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Unimpressed by Oleana

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Unimpressed by Oleana

Luther | May 7, 2006 09:58 AM

Waited about an hour to get seated on Oleana's patio on a Friday night. Not bad, I'd say.

Service was certainly the weakest point of the night. Our waitress (unlike the other waitstaff, it seemed) was somehow simultaneously too-serious and giggly. Also, she kept winking at me as I ordered. It was unpleasant.

On to the food:

The pret-a-manger items (although they took about 15 minutes to get to our table after ordering) were, by far, the best things we ate.

* Spicy Carrot Puree was accidentally delivered to our table, but I'm glad they screwed up and brought it to us. It was not actually spicy, but was brilliantly spiced and warm-tasting. I would never have imagined that mushy carrots could taste this good.

* Whipped Feta had a nice spiciness and good roasted red pepper flavor. Not particularly complex, but how can you go wrong with spicy red pepper feta?

* Warm Buttered Hoomoos was brilliant, with spices that you wouldn't traditionally find in hoomoos, but really worked. Butter, spice, chickpea, olive, tomato and beef flavors really popped in this one.

* Armenian Bean and Walnut Pate was the weakest of these items, with a strong beany flavor going unchallenged, but it was still pretty nice. I wished there were more Armenian cheese on the plate- it was a little nest of thin cheese strings, and a pile of black sesame seeds.

The bread that came with these items was a mix of grocery store-quality baguette and slightly stale zahtar-and-olive-oil flatbread. We were 5 diners but only got a tiny basket of bread for all the dips, and had to request more. I didn't really worry that much, because the dips were so good.

Appetizers:

* Ricotta and Bread Dumplings: These perplexed me. After enjoying a subtle, exotic Mideastern seasoning on all of the small plates, this item stuck out like a sore thumb. It was straight-up red sauce Italian-American. Slightly too-chewy dumplings with nice dairy flavor, a tangy marinara, mushrooms, onions, and grated cheese on top. I would love this at any red sauce type place, but it was inappropriate on this menu.

* Lamb Kebab: Sikh kebab-type log made of chopped meat. It was nicely spiced but too chewy and difficult to cut. The strained yogurt was far too salty, especially combined with the achar-esque tomato condiment.

Mains: these came out rather slowly and had obviously been sitting for too long.

* Pork Chop: I was looking forward to this because of the Manchego cheese, which I thought would be a great combination. I guess I missed the "melted" part on the menu- I was imagining something solid. Unfortunately, not only had the cheese been melted, but it had then entirely congealed, leaving a pasty, greasy layer of cheese on top of the chop. The chop itself was a solid medium-well, a little overdone. There were a few bone fragments on the bottom of the chop. The sauce was too heavily vinegared, enhancing the clumbsy, greasy flavor of the congealed cheese. One redeeming part: FRIED FIDDLEHEADS! These were perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Kind of like a perfect tempura vegetable. They should offer a big basket of these as an appetizer.

* Salmon: This was OK, with some baby leeks that were too fibrous. A timbal of rice and crisped vermicelli was buttery and delicious, but had a few dry bits on it that stuck in my teeth.

* Trout Spanikopita: I didn't think this would work, but it came out surprisingly well. A single, thin layer of filo envelops a flaky piece of trout, wrapped around a standard spanikopita filling. The filo was a little dry on the teeth and the fish was a little chewy, but the flavors were definitely there. The "avocado taramasalata" that comes with this was a flop. I can't believe they keep this on the menu. It is a large disc of cheap guacamole (thinned waaaay out with sour cream, not much avocado flavor) with several dessicated salmon eggs on top. This was too salty and entirely unnecessary with the fish.

* Lamb Steak: Properly cooked, with a good spiciness. I did get a piece of gristle in the bite I tried. Eggplant and fava moussaka had a very pleasant texture- the eggplant wasn't too chewy, but it wasn't mushy.

Desserts:

* Roasted Cinnamon Ice Cream with Sticky Toffee Pudding: The ice cream had a muted flavor, not the powerful cinnamon I was expecting (like, say, Tosci's cinnamon). Toffee pudding was quite good, but the apple compote on the plate had a leathery, dry texture.

* Baked Alaska: The coconut ice cream in this had a deep flavor, but was ICY! For all the whoop-dee-doo about the pastry chef's special ice creams, this was unbelievable: the ice cream tasted like it had been frozen too slowly, and stored improperly. Also, it was still too cold when served, making it very difficult to get a spoonful. Passionfruit sauce was too sweet, like a corn syrupy fruit drink. The coconut pastry at the bottom of the Alaska was good, but the kitchen had forgotten to remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the disc of cake. Ugh.

The check was delivered and payment taken much too quickly after finishing dessert. About 15 minutes passed after the credit card was taken, and we had to go find out waitress, who had entirely forgotten about getting the card back to us. She located it and made some dumb joke about why she had forgotten it, then quickly walked off. No "sorry," no "thank you and good night." Unpleasant.

My advice: Go sit at the bar, or if you can wait, sit on the patio, and get 2 or 3 pret-a-manger items per person.

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