Review: Oleana Restaurant

Hi friends,

Hope you enjoyed my monster Memorial Day Recap.

To backtrack to Friday night; my co-worker, Jen and I had a dinner planned at Oleana in Cambridge.

Oleana opened in 2001 to rave reviews from the press and diners alike. It’s not surprising once you’ve tasted Ana Sortun’s outrageously inventive food, including chickpea crêpe with smoked cinnamon aioli, or lamb steak with Turkish spices & fava bean moussaka. Small producers comprise the wine list at Oleana and are carefully chosen to complement the style of spice.

My family and I had gone to Oleana last year for my birthday and it was amazing.  Farm fresh produce and expertly spiced Turkish-inspired meals. Heavenly.

Friday night, Jen and I arrived a bit early for our reservation, but they were able to accommodate us right away. We were seated in the outdoor porch, with a gorgeous view of the garden area seating. A little garden oasis in the middle of the city.

Feeling a bit warm from our walk over to Somerville from Boston (oh yes, we walked), we opted for sparkling water rather than wine while we perused the menu.

How beautiful is this water presentation?

The Meze menu was extensive and intriguing. And you know how I like my Meze.

Everything on the Meze menu sounded so delicious and fresh, but we finally settled on the following:

  • Warm Olives with Za’atar
  • Fatoush: Chopped Iceberg, Radish & Cucumber with Fried Pita & Sumac Dressing
  • Grilled Asparagus with Pinenuts, Green Olives & Siena Farms Egg Salad

These tiny, warm Kalamata-like olives were drenched in an olive oil and Za’atar bath (Za’atar is a blend of savory herbs used frequently in Middle Eastern cooking. For more information). The olives  were rich, oily, salty and savory all at once; perfect.

The Fatoush was fresh and crispy. The iceberg lettuce (which serves no other purpose in its lettuce life besides being crunchy) performed admirably with the radish to givethe salad an excellent snap. That little red orb is a roasted, peeled tomato (which I declined, as you know my feelings on tomatoes).

The Grilled Asparagus was perfectly grilled with just the right amount of salt and oil. I do not eat egg salad, so I declined this; but Jen thought it was flavorful and not like a traditional egg salad (which in my opinion, would be a good thing 🙂 )  There was also a small, savory sesame bread roll that accompanied this; it was quite crunchy, an almost toasted consistency. I’ve typically had sesame breads that are softer and sweeter , so this was a bit of a surprise for me.  It didn’t seem there for scooping the egg salad (as it would have crumbled), so I was a little confused at its presence.  I would imagine that it would have made delicious bread crumbs.

What was perfect for scooping was this trio of breads brought to our table:

  • Rustic White Bread
  • Syrian Bread
  • Za’atar Bread

Close up of the Za’atar bread – I love this spice.  To me, it tastes salty, lemony and bitter all at once. It’s highly addictive.

For my dinner entrée (and Jen too!), we ordered the following:

  • Lamb with Turkish Spices, Pide & Everything Green with Garlic & Yogurt

At this point, I could not fit another bite;  so mine was boxed up to take home.  Later I did manage to get involved with it and the meat was tender, fresh and spiced perfectly. They’re hard to see, but there are fried pita chips (they referred to them as Pide) underneath the greens that were deliciously salty and crunchy.Yum.

I wanted to note that on my last visit, I took part in their Vegetable Tasting Menu, which consists of  five meze and dessert. This was a WONDERFUL option; as I got to try five of their delicious small plates (some on the menu, some not) without having to choose between the lusciousness. It’s a tableau of the chef’s whim on that particular day and its an excellent way to experience Oleana for the first time, especially if you’re in a group.  On that visit, both my sister and I opted for the tasting menu, and we were each brought out 5 unique dishes; ie 10 different plates in all. Very generous and a great way to try quite a bit of Oleana at once.

No dessert for us on this visit,  but I wish we could have.  Um, Salted Butter Ice Cream & Petite Caramel Soufflé with Pineapple & Cashew Crisp anyone? Yes, please. Pineapple & Cashew Crisp, you will be mine.

While you’re day dreaming about  meze, I wanted to share a note about the service. Our waiter could not have been more amicable or hospitable. Jen had some dietary restrictions to work with; and he was interested and willing to work the menu to suit those needs. Also, the walk to Cambridge had overheated me on that warm day and I was feeling a bit out of sorts. Te waiter insisted on bringing me a Bitters and Soda  (an old bartender’s trick) which set me right almost immediately.

Bitters, Soda & Fresh Mint; so perfectly refreshing and thirst-quenching!

Oleana’s beautiful food is only matched by its beautiful service and surroundings; truly an Oasis.

As always, my reviews are my opinions only and are not sponsored.  Have a restaurant you’d like me to review? Please let me know at


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Cutie Patooty says:

    I love Oleana! It is definitely my number one choice for my personal dining events and whenever anyone asks me for a recommendation. I want Ana Sortun and her husband to adopt me so I can live on their farm with them and eat her food that he grew and she cooked-every day!

  2. Me too! We can live in the barn!

  3. Cutie Patooty says:

    Thanks for not judging YKOS. I know its wrong to worship chefs like this but her food is just so unspeakably wondrous.

  4. Jen says:

    GOD – I have never made it to this place, but thanks to my work boredom and not wanting to go home tonight in the -10 degree weather, I’m glad I re-read this post, and reminded myself that I need to go to here.

  5. Cutie Patooty says:

    It is simply sacrilige not to try her food yet. Call me, I will take you any time. You need to be initiated. Umm, this is Anne’s sister, in case you are wondering why a stranger is propo-ing you

  6. Jen says:

    I am game Salad-Sister! I’m onboard with anyone that is as addicted to YKOS comments as I am!

    YKOS – bringing people together since March 2010!

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