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May 6, 2010 05:18 AM

Oleana review

Had a lovely dinner in the patio area last night - comes au natural for sure, as the big tree in the backyard was dropping its seeds into everything, but no one really minded.
One small but meaningful change to the menu is the elimination of the categories of pret a manger and divisions of appetizers - the menu now has a list of about 15 meze, which still include the pret a manger dips and spreads, etc., just rebranded. This has the effect - to my mind at least - of tapas-izing the menu, although let me be perfectly clear that no one at the restaurant and nothing on the menu ever suggested the use of that term. But I did feel more unencumbered to order a bunch of dishes for the table to share, and then to order a second round of dishes for the table to share from the same section. Could neighbor East by Northeast have inspired with its directive to order for sharing? Who knows, but I felt that it encouraged the sharing of plates and grazing through the menu, which suits the patio setting perfectly.

As for the chow, the highlight for me was the nettle and green garlic lamejun with a dollop of creamy cheese and sorrel - really excellent flavor. The grilled octopus was also a steal, a generous helping of grilled octopus with a bunch of other tasty things on a large bruschetta-like bagette slice. There was a kingfish dish that was like a Middle-Eastern spiced ceviche - also excellent. Ordered a falafel as well, which normally comes with three, but a fourth was added so everyone could share. There was a cheese plate that was also roundly enjoyed. First wine was a Vendejo from Rueda, Spain, a little sour for my tastes - I recently bought a Rueda Vendejo after a tasting at Federal Wine and Spirits that makes an excellent summer wine and frankly preferred mine much more, but the sour wine drinker at the table was very happy with the choice. Second wine was a rose of Pinot Noir from Oregon or CA, not sure, but this was near perfect for warm, outdoor dining - really hit it out of the park for me. And is there a finer dessert than the almond cremolata and chocolate panino? The table also shared a salty butter ice cream and frozen lemon souffle choices, which were good but cutesy small and so not as quite as sharable as the cremolata.

All in all, a great evening out.

134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

East by Northeast
1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. Very strong kitchen at work there. No chinks in the armor after all these years....

    1 Reply
    1. re: baldbert

      And the chef was in the house last night - that's part of the reason - being around on a Wednesday night, despite the television appearances.

    2. Good food, bad service. We went there tonight and found the food was good but the place was let down by service that just didn't get it.

      1. I love their food and outdoor patio, but sitting inside is so crowded. Tables are spaced way too close together in the main dining room and bar area.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DeniseB

          I find the last two comments a bit odd. I just had dinner there this past weekend, and I found the service was quite good--not the best I've ever experienced, but certainly far from the worst.

          And having been seated inside, I didn't find the tables uncomfortably close this time or during numerous other dining experiences at Oleana.

          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

            I'm with you on both counts. I've only eaten there once, a few months ago, but the service was perfect. Not only accommodating with some special requests, but also incredibly friendly and patient, even when my slightly-tipsy dining companion decided to babble on about this or that aspect of the meal. As for the spacing on the seats, I suppose that's just a matter of personal taste. I enjoyed the cozy, intimate feel.

          2. re: DeniseB

            Food is still excellent after all these years but I agree that that the tables are too close together. I prefer to sit at the bar as you get more space!

          3. Our dinner here last week was incredible and we thought the service and our waiter were equally on par. The Deviled Eggs with tuna and black olives were one of the highlights, something so simple but each ingredient came through in layers when eaten. The Buttered Hummus w/ basturma & tomato could not have been creamier and easily the best hummus I've had to date. The Sinach Falafel served with tahini yogurt,beets and a wrap for me was one of those things I could eat eat everyday for a long time before getting tired of it :) The Quail with baharat spice,sunchokes and roasted grapes was another great dish. The quail was tender and the amount of spice was perfect. The Lamb with turkish spices, greens with yogurt,cucumber and peas tasted more like refined gyro meat done perfectly med rare. The almond cremolata was just about to be ordered until I changed my mind at the last minute and ordered the nougat glace with crepes and an orange blosssom butter...very good but I would try something else next time.

            1. Our family of four is headed to Oleana for the first time tonight, and I'm wondering if someone can answer a question. Two of us plan on ordering the vegetarian tasting menu based on the positive reviews from othe hounds. I'm curious, will we get ten different dishes, or will it be a set menu of five duplicate dishes? Either way, I'm ordering it, but I'm hoping we'll get more variety. Thanks!

              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

              5 Replies
              1. re: bear

                You'll get 10 different dishes.

                  1. re: bear

                    bear, did you get 10 different dishes? how was the meal?

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      oc, we didn't get ten different dishes, but everything was so delicious we didn't care. My son and I started with the carrot puree with dukkah, and then a terrific fattoush followed by delicious fideos with chick peas and then a fabulous crispy crepe filled with creamy goat feta. My other son and husband both got the specials, which were a wonderful salad with Sienna Farms poached eggs and smoky bacon, and a feta gnocchi with a creamy tomato sauce for the main. They got chocolate creme brulee and the fabulous brown butter bread pudding with milk jam for dessert. The only let-down of the entire meal was the financier that we got as the dessert portion of the veggie tasting menu.

                      We had a terrific meal and look forward to returning some time in the future. It's a great place for a celebration for both vegetarians and omnivores. Unfortunately the budget doesn't allow us to go too often, though.

                      1. re: bear

                        thanks much; sounds terrific. we just rediscovered it last week; i posted a review. we're both lucky campers, eh?!