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Tastefully Unique

If you’re looking for a quiet, cozy and charming restaurant, then try Oleana. The cuisine is Mediterranean, the d‚cor is laid-back, and the wait staff is friendly though a bit slow. One of the best things though is the parking – there’s a designated lot diagonally across the street from the restaurant.

Upon entering Oleana, we were delighted with its intimacy and warmth. Chef-owner Ana Sortun, formally from Casablanca, not only prepares unique and flavorsome dishes, but the simplicity of her decorating style with a wood stove fireplace, warm maple coloring and mosaic-like tables puts a tired and hungry
customer to ease in no time. Our table was waiting for us in the adjacent room where the bar is located, and we could hardly wait to take a peek at the menu.

With so many appetizers to choose from we had to ask our server for a little help. He was very knowledgeable about the menu and suggested we try the Braised Beef Galette with Baby Greens and Carrot-Mustard Vinaigrette and the Ricotta and Bread Dumplings with C‚pes and Braised Chicories. We were pleased with both and very glad that one of us didn’t order the bread dumplings as an entr‚e. Two for each of us was plenty since they were a little on the bready side and a bit thick. The beef galette was tender and full of flavor.

We didn’t have too much trouble deciding on our entr‚es until we each voiced that we had selected the Grilled Sea Scallops with Basmati-Pistachio Rice Pilaf, Greens and Brown Butter. Knowing that we wanted to share and have some variety, we decided that one of us would get the Spicy Tuna Marmitako with Peppers, Leaks and Winter Squash. However, the Almond Fried Chicken with Red Rice Beans and Provencal Herbs, and the Grilled Lamb Steak with Turkish Spices and Fava Bean Moussaka looked good too.

We were fairly pleased with our choices. The scallops were excellent. The rice pilaf with pistachios was a nice accent. The tuna was a little too well done; however, we were forewarned that it would be cooked that way. We didn’t think we would mind until we tried it. While it was good, tuna just isn’t meant to be cooked well done! The winter squash was delicious though – very sweet, and the red peppers and leeks were tasty.

With our bellies full and entr‚es done, we were still excited for dessert. Though, we had to wait for probably 30 minutes from the time we were done until our plates were cleared. We hadn’t noticed how much time had passed as we were enjoying each other’s company.

Ice cream desserts, by pastry chef Maureen Kilpatrick, are what Oleana is known for so we decided to get the Baked Alaska with Macaroon and Coconut Ice Cream drizzled with Passion Fruit Caramel. We also couldn’t pass up trying the Palace Bread Pudding though we probably should have. This dessert was sticky as could be and somewhat tough. We had a terrible time trying to get a bite. The Baked Alaska was outstanding though. Also, the mini-French press that our coffee was served to us in was a quaint touch we both enjoyed.

Upon finishing what we could of our desserts, we once again found ourselves waiting. It’s not that we couldn’t pass the time because we certainly had plenty to talk about. But, there comes a point when it just starts to feel weird after your plate’s been in front of you for so long. I guess it’s the fact that you feel awkward and uncomfortable from being ignored by the wait staff. In fact, who knows how long we would have waited after our entr‚es and desserts had we not specifically asked for some service both times!

After a while, our check was brought to us and our 2 1/2 hour dinner was brought to an end. (Yes, that’s right – 2 1/2 hours, and we started early at 6:45!) While the service was slow, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and how things were prepared. And, of course, the food was delicious. But, with so many other great places to try, I don’t think I’ll go back anytime soon. However, I’m certainly glad I had my tasting of Oleana – one of Cambridge’s new and upcoming restaurants.

April 9, 2001
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