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Jun 10, 2010 05:21 PM

oliveto oceanic dinner

Oliveto's Oceanic Dinner going on this week (Wed-Sat). We went last night. Always great fun. I started w/ a sea urchin flan, which I'd recalled from prior dinners as brilliant. This was more of a B+--very good, but less intense than I remembered--more creamy, less fishy? My rare yellowtail wasn't rare enough for me (I'm a seriously rare fish eater, so maybe this is about me and not the chef), but the sauce was very nice, and the oysters surround it were fabulous--the fried potatoes quickly got soggy--never quite sure of the point of those topping a saucy dish. The desserts didn't speak to me, but I ate the milk ice off my husband's dry chocolate tart--the ice was lovely, refreshing, not too sweet. Speaking of my husband, he had the crudo platter, which he loved, thought was beautifully prepared--but agrees it's very little food for a big price tag (a chronic Oliveto complaint). Tasted someone else's cuttlefish appetizer, which was sweet and lively and perfectly done. My husband had the seafood cannelloni--he loved it--I thought the sauce was a little Newburg-y. He liked his sole a lot (I thought it was....overcooked!). We had a wonderful time, mixed review notwithstanding! And we're going back again, so a chance to sample more of the very interesting-sounding menu. Eager to hear from others re what's great this year!

Oliveto Cafe
5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

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  1. I think last night's Oceanic Dinner was the best one I've been to so far - my perennial favorite dish, the wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck, was good (the pasta may have been a tad overcooked though) but didn't even rank in my top half of dishes from last night.

    Top dishes from last night were:

    Cuttlefish a la plancha - amazing texture and flavor, tender and sweet and smoky.

    Sea urchin ravioli - whole tongues wrapped in pasta and bathed in a yolk-enriched cream sauce - the pasta is on the thick side, and the sauce is very rich, so to get the full impact, I recommend cutting the ravioli in half and squashing the cut side against your tongue.

    Whole black bass stuffed with cuttlefish and zucchini - the last few years, they had whole black bass stuffed with morels, and every year, it ran out before I could order it. This year, I had a plan to pre-order when confirming the reservation, and was disappointed when I saw it wasn't the morel-stuffed version. I was on the fence about the odd-sounding stuffing, but was convinced to order it anyway, and I'm so glad we did - the bass was incredible, perfectly cooked, ultra-sweet, and perfumed with floral muskiness of the finely minced cuttlefish and zucchini.

    Passionfruit souffle with peppercorn creme anglaise - this was a great end to the dinner.

    We also really enjoyed the rotolo di patate with zucchini blossoms, smoked black cod, and Early Girl tomatoes; the goat's milk cavatelli with mussels, smoked bluefish, and peas; the cannelloni with lobster, rockfish and morels, and the fried softshell crab with biscuit and remoulade (we all agreed that it was the best softshell we'd ever had - it was extraordinarily juicy, and much larger than any other I've had).

    The yuzu and Prosecco-cured Boston mackerel with cucmbers and creme fraiche was fine, but not exciting, compared to the other offerings The grilled, rare yellowtail jack was a bit too salty in places, but the texture and flavor were remarkable when tasted together with the raw oysters - together, they were ultra-briny and silky. Our other desserts were the Flavor Rosa plum gelato (refreshing, but not remarkable) and the surpringly light mulberry-cornmeal cake with fig-leaf ice cream (which I loved, but other members of the party found too vegetal).

    1 Reply
    1. re: daveena

      Daveena, this was really helpful, thanks!

      We went again last night (and although officially over, the oceanic dinner menu will--according to our waitress--continue unofficially through tonight, Sunday dinner).

      Cuttlefish appetizer simple and very nicely done, as noted above. I had the crudo this time and was a bit disappointed--very expensive, tiny portions, and nothing really "popped" re all the little tastes. My husband liked the mackerel app just fine.

      The stand-outs , hands-down, were the pastas--cavatelli w/ smoked trout was brilliant--ditto the risotto w/ asparagus and octopus--both beautifully conceived, prepared--vivid, layered flavors.

      The mains. The soft shell crab was very good (I prefer soft shell crab sauted rather than deep-fried, so that the shellfish flavor isn't muffled by breading, but this was a very good version of deep fried). I liked the black bass stuffed w/ cuttlefish and zucchini better than my husband--nicely cooked, albeit incompletely boned. Our friend really enjoyed the seafood sausages, though thought the subtle lobster was a bit overshadowed by the more assertive duck flavor.

      Passion fruit souffle was a lovely close.

      Service was plus/minus. Attentive and warm server. Sommelier helpful. But when two of us were still finishing out first course, they brought out the pastas (which they graciously whisked away, after when we pointed to the two people still eating).

      We had an 8:15 pm res. The restaurant was more than 3/4 full when we arrived. We were surprised that it was pretty empty by the time we were tucking into our main courses--great for us, since we were spared the din that can make conversation hard during these Oliveto special events, where they've historically packed 'em in--but worried a bit for the restaurant, which didn't turn all the tables they might have for a last, late seating. The economy, combined with the steep price tag? Michael Bauer's recent grinch-like review?

      Summary. Some very high notes, though not all. And we had fun.

      Oliveto Cafe
      5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

    2. We had a wonderful time (as always) at the Oceanic dinner on Friday night. Here’s what we had:

      Smoked local swordfish with Flavorosa and Flavorella pluots, shaved Porcini mushrooms, and Espelette pepper – we always love Oliveto’s swordfish prep… very nice with the pluots, but the mushroom got a little lost.

      Polpettini of Monterey Bay squid with Fava beans and saffron – very homey, not very squidy – excellent.

      Goat’s milk ricotta cavatelli rigati with smoked bluefish, mussels and English peas – a standout. Like a seafood-based carbonnara. I just think Oliveto excels at pastas.

      Wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck clams and Nocellino olive oil – always a favorite. Just the most perfect sweet clam dish.

      Fried jumbo softshell crab and buttermilk biscuit sandwich with sauce remoulade and fennel slaw – very fun and tasty. Great frying job.

      Charcoal-grilled smoked lobster, shellfish, and duck sausage with Ceci beans – we always like Oliveto’s seafood sausages … nice.

      White mulberry-cornmeal cake with fig-leaf ice cream and blackberry sauce – ice cream very interesting musty flavor; cake was nice and light. But paled in light of the other dessert.

      White Shrimp Crèma Fritta – very very good. Almost News Orleans-like, with the sweet shrimp custard fried to perfection. Excellent!

      We’ve been to several of the Oceanic dinners, as well as Oliveto’s other special dinners. The Oceanic tends to be our favorite and this year was no exception. I did think the starters were on the smaller size, esp. for the price, but that may reflect market conditions more than restaurant pricing issues. Overall, we will were not disappointed and will be back.

      Oliveto Cafe
      5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618