Oleano -Boston 134 Hampshire Street, Cambridge
(Date of visit: July 2011)
Address: 134 Hampshire St. Cambridge. Boston MA 02139
Reservations: www.opentable.com or telephone restaurant on 6176610505
Value for Money****
Where to sit: Ask for a reservation in the front street window seats or near the raging fireplace in winter. In summer, outside in the enchanted garden.
We were privileged to be able to visit Oleana on a recent trip to Boston where we were attending the 2011 International Conference on Food Styling and Photography.
I had done my homework on where to eat and Tremont Street which was about 100m from where we were staying, is home to about 15 highly rated restaurants such as Sibling Rivalry, Hamersley’s Bistro, B&G Oysters and Orinoco to name just a few, so to venture anywhere in a taxi meant the restaurant had to be Uber special.
The intense conference extended every day from 8.30a.m. to 5.p.m and left us just enough time to catch our taxi back to the South End, shower, and head off to our dinner reservation.
I had made a reservation using open table for Oleana after reading the astounding reviews, but came very close to cancelling it when I saw that they were situated in Cambridge, a $20 dollar/20 minute taxi ride over the bridge from where we were staying. Luckily a colleague at the conference enquired over lunch as to where we were dining that evening, and when I told her that we had a reservation at Oleana, she nearly did flick flacks as the place was impossible to get into without a reservation and was her favorite spot in town.
And so we got to ‘do’ Oleano!
Our taxi dropped us two blocks from the restaurant in error, and being a beautiful summers evening we were delighted to walk the short distance, that is until we noticed a decline in the architecture and manicured front porches of the area to a rather dodgy, shabby neighborhood compared to the South End. Being from South Africa we are quite neurotic, and perhaps it is just not as posh as Tremont Street (I never got to ask anyone how safe it is) so my advice is to get the taxi to drop you off at the front door.
We were very early (as we had run the two blocks) and so were ushered through the restaurant into an enchanting garden filled with aromatic smells, the sound of tricking water and succulent plants surrounding beautiful wooden benches. Our brief journey from entrance to garden took us through a magical space that could have been Jasmine and Aladdin’s home that was warm and dark filled with the smell of scented candles and warm Eastern spices.
The staff were unequivocally the best I have experienced in a long time and within a few minutes I had a champagne flute of ‘The Paopao’ in my hand ($11) , a sparkling wine cocktail of strawberries infused with pink peppercorns, a taste sensation that livened up every taste bud on my tongue. Vaughan tried a chilled icy beer called the Midas Touch Ale by a local company named Dogfish Head. ($8) What a good start to a wonderful evening, sitting in this Zen type surrounding of herbs, glistening mosaic and steel combined with aged wooden furniture.
We were offered an outside garden table but chose to keep our reserved inside table as I was interested to watch through the open kitchen at how this tiny space managed to serve so many courses so efficiently to so many people.
What to order? The descriptions were so real and interesting that it made it impossible to choose, and so we went on the recommendation of Aaron, the delightful manager on duty, and our table neighbors who were locals and had been eating here for years.
This was our order:
Whipped Feta with sweet and hot peppers ($5)
Sweet Pepper Lamejun with grilled Peaches, Halloumi and farm baby greens ($10)
Sultans Delight which is tamarind glazed beef short rib off the bone, their signature dish, cooked for hours and shredded. It is served with a smokey eggplant puree and aromatic pine nuts. ($13) (Best meal I have ever had!)
The falafel arrived, at no charge, a treat from the kitchen, as did a fish dish, which I didn’t catch the name of – a treat Aaron told us as we had travelled from so far.
Azulana Lamb with Turkish spices was our final course ($26) and was so tender and succulent, but we had now eaten so much it was just too much and sadly I had no room for their famed Baked Alaska with coconut ice-cream which looked like a snow capped alp created by pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick.
I could not leave without a signed copy of chef and owner Ana Sortuns book ‘Spice’ as she has selfishly shared each of the items on her menu in the book, which I can’t wait to prepare on my return. Ana’s makes it easy for the reader to combine flavors and recipes as the book lists her recipes in order of spice. When preparing your menu, it makes total sense which flavors should be combined with each other.
If you are staying in Boston, make the trip to Oleano. I rate it as one of the best ten restaurant experiences I have ever had. An if the big ‘R’ has not affected your milk money, to join Ana in Turkey on her upcoming cooking tour where she will share her delights with fellow foodies. (click here for more info.)
(The bill for two with the above food and many cocktails was $185 with a 20% tip. The book was a further $34.95. We shared each dish in order to be able to sample as much of the tastes as possible.)