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Has Oleana lost it's luster?

p
panettone Dec 28, 2008 04:35 PM

I was a huge fan of Oleana for quite a while but the last two times I've dined it's been disappointing. The place is always packed and the menu looks interesting but the food has not been that exciting. I think it's time for me to stop hoping that it will great next time and try somewhere new.

Anyone else feel that way?

  1. w
    winstont Jan 8, 2009 08:31 AM

    I have to say I had the most disappointing meal ever (I have given this some thought) at Oleana last night. I have been meaning to go there for what seems like years (as a pescatarian it’s silly that it has taken me so long) and had a long standing arrangement to go their with a friend who was visiting the city last night. I had seen this thread so I believe my expectations were brought back down to reality but still...

    we started out with three mezzes: white bean pate, warm butter hummus and spicy feta (although at first they brought our olives instead of the feta) all were good, not much better than their sofra counter-parts for the price difference, but at this point I was still quite content with the meal. When the plates were cleared the waiter said he would be right back with our appetizers, but then we waited and waited and waited. 40 minutes later he brings out one of our apts- the ricotta dumplings. i loved the sauce and the dumplings were fair, my DC complained it just tasted like arancini with a good sauce (no taste of ricotta). 5 minutes after the dumplings arrived our friend mussels came. they were HORRIBLE, honestly un-edible. I've had fried mussels before and with the right spices or sauce they can be great (i liked rocca's this summer) but these had no flavor. the sauce didnt taste like anything, honestly absolutely no flavor. the mussels were extremely fishy tasting and overly breaded- even the fired pepper, which our waiter warned was very spicy had no flavor. I hate to complain and at this point we had been there forever so we just didnt eat the mussels and finally attracted the attention of the waiter to ask for the check. there was no visit to ask how everything was, nor was there an inquiry after our dish went relatively untouched

    needless to say i will not be back

    3 Replies
    1. re: winstont
      jvish Jan 8, 2009 09:58 AM

      We had dinner there a few weeks ago and the food and the service were both excellent. And still as good as they have always been. Nothing about the food has changed. Oleana is one of the truly , consistently good spots in the Boston area. So many so called "foodies" just love to eat their young.

      1. re: jvish
        Harp00n Jan 8, 2009 11:26 AM

        While I haven't been to Oleana in a couple of month, it is my favorite Boston area restaurant along with L'Espalier. That being said, and after reading the detailed and thoughtful responses on this thread, I would not be inclined to write-off their experiences so quickly. It may be a combination of bad nights in the kitchen & the front or a change-over in personnel. I don't know, but I will be going there shortly and with eyes wide-open.

        Harp

        1. re: jvish
          w
          winstont Jan 8, 2009 12:06 PM

          I may have said that i will not be back a little premature, but with so many great reasonably priced restaurants to explore it just doesn't seem worth it to return any time soon.

          What i wrote was my experience. Maybe the food & service was just off last night, having worked in the industry elsewhere i know this is completely possible. However, my experience seemed to be consistent with what i have heard recently (on this board and off)

      2. b
        BostonCharles Jan 5, 2009 11:36 PM

        Yes, I have to agree sorry to say. I won't be going back to Oleana. And I used to go a lot. We just went a week ago, and shook our heads and crossed it off the list

        2 Replies
        1. re: BostonCharles
          Bob Dobalina Jan 6, 2009 03:54 AM

          Can you give us more than that? What was the problem for you?

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            b
            BostonCharles Jan 6, 2009 02:44 PM

            food was just blah and boring. All the good dishes that I used to love just had nothing to them really.

            Basically an execution problem - everything felt tired. The curse of good Boston restaurants.

            A real shame, I hope it comes back. I ate there fairly often for years.

        2. s
          sleepdoc Jan 1, 2009 05:25 AM

          I've only been twice. First was a couple of years back. We walked in to a packed house, ate at the bar and loved the food, wine selection and service.

          Since then, we have visited Sofra a couple of times for pastries which have been excellent, as is the coffee. However, we went to Oleana within the last few weeks, with reservations, and had a disappointing experience. We were early, house was empty. We were seated in the section near patio area which lacks decor and features fairly cramped tables. Didn't matter, we came for a great meal. Both ordered the much hyped "vegetarian tasting menu". Very disappointing. It was a smattering of cold and hot appetizers from the menu in smaller portions. Not at all a true tasting menu. Some of the dishes were good, but most seemed like they were probably plated by the server from a vat. No thanks. Wines by the glass selection still seems fairly interesting, but less so than last visit. Service was borderline.

          I might try it one more time, and order a la carte, but I was seriously disappointed on my second visit.

          1. RoseWethersfield Dec 30, 2008 09:09 AM

            I am a huge fan of Oleana -- and was just there on the weekend. My dc and I eat at the bar (not just oleana but everywhere we go). I have to say the servers at the bar aren't always the warmest folks in the industry -- but you can't go wrong spending part of your night watching the (all female) cooking staff work deliver some of the tastiest looking plates (from small bites to desserts).

            I'm a big fan of several of the small bites and apps (deviled eggs (I've actually cooked the recipe -- It is a complicated recipe for a small bite), walnut pate, and sultan's delight) so I don't always venture so far. However, specials are usually fantastic (I can remember a shrimp dish this summer that was heavenly) and this weekend's bread pudding (with brown butter) was one of the best desserts I've had in 2008.

            I love a good cheese plate and Oleana's is always good -- not rendevous, toro, or upstairs excellent -- but more than solid. I had a great dessert wine this weekend but was disappointed that there wasn't a tawny port in the house -- apparently it doesn't go with their current dessert menu. Whatever.

            Anyway, Oleana isn't perfect but the food is remarkable. Real people being creative but also aware of tradition with the freshest ingredients in a neighborhood restaurant. I appreciate Oleana and what it stands for. It seems like a restaurant with a mission -- along with great food.

            1. c
              Canadian Tuxedo Dec 28, 2008 04:50 PM

              No. But I certainly could not report on the breadth of the menu. The last two times I visited, which occurred over the last three months, I've shared the vegetarian tasting menu with my girlfriend and some extra vegetarian appetizers. Each time it has been fantastic. But if you want to discuss the rest of the menu I couldn't chime in.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Canadian Tuxedo
                w
                Winer Dec 28, 2008 05:33 PM

                Never understood the hype of this place to begin with. It almost seems like people were afraid to say they wern't impressed.

                1. re: Winer
                  c
                  cambridgejen Dec 28, 2008 06:21 PM

                  I went once in the late summer months and it was phenomenal - the best meal I've ever had, period. I went again about a month ago and it was just so-so. It's hard to judge based on two visits but maybe the time of year affects the quality, since so much of their menu is based on their own locally grown produce.

                  1. re: Winer
                    MC Slim JB Dec 28, 2008 06:35 PM

                    I really like the food at Oleana, but always seem to do better focusing on the upper parts of the menu. As at many places, I don't think the entrees there are quite as exciting. I think it's got better vegetarian and vegan options than many restaurants at or above its price point. The "five mezze and dessert" option always seems like a bargain to me.

                  2. re: Canadian Tuxedo
                    p
                    panettone Dec 28, 2008 06:16 PM

                    I've heard that the veggie tasting menu is really good and regret not ordering it on previous visits.

                    1. re: panettone
                      m
                      Mr Bigglesworth Dec 28, 2008 07:18 PM

                      We ate at Oleana the other night and were sorely disappointed I've been several times and always loved the place.... but last night completely turned me off. The service felt rushed - I understand turning tables over but asking several times if we are done isn't needed. Also, we were being a bit indecisive - nothing strange considering it's a complex menu for some - and asked if the waitress had favorites amongst two different dishes. She responded by stating that 'we don't win so many awards by not having great things on the menu."

                      Right.... So I had a duck dish that was overcooked to the point where I should have sent it back (but it was a bday dinner and didn't want to create more trouble than it's worth.)

                      Several dishes were in fact quite good and I still think the small plates are tasty and the desserts are quite good... but major let down, unbelievably poor execution and service so atrocious I may never go back.

                      1. re: Mr Bigglesworth
                        Bob Dobalina Dec 29, 2008 05:36 AM

                        Went a month ago or so - service was outstanding, paced, etc. - there is one particular waitress who, in the three times I've been there, I think we had twice including this last time - super-professional and not rushed. Maybe we just lucked out.

                        I have to admit that my entree last time of pork something or other was just.....ok. Just like other complaints on this board, perhaps the main chef is too busy with her other projects (Sofra) to give the kitchen the attention it requires. Haven't I read similar notes about other places this year with the same issues?

                        On a related note, I received the Ana Sortun "Spice" cookbook for a present - oddly organized around spice mixtures rather than courses, so you have to sort of hunt and peck for particular types of recipes - interesting how conditioned we are to accept certain formats. The cookbook seems to be slanted away from entrees and meat courses, so perhaps that's some guidance as to what to order at Oleana going forward.

                        The five course veggie and dessert is a ton of food.

                        I still say the best thing on the menu is the ricotta dumplings with porcini wine tomato sauce. Fried bread - can't mess that up...

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          p
                          pollystyrene Dec 29, 2008 07:27 PM

                          Those dumplings are the one and only reason I'd go back to Oleana.

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