We were hoping to be seated on the famous patio at Oleana. The weather, unfortunately, didn’t cooperate and we were denied an evening in that urban oasis. Oleana had been high on our collective must-visit list - only one of the Dinearound had been there before. For the most part, we weren’t disappointed.
We all began with a glass of wine. The wine list is substantial but not unwieldy and very well chosen - and the by-the-glass selections most interesting. I’d never had the Edmunds St. Johns “Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir”, but had been wanting to sample it without buying a full bottle. I had my opportunity here. Though I did enjoy it, as I’ve said before, “make mine France”. Other Dinearounders enjoyed a sparkling Cot, the Pinot Gris from Christom Vineyards and the “Rosé of the Day”. However, the star was the “Eins, Zwei, Dry” by Johannes Leitz, offered by the glass as part of the “Summer of Riesling” promotion which the restaurant is endorsing. I had tasted this wine with Terry Theise earlier this year and my colleague Katrin recently reviewed it. If you have the opportunity, drink it.
We then moved on to the Meze section of the menu. A case could be made for devoting an entire meal to these small plates - they were wonderfully addictive. Chef Sorton’s deviled eggs and whipped feta truly deserve the reputation they enjoy. And the spinach falafel are a small masterpeice. However, the unanimous opinion was that the Sultan’s Delight – Tamarind Glazed Beef and Smokey Eggplant Puree with Pinenuts – was the winner.
Regretfully leaving the small plates behind, we moved forward. I was in a summery mood and chose one of the evening’s specials – the Sweet Corn Borek – layers of yufka pastry, sweet corn, sweet corn custard and mozzarella – oven baked and griddled to finish. The borek was accompanied by black truffled labne, braised greens and chanterelles. This dish was truly summer. Produce comes from Siena Farms, owned by Chef Sortun and her husband Chris Kurth and named for their daughter. Oleana also partners with foragers and the chanterelles topping my entree may have been gathered from the local woods. The dish worked well – the greens playing off the sweetness of the corn – the whole mediated by the earthiness of the black truffled labne and the mushrooms. The dish would have been summer perfection if it had had a tomato component.
And finally, dessert. Though I subscribe to the dictum “Life is short. Eat dessert first”, I behave myself when dining out. D.J., though, declared she was having the shortrib for dessert, but than chose the more appropriate Summer Melon Pop. Continuing my summery state of mind, I opted for the blueberry-centric selection – Blueberry Croustillant with Milk Pudding, Pistachio Gelée and Blueberry Sorbet. The Blueberry Sorbet was outstanding – intensely pure berry flavor. As the members of the Dinearound consumed their desserts, quiet descended over the table – all were engaged with their plate.
The only negative to mar all the positives of our dining experience was our seating arrangement. We were a party of five and were given essentially a table for four - 2 two-tops pushed together in front of a banquette. W. asked the host if we could be seated at larger adjacent table which was unoccupied. He was informed – and I stress the verb – that the larger table was ONLY for parties of six. As we attempted to adjust to our cramped conditions, we proceeded to watch first one and then another party of five being seated at this table for six. The table is located in front of a picture window that offers passerbys a glimpse of the dining room. We were left wondering just what demographic we lacked to be seated in that prized location. For the most part, however, the food and service, which is of the friendly and chatty sort, were able to assuage whatever slight we might have felt.
Oleana 134 Hampshire St. Camb. MA