Hot Pepper Labne with Olive Oil & Dried Mint $4
Oleana is a Mediterranean restaurant tucked slightly off the beaten-track in between Central Square and Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. Interestingly, Chef-owner Ana Sortun is actually Norwegian-American by background, but she learned and fell in love with Turkish cuisine on a trip to Turkey in the late 1990’s. Before long in 2001, she incorporated these ideas into her new restaurant Oleana, which focused on inventive dishes made with local, organic* produce using the unique spices of the Mediterranean region. By 2005, Chef Sortun had already won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast.
Oleana sources its vegetables from Siena Farms, a local farm that practices sustainable organic methods of farming. Conveniently, Ana’s husband Chris Kurth is a farmer and together they own this farm. I recently received my first shipment of vegetables from them.
Some of my favorite items on the Oleana menu include Whipped Feta with Sweet & Hot Peppers($5), the Deviled Eggs with Tuna & Black Olives ($6), and the Vegetable Tasting Menu (5-course + dessert $40). Here’s a sampling of photos from our last visit. I ordered the Vegetable Tasting Menu and Bryan ordered a traditional appetizer and meat entree.
The first course of the vegetable tasting menu was the Hot Pepper Labne with Olive Oil & Dried Mint $4 (pictured above). Labne is a super thick Greek yogurt. It’s so thick, it’s almost like eating cream cheese (except that it tastes sour like yogurt). Though I thought the yogurt tasted interesting and pretty good (in small doses), I found it to be extremely heavy and rich. I actually had a hard time finishing it. Frankly, I would have preferred a smaller portion!
Asparagus, Cucumber, Radish with Chopped Nuts
I love getting the vegetable tasting menu because you never know what you expect. Furthermore, it often features very fresh, seasonal vegetables straight for their farm. Here, we have sugar snap peas, asparagus, cucumber, radishes, and a tiny bit of lettuce. Sorry, I can’t remember what the yellow cubes are – maybe some sort of turnip?
Fresh crushed English peas, Quinoa, and Pea Tendrils
I love fresh peas, and these were no exception. This dish was light and flavorful and I just felt good eating it because the components were so healthy yet delicious because the ingredients themselves are just inherently already so good.
Spinach Falafel with Tahini, Yogurt, Beets & Cress 11
I’ve said this before, but the spinach falafel is not my favorite. The beet sauce is unique and the flavors are enjoyable, but I’m always disappointed because the falafel itself tastes a bit bland to me. I think much prefer a traditional falafel.
Wild mushrooms, ramps, and goat cheese
This was one of my favorite dishes. The dish is simple, but the flavors of the ingredients really shine: the sweetness of the ramps, the earthiness of the mushroom, and the creaminess of the goat cheese.
Kingfish Nayeh with Turkish Spices, Pickled Spring Onion & Tarragon
Bryan got this as his appetizer. Raw Kingfish is served under a bed of pickled spring onions and spices. Fried pita chips are included on the side. The waitress had recommended this as one of her favorite dishes (I told you Bryan loves asking waitstaff their favorites dishes). Personally, I don’t think either of us loved the very sour preparation of this dish. The flavor of the pickled onions was quite strong. It was hard to actually taste the flavors of the Kingfish. We were both relatively lukewarm about this appetizer.
Bryan ordered this roasted duck (a special of the day), also based on the recommendation of the waitress. Bryan thought the duck was very well prepared, with excellent texture and flavor. (I did not try it – the 5 course tasting was already plenty of food!).
Here is a duo of desserts, with a strong apricot juice on the left and a phyllo dough cake on the right. I loved the crisp, fresh flavor of the apricot juice. The flavors were so real – it tasted like someone pureed an apricot right into the cup. The phyllo dough cake was also very good.
Salted Butter Ice Cream & Petite Caramel Soufflé with Pineapple & Cashew Crisp 13
I loved this dessert. I think it was either because of the salted butter ice cream or the cashew crisp. Whatever the case, I could not stop eating it. The crunch from the candied cashews matched perfectly with the butter ice cream and the tart pineapple. Delicious – highly recommended.
134 Hampshire St
Cambridge, MA 02139
*Siena Farms’ vegetables are not USDA certified organic but they use sustainable organic farming methods. See more here.
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