogurt. The crinkle cress and the single pickle add to the attractiveness of the plate while offering complimentary bites of flavor. This dish was a major highlight of the evenings repertoire. Next, we shared a tasty flatbread with grilled peaches and haloumi cheese cubes. The sweet tender peaches and the springy haloumi (a sheeps milk cheese from Cyprus) were an intriguing pair that offered contrasting textures a top a paper thin, just barely crisped crust. The Fried Mussels ($12) were exceptional. Perfectly plump and crispy morsels are flanked by hot green peppers and drizzled in a cool Turkish Tarator which is a light yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill sauce traditionally accompanying fried seafoods. The Deconstructed Potato Salad special could also be taken for a loose interpretation of a Nicoise salad with its seared tuna and delicate soft boiled eggs. Along with potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, I thoroughly enjoyed this mash up of simple well prepared ingredients. I didn't care for the Spicy Artichoke and Grilled Shrimp Crostini. This special sounded good in theory but flavors and textures didn't mesh well or warrant return bites. A sight to behold were the Ricotta Loukoumades ($12) with thin slices of roasted beets and prosciutto. These fritters tasted just as beautiful as they looked plated over a striking beet puree. A sweet sparkling Elio Perrone Bigaro Rosato kicked off the dessert courses. Stuffed as we were, sampling the dessert menu was just as imperative as the meze; especially with executive pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick at the helm. In order of my least to most favorite, (deciding to save the best for last) the Sicilian Almond Cremolata & Warm Chocolate Panino ($12) didn't particularly excite me. Perhaps that is because it had some seriously stiff competition. If you were in the mood for an icey treat - cemolata with texture similar to that of a sherbet would most likely appease, the warm chocolate panino dusted in powdered sugar added a touch of whimsy. The pastry chef is known for her way with frozen concoctions and the appearance of such is prevalent in each dessert we ordered. The Chocolate Hazelnut Délice ($12) paired a hazelnut cocoa nib tartlet with hazelnut praline ice cream for a rich nutty treat. I was enamored with the Native Strawberry Floating Island ($13) with moscato strawberry crisp and lime leaf ice cream. The meringue based substance embodied a texture so light any airy it dissolved almost instantly on your tongue. It was brilliantly suspended in a strawberry liquid with some fresh strawberry granita on top. If you can only choose but one dessert the Baked Alaska ($14) has got to be it. It manages many feats of versatility by being both creamy and crunchy, tart and sweet and hot and cold. Coconut ice cream is scooped over a bed of chewy macaroon cake, covered generously with meringue and then baked at a high temperature just long enough for the meringue to firm. It effectively insulates the ice cream which is not only a magical feat in process but in taste and texture as well. The silky passion fruit caramel sauce takes it over the top with its bold tropical flavors. I'd strongly encourage you save room. While this is truly the dessert that dreams are made of, the same can be said for the experience in its entirety. The enchanting patio space for starters is matched by absolutely flawless service. Our waiter was both charming and knowledgeable while the manager played an active roll in engaging with patrons as well. Behind them a highly skilled kitchen with a knack for creativity producing dishes as inventive and exotically flavored as they come, Oleana ranks up there as one of my favorite dining experiences in the city.

134 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Oleana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17 comments:

  1. Great recap! I loved this dinner and the company :)

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  2. Can we go back for mussels and baked Alaska? What an amazing dinner! I love how you got so many great pictures of the patio too.

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  3. I have made no secret of my love for Oleana. You guys tried so many great things! They seriously are unparalleled when it comes to presentation. Everything is visually stunning. I have to try the peach and haloumi mezze before it goes away!

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  4. The baked Alaska looks PHENOMENAL! I'm sorry to have missed this fantastic meal!

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  5. Yay Oleana! Sorry I missed this dinner. Let's all definitely go back together for that baked alaska!

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  6. That outdoor seating looks lovely! And the food...OMG!

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  7. In total agreement about the amazingness of So You Think You Can Dance AND Oleana. I had one of my favorite meals of all time here. Everything was just so tasty and perfect.

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  8. Wow. The mussels look amazing! I would wash them down with the entire bottle of reisling. I need to get to Oleana!

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  9. How do you fit this all in your belly - you a champ! I love this place, reat variety it seems.

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  10. Did you really eat all those desserts? I am amazed at all those beautiful foods! How about the color of the beet puree? Truly a dining experience to wait in line for! Great recap! I def. want to go to Oleana!

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  11. the fried mussels look delicious! I had steamed mussels last night at dinner...so good. hope you had a wonderful 4th!!

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  12. the outdoor seating area looks divine as does the food. As for So You Think You Can Dance, I feel like its lost some of its pizazz....your feelings?

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  13. this is a place I would love to try!

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  14. Seriously the feta, mussels and baked Alaska call to me every time I walk past Oleana (which is frequently). This was such a fun dinner!

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  15. Z and I have been dying to go to this place - it's practically up the street from us!

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  16. Do you watch Top Chef? I had kind of heard about Oleana soon after moving here, but Ana Sortun was on Top Chef Masters and after seeing her and how she works in the kitchen I'm really interested in trying her food! It looks great - very elegant presentations.

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