Last night I took a friend to OLA on the recommendation of a Chowhounder. Truthfully, all the talk of Atkins-friendly dishes, Splenda deserts, and mixed-reviews were giving me second thoughts, but being a Douglas Rodriguez fan, we went.
For appetizers we had a rainbow ceviche (salmon, tuna, and scallops, I think) which was good, but not as excellent as ceviche sometimes can be like the skate at Chicama. Also we shared the clam empanadas served over thin-sliced chorizo which was good, too--nothing spectacular. They serve at the table an unusual tasty assortment of olives. My friend had a Cuban Mojito to drink, and the smell alone of the mint, sugar and lime across the table was appetizing.
The entrees were better than the starters (my experience is usually the opposite). I had the beef tenderloin in churrasco (basil?) that was great, and was served with a tasty crab salad and chickpea-sized queso fritos (fried battered cheese). The frito changed in taste and texture as they cooled, both extremes enjoyable. My friend had a roasted lobster half stuffed with lobster, shrimp and other shellfish. It was topped with a citrus slaw that complimented the meat well. On the side was a black rice dish that was the some of the best rice Ive ever had. It was prepared with squid ink, and garnished with mini-squids. Very briny and evocative of the ocean.
For desert we had a guava goat-cheesecake and Alameda Flan. The guava perfectly balanced out the tartness of the goat cheese in the cake. It was served with a refreshing ice cream and plums soaked in Grand Marnier (reminiscent of the mission figs served with sorbet at Otto, but more aromatic). The flan was very flavorful--lime and other elements rounding-out the normally overpowering richness of flan.
The meal had none of the surprising juxtapositions and culinary fireworks of Patria or Chicama, but the dishes worked better and there was more on the menu that appealed to me. In short, Rodriguez has learned balance with his ingredients, and this lets his creations shine. Its his best restaurant--though the decor or dishes might not be as flashy.
Unfortunately the service, as others have noticed, is indifferent. It is a notch below the welcoming, eager to explain, waitstaff at Chicama. But, it is leagues better than Patria, whose staff I always found rude and almost-belligerent (the main reason I stopped going there).
Overall a very nice experience, though expensive. Good for a special occasion.