Polenta Dinner at Oliveto?
We had too much food as well, but it was wonderful:
- Terina with sardines and buttersquash (great combination - highlight of the night for me)
- Polenta Crostini with various toppings (rich, but not too much food)
- Red Flint Polenta
- Spit-roasted lamb with pomengrate (great sauce for the polenta)
- Monkfish and salt-cured octopus (again, wonderful sauce)
- pumpkin and polenta fritters (okay -- a little soggy)
This was my first dinner at Oliveto and I really enjoyed it. The highlight was the oxtails braised with pinenuts, celery and chocolate. I adore oxtails and these were cooked just right; the rich sauce was lovely with the polenta. The chocolate lent a nice, bitter note.
I tried all three polentas and it was easily the best polenta I've ever had. I had trouble deciding if I preferred the toothsome, thick and satisfying Red Flint or the light, smooth and buttery Dent Corn. I liked the polenta mixed with farro, greens and porcinis on its own, but felt that the flavors were too strong to mix with the accompaniments. We finished all of our polenta.
Thanks to Barb and the Dive for the warning on the fritters. The ricotta cornmeal tart was a hit.
The service was excellent. I'm accustomed to being condescended to at high end restaurants, because the Mrs. and I are a generation (or two!) younger than all the other diners and we never order wine. But our server was warm, friendly and very helpful in guiding us through the menu. Definitely not the stuffy, pretentious service I've read about.
I was a bit surprised to learn that they use Niman Ranch pork. I expected something from a small farm, or Heritage Foods. I mean, Niman is acceptable, but I've never been fond of the flavor of their pork and at a restaurant so devoted to stellar ingredients I expect more. If they're using Niman at Whole Hog I'm not interested.
My only real quibble was that the woman next to us was literally drenched in perfume which interfered with my sensory perception. She was clearly a regular and I'm always baffled by "foodies" who kill their sense of smell with chemicals before dropping a bill a head on food and wine. Regardless, the restaurant is hardly to blame (though I'd love to see some visionary impose a no scents policy) and that's probably a topic for another board.
Oh, and they need some better beer on tap. Sierra Nevada? Really? I know, they care about the wine, but still. At least they're not serving Bud like Boulevard.
Total price came to $100 before tip (also had gnocchi, lamb, and cookies; the perfect amount of food) which I found very reasonable for the experience. At this price point I'll be dining at Dopo and Pizzaiolo ten times for every one meal at Oliveto, but I will definitely return for their special dinners a few times a year.
re: Morton the Mousse
re: Morton the Mousse
>" If they're using Niman at Whole Hog I'm not interested."
This seems to be taking the farm-to-table thing a bit too far.
I seriously doubt if pig balls from one brand of hog are going to taste
remarkably different from another. It's all in the preparation. And
they prepare them very well.
re: Chuckles the Clone
I'm not sure about testicles, but different breeds of hogs definitely have very different flavor. Modern factory-farm hogs bred for leanless not only have less flavor but have lost the characteristics required to thrive in a natural environment.
re: Chuckles the Clone
I think Niman Ranch is a great company, I've just never been impressed by the flavor of their pork.
Offal can taste very different from one pig to another. I had two version of wood fire oven pork belly at Pizzaiolo. The first was with Red Wattle pork from Heritage, the second was Niman. The preparation was identical. The Red Wattle was superior in every way. It blew my mind whereas the Niman belly just left me craving Heritage.
I've had good processed versions of Niman pork - cures, pates, salamis, etc. But for preparations that really emphasize the pork flavor, like a chop, loin or braised shoulder, I'm always bored with the flavor of Niman. I've had mind blowing chops, loins and braises of Heritage, Kurobuta and Laughing Stock pork.
I'm sure the chefs at Oliveto do good things with it, and I'm also sure that Niman supplies pork of a wide range of quality (they're probably not using the same pig for Chipotle and Whole Hog.) But after multiple ho-hum experiences with Niman pork, I tend to not order it, and I'd be reluctant to go to an expensive dinner celebrating it.
FWIW, Heritage definitely supplies whole pigs. It may be a quantity or price issue.
Morton- so glad you enjoyed Oliveto!
You can eat quite reasonably at the counter upstairs if you forgo the wine, sharing pastas and firsts. They have a wonderful "bartender" who will wait on you and the cost need not be prohibitive! Explore a little. You'll be glad you did!
By the way, Wednesday night we noticed the average age to be fairly young; we thought perhaps, late 20's/early 30's.
We went late last night on impulse since they held over the polenta menu. Unfortunately they were out of the braised artichoikes and ran out of the coda alla vaccinara (Roman-style oxtails) just after we ordered.
We ordered some light antipasti given the heavy entrees.
Terrina of Monterey Bay Sardines, ‘Butternut’ Squash, Sage, and Garlic 13.50: apparently a regular item when butternut squash is in season, very nice, unusual earthy-fishy-sweet.
Crostone of Chatham Haddock brandade with Wild Arugula 14.00: great brandade, nice smoky flavor from the wood-grilled toast, really excellent combination
Charcoal-Grilled spiedini of Paine Farm Pigeon with Red Wine Giblet Sauce 28.00: I was amazed at the smoky, crispy skin until my wife pointed out that it had been wrapped in bacon. Just wonderful, as usual--I've learned to order anything from Paine Farm. The giblet sauce was reminiscent of the sauce made from little game birds that's the classic accompaniment for polenta around Bergamo.
Scaloppine of Sika Venison with Tip Top Farm ‘French Prune’ Plum mostarda 32.00: ordered this beause the pork scallopine at the Whole Hog dinner was one of the best things I've had in the past year or two. Usually I don't like meat with fruit but this was great, only slightly sweet.
Braised Greens 4.25: a mix of chard and beet greens. Nice to have that in a restaurant, I don't think most people here have any idea how tasty beet greens are.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Braised with Lemon and ‘Castelvetrano’ Olives 4.75: nice salty-tart foil for the rich entrees.
Too full for dessert.