Olana (closed)

by Susan on March 10, 2008

[Food:3.5/5]

Olana, Chef Al Di Meglio’s just opened Flatiron restaurant, has legs. While the diverse menu appears to suffer from an identity crisis whose resolution lies somewhere between the Hudson River Valley and Italy, Meglio offers an array of well-balanced and flavorful creations. In addition to meat, game, and fish, there are half a dozen pastas, each offered in starter and entrée sizes. Two dishes, a Grilled Whole Turbot and a Cote de Bouef, are meant to be shared.

Olana is named after the Hudson River Valley estate of Frederic Edwin Church. Homage is paid to Church, a famous painter from the Hudson River Valley School, with three landscape murals in the main dining room. Two are oddly positioned next to one another while the third hangs on the opposite side of the room. The plush, cranberry-colored chairs and tan leather walls are the décor’s high points while the circular bar is instantly inviting. A table in the more intimate back room, complete with fireplace, is worthy of a special request.

A suit-wearing, friendly, managerial type proficiently handled our food and wine order while a black-clad support staff tended to the service details. If the restaurant is met with popularity, more trained servers will have to be brought into the mix. During our visit, service was impressively attentive and helpful, especially for a restaurant still in its preview phase.

As with any new restaurant in its nascent stages, snafus have to be expected. When our starters arrived “Chinese food fast” we prepared ourselves for a rushed evening. Thankfully our fears were assuaged with well-paced entrée and dessert delivery. We were more disappointed when an entrée we did not order was placed on the table. The staff, however, met this error with grace and resilience. Our waiter took full responsibility for entering the wrong dish into the computer, had the correct dish speedily prepared, and then comped us dessert with his sincerest apologies. He didn’t offer any excuses, nor did he get defensive. The sincere and expedient way in which he dealt with the issue reminded me that poor service is not born from mistakes, but rather, from how mistakes are handled.

Shredded radicchio, celery slices, and nicoise olives are tossed with tender pieces of grilled octopus in the Octopus Salad. Beautiful circles of octopus carpaccio were buried under the sea of color, an unfortunate hiding place for the highlight of a dish whose separate ingredients were better than the execution of their whole.

A starter sized portion of Veal and Ricotta Cappellaci was fantastic. Pasta plump with delicate ricotta and flavorful veal was intensified by a roasted tomato sauce that tasted wondrously of fire. Pistachio nuts nestled into the pillows of pasta lent appealing texture.

The dense filet of Monkfish Ossobuco was converted into savory goodness with braised endives and lardons. Just the right amount of herb jus kept the dish moist while a complement of sweet parsnip puree balanced the entire dish beautifully.

The Roasted Rabbit, stuffed with crunchy almonds, sweet apricots and decadent foie gras made for pleasing forkfuls. Creating the perfect bite did not require individual stabs at the dish’s components, but rather each bite was gift wrapped under a well-seasoned and crispy skin.

For dessert, the tidy stack of banana mousse, cake, and wafer-thin layers of dark chocolate, formed a sophisticated and tasty Banana Napoleon.

Dining at a new restaurant in its early days is undeniably exciting – you feel as if you’re on the culinary cutting edge. Though any new dining venture is bound to have its handful of issues, more often than not Olana felt like a well-settled restaurant ready for business.

Olana
www.olananyc.com
72 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 725-0957

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