Oliveto is doing their annual seafood focused dinners and this week the menu is focused on our California Coast. We got a taste of a majority of the menu and were impressed with the new chef. Of the starters, the standout was the sea urchin panna cotta. The urchin flavor was not diluted by the creamy preparation, it carried a deep, almost smoky note. The halibut crudo was served like a tartare, well seasoned with pine nuts balancing the smooth halibut.
In the past, the pasta course has been the favorite part of our meal. This time I felt the secondi proved even better than the (still very good) pasta. Sand dabs usually leave me with the feeling of light and nice, but not quite substantial enough. These were stuffed with fregula and were as satisfying as a meat dish, with the savory fregula adding a lot of body and texture. My favorite was the sole with a spumante sauce that was flavorful delicate and matched well with the excellent piece of steamed fish.
The style of the food is a bit less bold than before, no unusual preparations -- more refined, though every bit as delicious. The service was professional, and gracious, making us feel they wanted to take very good care of us - and they succeeded.
5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618