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Jun 23, 2008 05:47 PM

Disappointment at Oleana

This past weekend my parents were in town and since they are vegetarian I thought we would go to Oleana. We arrived right at 7:30pm for our reservations on Sunday evening. When we were seated our waitress was nice enough to explain all of the vegetarian options to us however, that was the end of her niceness.

We tried three Prêt a Manger to start. The Warm Olives with Za'atar were elegant and a nice starter. The Whipped Feta with Sweet & Hot Peppers was creamy and rich and had a nice flavor and spice to it. We also tried the Warm Buttered Hummus with Basturma & Tomato. We waited quite some time for two appetizers after our prêt a manger had been cleared out. The Rabbit Schawarma with Green Garlic Sauce, Tahini Brown Butter & Pickled Green Almonds was a wonderful dish with perfectly complementary flavors throughout. The sauce was rich and added a nice tanginess to the rabbit. We also tried the Fava Bean Pate, Soft Boiled Egg & Wilted Spinach with Fried Almonds & Za'atar. This dish wasn’t a hit.

We waited about 10 minutes after our appetizers for the entrées and the waitress never apologized or explained the delay. My parents both had the Chefs Whim Vegetarian Plate. They both got a Turkish Crepe with Cheese and Spring Vegetables which was served with Turkish Yogurt. This was disappointing as when we were described this option we understood that they would get different dishes and wanted to try each others. However, the dish was lovely. The vegetables were light and seasonal and included fava beans, asparagus, and morels. The crepe itself was delicate and the cheese inside had a nice bite and creaminess to it. I had the Lamb Steak with Turkish Spices & Fava Bean Moussaka. We didn’t detect any fava beans at all in the moussaka. It was a traditional eggplant and beef version.

After waiting about five minutes for the desert menu we decided to share the special of the evening which was a Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava. The baklava was rich and crispy and served with a lovely chocolate sorbet. A very nice ending.

Overall, the evening was very disappointing even though the food was quite good. The service was just too slow. We were not in a rush however, it shouldn’t have taken us over 2 hours for this meal. At this price point you would expect the timing to be better worked out or at least an apology from the waitress. She barely stopped to check in on us once we had placed our order. I was also upset that the fava bean moussaka didn’t have any fava beans! I understand that they may need to make substitutions in the kitchen. However, I really would have liked to have been informed. I am not sure if the chef and owner, Ana Sortun, was in the kitchen but even if she wasn’t the problems were not in the food but in the service which should not require her supervision! I really do love the food and flavors here and have been several times but this experience makes me question whether to bring special guests.

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. Maybe it's just me, but the timing of this dinner seems right on -- just over 2 hours sounds about right for the courses you had. Most people would complain if the courses came out right after another. I'm not sure what they did wrong here. If you were looking to speed things up I think I might have said something to the server that you'd like things to move quicker. In my experience, the timing was right on. Food sounds wonderful, too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: purple bot

      its not just you!--the timing seems,actually,perfectly timed!..10 minutes for an appetizer[between courses]--then 5{!} minutes for dessert menu???? did you want the dessert menus on the table while the entrees were still there?? ladies and gentlemen, it is a 1st on chowhound!

      1. re: purple bot

        I'd have to agree with purple bot and kewpie. I'd not expect any sort of apology from the waitress for the "wait." I'm much more put off by feeling rushed!

        1. re: purple bot

          I'm on the same page as purple bot, kewpie, and phoebek. 10 minutes between the appetizer and entree does *not* seem like a long time. Allows for a bit of digestion; pouring of more wine, some chit-chat. 2 hours sounds perfect for the number of courses. I'd rather timing be a bit stretched out vs. the feeling of being rushed through dinner and out the door so they can seat someone else.

        2. Nothing seems odd to me about the timing.

          If anything, its not slow, but fast--ten minutes between appetizers and main course is a minimum.

          1. Sort of with the rest of the responders about the timing.

            But I'm with you on that Fava Bean Pate, Soft Boiled Egg & Wilted Spinach with Fried Almonds & Za'atar appetizer: not so inspired, IMO. When I tried it, it felt like some overwrought, whim-inspired special of the day that never quite gelled as a dish.

            That Warm Buttered Hummus with Basturma & Tomato, however, is to die for.

            1. I agree with most of these posters in that I don't think this timing is too long at all. I prefer a leisurely dinner and don't like to have the next course immediately after the previous one.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lissy

                I would hope/expect a meal at Oleana to last for about 2 hours, especially when you're looking to spend time with 'special guests'. Sounds spot on to me. 5 min wait for a dessert menu when you're not in a hurry? What's wrong with that? What restaurants in Boston in that price range might you choose with service more to your liking? ie quicker.

              2. I agree, but 10 minutes isn't that long--I went this past Wednesday, and we waited even longer for our entrees...I'd say around 30 minutes, with NO apology from the waiter. First of all, we arrived right on time for our reservations, but ended up having to wait 30 minutes at the bar to be seated. The host/hostess never came to get us either....we had to ask about our table (but maybe it was perfect timing-we asked right when the table was ready). We split a few appetizers, and then each ordered an entree. We got the rabbit shwarma and the fried mussels as appetizers. The entrees were the cod, duck, scallops, lamb, and beef. Flavors of each dish were very good, but I felt that the beef was a bit dry, and the cod was a tad overcooked.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowda

                  I guess in my experiences I have not waited this long without any comment by the waitress. We have been to Oleana before as well as other nicer restaurants in town (Mistral, Craigie St, etc) and never felt such long gaps. I was just surprised.