Oceanic Dinner at Oliveto - any reports?
Have to agree with everyone on the tagliarini with geoduck clams. The bitterness from the nettles was perfectly vegetal and the pasta itself was a beautful, bright green. The clams were razor thin and very flavorful. The buttery sauce was not too heavy and full of briny goodness.
We also had the panzerotti of socrpion fish ala livornese. Once our waiter dscribed its preparation, we were done for. We had to have it! These were plump almost wonton-looking pillows stuffed with braised scorpion fish (had a texture like crab) that had been braised in onions, tomatoes, and chili peppers. The chunky tomato sauce was made with the braising liquid. It was SO good. Pastas at Oliveto always shine. I wish I could have tried every pasta.
We shared the fritto misto to start. The kitchen has a deft hand when it comes to frying. Always very light and non-greasy and well-seasoned. I particularly liked the soft shell crab and the creamy cod.
We also had lobster bisque. So rich and thankfully in the small cappucino cup. More than that would have been too heavy. Really nice flavor, not too heavy on the brandy. Really beautiful color. I had to dunk some bread in it! We also had the cioppino - delicious and different than expected. Liked that it was a smallish portion and less soupy. Also had the side of potatoes & leek gratin. Mmmmmm.
This was our second Oceanic Dinner. We'll be back again next year. We love all the theme dinners at Oliveto!
We went on Friday (hence the report request). As always, the special dinners are, well, really special. Can't say enough about the pasta dish with sea robin and dried octopus -- it really is the best dish on the menu and if you ever see a dried octopus dish on a regular night, by all means get it. Now. Loved, loved, loved the black bass with the morels -- one of the best whole fish prepations we've had. The cassouleta was also very good (the seafood sausage is alway is great, plus the breadcrumbs took on a wonderful fishy flavor, that was--to me at least-reminiscent of NOLA dishes). The spelt fettucine with swordfish belly was unbelievably rich and flavorful, yet had no swordfish in sight--I am still amazed by that dish. As always, the cured, salted and marinated seafood was beautiful--the smoked scallops especially. No room for dessert, but we did splurge on the "wines in time" whites--$45 a glass(!!!)--but it was interesting and worth it to try an aged Malvasia and Semillion (both very different, but with similar sherry overtones-didn't work great with the raw platter, but we were more interested in trying the wines than pairing anyway). In any event, I can't say enough about the special Oliveto dinners--and the Oceanic especially--whether you love or hate Oliveto, you need to try one at least once.
Had an incredible dinner Saturday night, in part thanks to these recs... I've been to Oliveto several times before, and experiences ranged from disappointing to very good. None of them came close to the level of last night's dinner.
Unfortunately, they were out of the fritto misto and the black bass with morels. Fortunately, my friends and I had plenty of other choices, and everything was excellent.
Crudo of Wild Striped Bass with Prosecco and Herb gelatina - this was a beautiful dish - 5 pristine slices of bass on a plate covered in prosecco gelatina (dominant herb was tarragon). Acidity came from capers scattered over the entire dish. I will admit that the flavor of the fish was a little lost with all those strong flavors, but I still enjoyed it.
Crostoni of Spicy Monkfish liver - wonderfully sexy flavor. Loved it. Esp after the disappointing monkfish liver I had Friday night at Sea Salt.
Cappucino of Maine Lobster Bisque - I assumed there would be some sort of foam on top - there wasn't, so I'm not sure about the "cappucino" moniker. Well, I think the soup itself was aerated. Anyway, it was a damn good cup of soup. Creamy, intensely flavored, it was lightened by an unexpected touch of mint.
Wild Nettle tagliolini with Geoduck - this is the one I would not have ordered had I not read the reviews above - all my prior geoduck experiences were in Chinese restaurants, where I was served massive slabs of flavorless rubbery clam, and the last time I tried the wild nettle tagliolini at Oliveto (with snails), it was so aggressively seasoned with garlic and salt that I couldn't taste the pasta at all. These geoduck were thinly sliced and very lightly cooked - super sweet and tender and flavorful. The nettle tagliolini were fantastic - they tasted green, like the way I'd imagine purified chorophyll would taste. I'm not usually one for waxing poetic, but this dish tasted like an abstract manifestation of the sea.
Cioppino - we were all surprised by the appearance when it arrived - rather than a big bowl of stew, it was composed of a slick of intensely reduced tomato/wine/fish stock so thick it actually looked like a dark red paste with a wee bit of liquid surrounding it. One intensely garlicky piece of toast soaked in said sauce/broth, a handful of Manila clams, a piece of rockfish, and a pile of sweet, delicious Dungeness crab meat on top.
Cassouletta of Monkfish, Swordfish confit, Shellfish sausage, 'bianca di Spagna' (some sort of dried white bean), and green beans (fresh). The seafood components were excellent (except maybe the swordfish confit - my piece was kind of dry) but I couldn't stop eating the white beans. Super creamy on the inside, without losing any structural integrity on the outside. I was mesmerized. I kept picking at them long after the point of satiety. Or comfort, even.
Puglian-Style Fava Beans - this side dish was the only disappointment - I should have known better than to get any fava bean dish this late in the season, as the ones I bought in the Farmer's Market a few weeks ago were already super-starchy, but I wanted to see what "puglian-style" meant. And I thought maybe Oliveto had a source of favas that would still be edible whole. Anyway, this was a puree made from starchy older beans. It tasted ok, but there were so many other fantastic things to eat, I only had a tiny bit.
I was happy to see a lot of frozen and fruity options on the dessert menu - they were exactly what I was craving after a huge meal with escalatingly intense flavors. I had the bombe of pistachio, saffron, and rose blossom ice creams - not the most intense versions of these flavors I've ever had, but I don't think I could have handled any more intense flavors last night. I especially appreciated the rose blossom flavor, as garlic from the cassoulet was lingering in my mouth and would not be banished with wine or water.
My friends had the caramelized apricots and zabaglione roasted in millefoglie pastry, and the rasberry-moscato gelatina with peaches. Both really tasty.
I'm definitely a convert to the Special Dinners as well... I just need to figure out how to time my reservation better (late enough to take advantage of the early reports from CH, late enough so that popular items don't run out). OR maybe make reservations for both the first AND the last night...
I went last night and had an excellent time.
They are seating both upstairs and down for this event. I was a little perturbed to be seated outside downstairs, but my dining companion had such a spectacularly loud laugh and the weather was so nice, that it was actually a plumb seat.
Our waiter was excellent...one of the better ones I've had at Oliveto. He had a lot less sass and a little more class than the upstairs waiter we had at Whole Hog.
We dined upon:
Grand aioli: Classic Provencal Fish, Shellfish, and Vegetable Platter with Garlic Mayonnaise
This wasn't particularly large, nor was it particularly pretty, as it was presented quite simply on an earthenware platter sans garnish. Most of the items had been very lightly poached. It included two or three enormous scallops, some cod, some salmon, three crawdads, 3 or 4 shell-on shrimp, lots of halved fingerling potatoes, and a few beans. Despite the plain appearance, nearly everything on this plate tasted fantastic. The scallops, salmon, and cod were all especially delicious. The crawdads were more fun to look at than they were to eat, but even they were high quality seafood.
Chilled Octopus soppressata with Castelvetrano Olives, Celery Heart, and Monte Iblei Olive Oil
While this starter was beautiful to look at, with its intricate patterns of white and purple, it didn't do anything especially memorable to our taste buds. Still, it seemed a worthy experiment.
Crostoni of Spicy Monkfish Liver pate with Knoll Farm Arugula
Looking more like a smooth rillette than a pate, this was melted, as it were, directly onto wedges of toasted bread. Despite its electric orange resemblance to melted American cheese, this was a great-tasting appetizer. It was full of both unami and the salty tang of the sea.
Spelt fettucine with Salted and Dried Swordfish Belly
This dish had an earthily salty quality, with thick ribbons of dark tan pasta covered in dried belly flakes. The flavor was interesting if not particularly unique. I liked this plenty, but my friend trumped me with her selection of:
Wild Nettle Tagliolini with Geoduck Clams
This dish was a winner. The dark green pasta provided a great background for the chewy little slices of geoduck. This had flavor in spades and was unlike any other pasta and shellfish combination I've ever tasted.
Cassoulet of Monkfish, Swordfish confit, and Shellfish Sausages
Served in the round casserole in which it had been baked, this entree was enormous, hearty, and delicious. It far exceeded the appetite of my lady friend, who took most of it home. The swordfish and sausage were both particularly tasty.
[Whole] Black Bass Stuffed with Morel Mushrooms and Panchetta cooked in Parchment
Arriving in the baked parchment paper, deftly cut open by a busgirl, this dish was both beautiful and scrumptious to the last bite. I could have eaten two of these; it was that good.
Dessert was a prosecco gelatina for me and soemthing chocolate for her, plus some curiously soft biscotti. None of these were especially memorable, but the coffee was good and we weren't rushed in the slightest, spending near three full hours at our table.
All this matched with a decent bottle of white wine from the suggested pairings and a couple of cocktails came out to about $223 before tip.
I'll definitely be back next year.
We were there on Wednesday and second your praise for the Wild Nettle Tagliolini with Geoduck Clams. By far the best dish we had during the night.
We also enjoyed the Fritto Misto which was perfectly prepared. The fried Anchovies were crunchy and fresh.
The only dish that was a slight disappointment was the Grilled Green Eel. The skin was a little chewy and just not that exciting.
These themed dinners are turning out to be our favorites!
A little off topic, since we were there on Monday night, before the Oceanic Dinners started, but that being said --
As usual, we had a really wonderful dinner. The strozzapreti with sugo di manzo was excellent. I hesitated on ordering this since there was no meat in the sauce, and the waiter described it as just being run through the sauce, not drenched in it. I'm glad that I got it - so rich and filling. Just what I was looking for.
My SO had a pounded beef that was breaded and pan-fried, and then topped with arugula. It was really good, but not out of this world.
The only thing that I didn't like was that the bread that they use on the pate plate is so drenched in olive oil before it was grilled that it overpowers the flavor of the pate.