Oliveto Oceanic 2008
Just got an e-mail with the menu for later this week. Much bigger menu than I expected. I've never been to the Oceanic before and have reservations for Friday. Any advice from past participants on what to get/avoid?
BTW, e-mail said there were some openings for Thurs and early Fri.
Menu--Oliveto Oceanic Dinners 2008
June 11 - 14, 2008
Appetizers and Salads
Gelatina of wild striped bass crudo <Rhode Island, trap> with Prosecco and herbs
Grand aioli: classic Provençal fish, shellfish, and vegetable platter with
Platter of oceanic terrines and preserves: sardines <Monterey Bay, purse seine>, swordfish <Hawaii, long line>, anchovies <San Francisco, purse seine>, sea scallops <Rhode Island, trawl>, halibut <Alaska, long line>, smelt <Fort Bragg, throw net>
Platter of various salted, marinated, and smoked fish: king salmon <Alaska, troll>, skate <Rhode Island, gill net>, tombo <Hawaii, long line>, swordfish <Hawaii, long line>, sea scallops <Massachusetts, trawl>, Sierra mackerel <Alabama, gill net>)
Seaweed salads: red and green limu, red and green tosaka <Japan and Hawaii,
Chilled octopus "soppressata" <Greece, trap> with Castelvetrano olives,
celery heart, and Monte Iblei olive oil
Late spring vegetables tonnato <tuna from Hawaii, long line>)
Green sea urchin flan <Southern California, diver caught> with aged
Crostoni of spicy monkfish liver pâté <Rhode Island, gill net> with Knoll Farm
Charcoal-grilled Chatham haddock <Chatham, Massachusetts, hook & line>
in salmoriglio di Volpaia
Roman-style skate wing <Rhode Island, gill net> in agrodolce
Fritto misto: softshell crab <Chesapeke Bay, trap>, anchovy <Monterey Bay, purse seine>, and wild fennel fritelle
Soup and Pasta
Consommé of northern halibut <Alaska, long line> with white beans, artichokes
and asparagus, bottarga di tonno
Maine lobster bisque <trap>
Hangtown fry omelet crêpe: classic San Francisco gold rush omelet with oysters
<Drake's Bay, farmed> and bacon
Porcini gnocchi with little Tomales Bay mussels <farmed>
Risotto nero alla pilota with cuttlefish <Greece, trap>, zucchini, and pine nuts
Pasticcio di lasagne of Dungeness crab <Half Moon Bay, trap>, ragù di pesce and
Tagliatelle with lobster coral <Maine, trap> and porcini mushrooms
Panzerotti of new potatoes, monkfish liver <Rhode Island, gill net>, and scallions
Corzetti al sugo di pesce and Castelvetrano olives: sand dabs <Half Moon Bay, Scottish seine>, scallops <Massachusetts, trawl>, eels <Rhode Island, trap>, clams <Washington, farmed>)
Mostaccioli with shaved tuna heart <Italy, long line> and zucchini crema
Wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck clams <Washington, farmed>
Grilled, Roasted, Sautéed, and Fried Fish
Cioppino: classic San Francisco fishermen's stew of local rockfish <Fort Bragg, long line>, Manila clams <Washington, farmed>, and Dungeness crab <Half Moon Bay, trap> with garlic crostone
"Cassoulet" of monkfish <Rhode Island, gill net>, swordfish confit <Hawaii, long line), shellfish sausages, and Bianca di Spagna beans
Grilled green eel <Rhode Island, trap> with panelle and salsa Mora
Gratinata of butterfish <Rhode Island, trap>, new potatoes, and artichokes,
Triglia (Red Mullet) <Italy, trawl> wrapped in pancetta with Ceci beans, spinach, and amaranth al diavolo
Tramezzini of sand dabs <Half Moon Bay, Scottish seine> and greens, clam salsa
<Tomales Bay, farmed>
Whole Fish in bella vista
Golden sea bream <Rhode Island, trap> with fonduta Parmigiana and aceto
Wood-oven-roasted petrale sole <Half Moon Bay, Scottish seine> with
Charcoal-grilled Boston mackerel <Rhode Island, trapped> with cherry
tomatoes, Picholine olives, honey vinegar, and pine nuts
Black bass <Rhode Island, trap> stuffed with morel mushrooms
Vegetable side dishes
Puglian Fava beans; Gratin of new potatoes, leeks, and herbs; Garden lettuces
Orange bergamot mint sorbetto with ciambelline glassate cookies
Bombe of pistachio, saffron, and lemon blossom ice creams
Caramelized apricots and zabaglione roasted in millefoglie pastry
Passion fruit soufflé
Raspberry-Prosecco gelatina with sliced peaches
Ball of bittersweet chocolate sorbetto
Chocolate crema fritta
Pine nut-candied Pixie tangerine biscotti
I went last night with the same two friends who accompanied me last year - it was really good. Figure it's still worth to post, since a lot of these dishes will continue to be featured over the next week or so.
Fritto Misto - they ran out of this one early last year, so we were pretty happy to be able to get it this time around. I really enjoyed it - everything was perfectly fried and seasoned.
Wild Nettle Tagliolini with Geoduck - this was our favorite dish from last year, and it was excellent this time around as well. Actually, the night before dinner with my friends, I went alone and had just an order of this dish at the bar in an attempt to stave off cravings for the rest of the year. It was a little off on Friday, but last night, it was in full garlicky, sweet seafood-y glory.
Gnocchi with mussels and Pernod - this was wonderful - ultra-silky, light gnocchi, tiny tender delicious mussels napped in a cream and Pernod sauce.
Mostaccioli with tuna heart and zucchini crema - the house-made tube pasta had the most perfect texture, and I love cured tuna heart, so there was no way I wasn't going to love this dish, but I will say I didn't think the zucchini crema, which tasted predominantly of basil, enhanced the flavor of the tuna heart in any way. They didn't clash, either - they kind of coexisted peacefully - but I wouldn't take this dish over Incanto's simpler spaghettini with tuna heart and egg yolk.
Risotto with cuttlefish and pine nuts - I don't know what kind of rice they used, but it was much less starchy than the usual risotto rice - the texture was closer to pilaf than to risotto. The cuttlefish were tender and sweet, and while I enjoyed the flavor of the pine nuts, I think they somewhat overwhelmed the subtle flavor of the squid ink.
The big disappointment of the night was that for the second year in a row, we were unable to order the black bass stuffed with morels - I think they had just run out before we ordered. Instead, we ordered the petrale sole with artichoke sauce, which was pretty good, but it was a fairly rich, creamy sauce that was almost too much for the delicate fish. I like creamy sauces with halibut and monkfish, but prefer light, minimal saucing for petrale sole.
We split a pannacotta with blackberries and rose petals for dessert - it was good but not remarkable.
The night before, I had also ordered the sea urchin flan, which I enjoyed, but not as much as I would have enjoyed a few pieces of top-quality raw uni, and the shrimp crema fritta with candied kumquats, which tasted much better than one would expect (it was, as one friend put it, "a little Iron Chef-y"), but it didn't convince me that shrimp belong in desserts the way the black truffle did with the apple charlotte during the Truffle Dinner.
Overall, I think I like the Oceanic Dinners the best of the special dinners I've been to
(I also went to Whole Hog and Truffle this year). I've consistently had the best experiences with pasta and seafood dishes in general at Oliveto, even on regular nights (I've been pretty underwhelmed by their salumi and their meat entrees), so it makes sense that the dinner highlighting seafood would be my favorite. Oceanic Dinners is probably the only one where I'll continue to order entrees - for the others, I think I'm going to stick to appetizers and pastas.
I'm glad we went, but I don't think we'll make it an annual affair. Our dinner reservations were at 6:30pm and we were seated promptly upstairs, at a corner table directly behind the railing by the window. Our waiter greeted us promptly and asked for our drink order. That kind of set the tone for the night. We felt rushed most of the evening, like when a restaurant is trying to turn tables as quickly as possible, and then totally ignored as the restaurant got busier.
Our appetizer arrived less than 5 minutes of our placing the order and our pasta course arrived shortly thereafter. In fact, our waiter apologized for the rushed pacing. We then waited over 30 minutes after we'd finished our pasta course for our main course to arrive and almost 20 minutes to order our coffee.
At 6:30pm, the restaurant was more than half full. By 7:30pm, every table was full but a nearby 4-top that sat empty until almost 8:30pm. I don't think they could have squeezed in any more tables in that room. We were surprised by the large number of children we saw eating there last night. There were several families with multiple children who appeared to be elementary-school aged. We heard (but didn't see) a crying baby who wailed (albeit briefly) a couple of times during our dinner.
We were also surprised to see numerous men and women in jeans and wondered whether the dress code was that causal on a regular evening. We saw a family of two teens in shorts and flip-flops. The mother was wearing a tennis skirt and tennis shoes and the father was in khakis and a polo shirt. I can't imagine they were walk-ins, as they were sitting at a prime table and as I mentioned previously, every table appeared to be booked last night. Okay, well on to the food before the mods remove my post for being off-topic. ;-)
Frito misto of soft shell crab, 4 white anchovies and 2 balls of surf fish which tasted similar to mackerel. The menu mentioned fennel fritelle, but we were unable to locate any on our plate. We usually order frito misto if we see it on a menu b/c my non-foodie husband enjoys frito anything. So we've eaten this dish at numerous restaurants. Our favorites remain Pizzaiolo's and Scala Bistro's. We liked the spicy herb mayonnaise, but for $22, we were expecting a bit more.
Wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck clams. There’s not much more I can say about this dish that hasn’t been said already. This was one of our favorite dishes of the evening. We never knew clams could taste so tender and sweet! Loved the clams and enjoyed the light sauce. I didn’t love the pasta, though. I’m not a fan of super thin pastas and prefer more chewy, toothsome pastas, but that’s just a personal preference.
Black bass stuffed with morel mushrooms. The presentation was impressive. The fish was indeed perfectly cooked. The texture was excellent and the portion quite generous. The stuffing was seasoned well, but I think I would have preferred the morels to be rough-chopped, rather than left whole. We were unable to discern any hint of smoke in our dish. I liked this dish, but my husband found it too “plain.”
Charcoal-grilled mackerel with cherry tomatoes, Picholine olives, honey vinegar and pine nuts. My husband loves anchovy, sardines, etc., so he really enjoyed this dish. The cherry tomatoes tasted like Sun Golds and were super sweet. We both enjoyed the smoky taste and the crispy charred pieces of the oily fish skin. I’ve had better tasting olives and neither of us could taste the honey vinegar, but the dish as a whole worked for us and we were glad we had ordered this dish.
Gratin of new potatoes, leeks and herbs. I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my second favorite dish of the evening. I couldn’t stop eating the perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned potatoes. I found it to be a perfect accompaniment to both our fish dishes. I was glad we ordered this dish because after a while, I found our entrees to be a bit monotonous. I found myself wishing we had also ordered the garden lettuce vinaigrette to balance the richness of both fish dishes.
We were too stuffed by this point and nothing jumped out at us, so we passed on ordering dessert.
All in all, I think it was worth attending at least once, to experience Oliveto's many special seafood offerings. I’ve enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at the café, but this was my first time eating upstairs. Our tab for one cocktail, a half bottle of Sancerre, one appetizer, one pasta, two entrees, a side of potatoes and one coffee came to $150 before tax and tip.
We, along with another CH and her husband, attended a special Grand Aioli dinner at Sea Salt last fall out on their back patio. My husband and I both agreed we enjoyed the dinner at Sea Salt much more than our dinner last night at Oliveto, but don’t regret attending the Oceanic Dinner. But we wouldn’t necessarily rush back to eat there.
One final note. When I made our Open Table reservations, I noted in the comments box that we were celebrating our anniversary. I also mentioned it to the woman who called to confirm our dinner reservations. So we were a bit surprised when our waiter said, "Happy Anniversary" when he presented us with our bill, since no mention had been made earlier in the evening.
Thankfully we weren't celebrating our wedding anniversary last night. My husband likes to celebrate the anniversary of our first date and this was our fourth. I think, however, that I would have been disappointed if we were celebrating our wedding anniversary last night. Granted they were swamped, but surely they could have done something to acknowledge a special night out.
Here's the report back. Overall, it was a phenomenal meal. The menu was very similar to the "expected" menu above, with one interesting dessert exception (see below)... we had:
Platter of various salted, marinated, and smoked fish: Pure fishiness, in the best sense. Nothing complex here, just very high quality fish prepared perfectly. Highlights were the swordfish, cured and lightly cold smoked with a smooth, unctuous texture completely unlike the normal "steaky" swordfish texture and the smelt on crostini. Highly recommended (and I wish we'd gotten the terrine platter as well!)
Green sea urchin flan with aged aceto balsamico: Tastes exactly as you might imagine -- nice rich uni texture. Very good but not a standout of the night
Charcoal-grilled Chatham haddock in salmoriglio di Volpaia: Good char, good fish, very good sauce. Again, very good but not a standout
Maine lobster bisque: Outstanding, and great split between 4 people since it is very rich. As someone said in a past year's post "a damn good cup of soup"
Tortei of new potatoes, monkfish liver: Not my favorite but others around the table loved it. I found the texture a little grainy. Flavor was excellent.
Mostaccioli with shaved tuna heart and zucchini crema: This one I liked a lot, while others preferred the tortei. The tuna heart gives a nice saltiness but not much tuna flavor. I loved the zucchini crema -- got to figure out how to do that at home.
Wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck clams: One of two best dishes of the night. If you go, you must order this. Chef Canales was visiting tables (seemed like everyone there knew the guy!), and we asked him how he did the geoduck so perfectly. The answer is shave it thin and almost don't cook it (5 seconds in boiling water to get the skin off, then slice thin, marinate, then toss with the hot pasta). I've never had geoduck like this -- it's the best clam I've ever had (including the ones we used to dig ourselves on Cape Cod). The nettle pasta was the perfect counterpoint. This dish is the essence of the ocean. The perfect Oceanic Dinner dish.
Black bass stuffed with morel mushrooms: Fully boned, except for head and tail, but yet perfectly intact and "whole-looking" -- how do they do that? The creamy, mushroomy stuffing meshes perfectly with the bass. The wood-oven roasting gives the hint of smoke. Another perfect dish -- and the other of the two absolute standouts.
Caramelized apricots and zabaglione roasted in millefoglie pastry: Very good, everyone except me preferred this dessert. The almond zabaglione was incredible. I thought the apricots and pastry were good but nothing special.
Georgia white shrimp fritti with kumquats: this was not on the menu above. I love the idea -- how often do you get a shrimp dessert? It was great -- the fritter wasn't too sweet, but was light and airy with a hint of the ocean. It would have been great with an aioli as an app. But it also fit perfectly with the sweet kumquat syrup. I loved this for its originality and the execution was perfect.
All in all, a fantastic meal.
Thank you so much for the detailed report, jmarek! We have reservations tonight, so I really appreciated reading your detailed report. It helped me rule out some dishes I'd been considering (i.e., sea urchin and grilled haddock).
Based on your recs, as well as the detailed reports from last year's dinner, I've now got the frito mist app, wild nettle pasta, and the black bass on my "short list." Unfortunately, it's only my DH and myself at dinner tonight and since I'm a fairly light eater (my eyes are always bigger than my stomach), we rarely order two entrees when we go out to eat.
So we'll probably order another appetizer in addition to the frito misto, pasta and fish and maybe a dessert. Alternatively, we'll order another entree with the fish and take a bunch of food home. The char-grilled mackeral with honey vinegar, the seabream with parmigiana fondu and cassoulet all looked quite tempting on the menu.
Did you see anything else at a neighboring table that you wish you had ordered? Thanks again for the detailed report!