Dinner at Oleana… And the Little Scallop That Could

Do you have one of those restaurants that is so close to where you live, that you’ve heard great reviews about, but for some reason never get to try yourself? Oleana was that restaurant for me. Up until a few days ago, I haven’t had the pleasure yet to dine at chef Ana Sortun’s award winning restaurant. I always think, it’s just a few neighborhoods away, and it’ll always be there, so I sort of kept pushing off my first visit. Then I realize that I’ve actually lived in Cambridge for seven years already and I still haven’t been to one of its most treasured restaurants!

Fortunately, I was able to remedy that a few days ago. And I encountered some very inventive dishes in a cozy setting that made me and my friends feel so at home. Oleana lived up to my high expectations, and more.

We started with a few meze, or small plates that were meant to be shared. There were four of us, and we chose one appetizer each.

spicy fried mussels with Turkish sauce

tamarind-glazed beef and smokey eggplant purée

warm buttered hummus

special of the night: homemade burrata

I thought the hummus would be amazing, but compared to the other appetizers, it was a little lackluster. I really like the burrata though. Burrata is an Italian cheese, and the outside shell is fresh mozzarella while the inside is a soft, creamy, mozzarella-and-cream mixture. It was served on top of a root vegetable pancake and a garlicky sauce. I could’ve eaten the whole glob myself, but thankfully I was in public.  And didn’t want my dining companions to hate me.

For the entrees, we all liked the same things, so we ordered two of the same dish. Let me point out here that the servings at Oleana are perfect human servings, not the gargantuan monster plates that other restaurants want us to gorge on.  This by itself wins some goody points from me. We ordered two lamb entrees and two scallop entrees:

Vermont lamb with Turkish spices, pide, and everything green with garlic and yogurt

My friends let me taste this and it was very good, but we were all a little thrown off by the texture. It tasted like some sort of sausage/meat loaf. But it was so flavorful that my two friends promptly forgot about the strange texture and enjoyed the whole plate. You can’t really see it in the picture above but it was served on top of some spiraled greens (the “everything green”) with the best garlic yogurt sauce.

I ordered one of the night’s special entrees:

seared scallops with saffron risotto and blood oranges, topped with a kadayif, or a crispy phyllo nest

There were four scallops on the plate, and even though I said that the portions are very reasonable, I only ate a couple spoonfuls of rice and one and a half scallops. And between those one and a half pieces, was the little scallop that could. That could what? you ask. It was the little scallop that could have given me food poisoning, but didn’t.

Let me explain! So about 10-15 minutes after eating the entrees (we were taking our time, talking and enjoying the atmosphere, so at that point we still haven’t even ordered dessert), I started to feel really nauseous and cold. I knew this feeling very well, having had some unfortunate bouts with seafood before. Some people say that it takes a few hours for food poisoning to kick in, but in my experience, it only takes about 15 minutes after eating the bad seafood for me to immediately feel sick. My companions actually finished the rest of the scallops on my plate, and none of them felt weird, so I thought – with my luck – that I ate the little scallop that could. So I stepped out for some fresh air, and after a few minutes of standing outside in the freezing cold, I actually, magically, felt better. I splashed some cold water on my face, and returned to the table and surprised everyone with my mystical healing.

So just to make this clear, I did NOT get food poisoning. But for a scary 10 minutes, I felt extremely nauseous. I don’t know if it was the scallops, or the mussels, or my drink, or maybe my sheer exhaustion from a stressful week, but I really thought I was going to have another unpleasant seafood experience. Thank God I didn’t. But whatever it was, it was enough to make me panic a little bit and for my friends to worry.

Why is this relevant? Because this experience was actually what cemented Oleana’s place in my list of restaurants to visit again and again. When our server Shelly saw me standing, cold and pale and feeling sick, she immediately went into mother-mode. She brought me a glass of water and really took care of me, and even alerted my friends when I made it to the bathroom (after going outside for fresh air). The manager was also very concerned, and the kitchen staff asked me about my allergies and assured me that there wasn’t anything in the dishes I ate that was on my allergen list.  Everyone was extremely kind and helpful.

After I assured everyone that I was indeed feeling fine (and a little embarrassed over all the commotion), we ordered dessert. I think I probably rallied myself out of getting sick, just to be able to try the desserts. I’m not going to lie, but I’ve been thinking of the acclaimed desserts days before our dinner reservation. We ordered two:

chocolate crème brulee, date terrine, rose petal jam and cocoa sherbet

baked alaska with coconut ice cream and passion fruit caramel

The desserts were phenomenal! I loved the baked alaska, with the sweet coconut ice cream and passion fruit sauce. There were chewy pieces of coconut at the base of the alaska, and it was pure goodness.

The kitchen also sent out an extra dessert:

a mango-flavored tropical souffle with a small smoothie and 4 mini-straws

It was really nice of the Oleana staff to do this (maybe I should be almost-sick more often? just kidding) but when we got the bill, we were told that the whole dessert course was on the house. Again, this was much, much appreciated. I know they probably felt bad because of my scallop scare, but it did turn out to be just a scare. The service was topnotch to begin with, but we all left feeling warm and fuzzy. And with plans to come back soon! Next time though, I will probably just order a couple of meze plates and dessert :)

I’m glad I was finally able to eat at Oleana, and had a memorable dinner too, thanks to the little scallop that could (but didn’t) and to our lovely server Shelly. And the food was really delicious. It was a dinner I’ll always remember.

What’s the one restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, but still haven’t?

Oleana on Urbanspoon


28 Responses to “Dinner at Oleana… And the Little Scallop That Could”

  1. #
    Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles posted February 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Mmm! That warm buttered hummus sounds delicious!

  2. #
    Elizabeth posted February 26, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Oleana is my faaaavorite. I tend to stick with the vegetarian tasting menu which always has a fabulous mix of things. I really need to try more desserts though.

  3. #
    Heather posted February 26, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Sounds like a great restaurant, they were so awesome to you! I’m going to a new restaurant tomorrow night, meaning to try for a while and I have a Groupon to use!

  4. #
    Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards) posted February 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I’m glad they handled it so well, it probably made the whole experience a lot more pleasant than it could have been otherwise! I have a huge list of restaurants I want to try, and living in SF now, it will be a decade before I visit them all, and even after that happens, there will be a thousand new ones to try. I’ll never win. :)

  5. #
    AllieNic @ Frisky Lemon posted February 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I’m SO glad that you didn’t actually have food poisoning! That’s so scary– I used to get sick like that after drinking whey protein…weird.

    I’ve been wanting to try Oleana for a while now! I’m definitely going to make more of an effort now ;)

  6. #
    Simply Life posted February 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Looks like a great place to try!

  7. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted February 27, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Glad you finally went. That burrata is soooo good! You can buy the same stuff at the Somerville Winter market!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted February 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Oooh thanks for the heads up Emily! I’m gonna have to check out the winter market soon!

  8. #
    chrysta posted February 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Awww so sorry you felt sick. Thats never. fun Im glad it wasnt food poisoning though. The food does look amazing though.

  9. #
    Lisa (Dishes of Mrs. Fish) posted February 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    What a delicious looking meal!
    I love trying new places!

  10. #
    Megan posted February 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I love when restaurants go out of their way to make sure guests have a pleasant experience. I love Oleana even more after reading this.

  11. #
    Michelle posted February 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Oleana. I’m so glad that you didn’t get food poisoning there!

  12. #
    Kristina posted February 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Looks and sounds like a great place for a great meal. I love when restaurants work around their reg menu!

  13. #
    Daisy posted February 28, 2011 at 12:09 am

    mine was Prezza and I recently tried it! and I’d put Oleana on the list, too, even though its not my neighborhood. Everything looks amazing, I’m all about mezze and dessert. sorry about your scare w/ the Scallop!

  14. #
    MelissaNibbles posted February 28, 2011 at 5:40 am

    I’m glad you’re okay. The food looks fantastic and your experience with the staff makes me want to go there just because they were so nice to you.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted March 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      Thanks Melissa, that is sweet of you! I would actually suggest it for future date hehe but there’s no parking :p

  15. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted February 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Oleana is definitely on my list of places to try. I am so sorry you felt ill. . . that is the worst! But I am glad it didn’t escalate into full-blown sickness!

  16. #
    Liz @ IHeartVegetables posted February 28, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I’ve never tried baked alaska!!! It looks cool though :) I wish this restaurant was closer so I could try it! haha

  17. #
    alicia posted February 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Well, I certainly am impressed. I’m glad you didn’t get sick! Oleana sounds like they know their stuff though. For me, more than the food, what really cements my love of a dining establishment is the service aspect. Sounds like they hit the nail on the head!

  18. #
    Eliana posted February 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Hmmmm – this all looks and sounds super delicious.

  19. #
    Lizzy posted March 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Ahhh, so scary for a second there but I’m so glad you felt better. So amazing how awesome the staff was and it sounds like a wonderful restaurant that WE should try again sometime : )

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted March 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      Lizzy, yes we should!! I’ll see if I can fix a small get together soon :)

  20. #
    Kim K posted March 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Oleana is one of my favorite restaurants of all times. Their flattened chicken is amazing. So sorry to hear you got sick, but it is really wonderful to hear how Oleana stepped up!

  21. #
    Susan (Oliepants) posted March 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Can I just say how jealous I am of your fancy shmancy restaurant outings?! And your food always looks delicious – esp the rose petal jam!! Who even thinks of this stuff? :)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted March 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      Thank you Susan! Hehe I don’t eat like this all the time (my wallet nor wasitline cannot afford it!) but I certainly LOVE it when I do. And wait till you see my fancy-shmancy post tomorrow ;)

  22. #
    Erin posted March 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Great review! I’m dying to go to Oleana some time when I am in town. I actually have a gift certificate that I didn’t get to use before I moved. Must, must do this soon! Looks so delicious!

  23. #
    Meesh posted March 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Wow what an accommodating staff! That is super nice of them. I’m glad you didn’t actually get sick.

    That burrata looks perfect.


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