Ah.. the pitfalls of hotspot dining. We originally had plans to go to Perilla for dinner. A addition however could not be accomodated however, despite me giving the restaurant notice a week in advance so we scrambled for backup options. We picked Olana and I now thank the stoic reservationist at Perilla for helping me discover this new restaurant serving very sophisticated dishes in a really comfortable space that could be suitable for all occasions, be a romantic tete-a-tete to a corporate wine and dine event. First impressions were favorable as we took in the lush red interiors and the very spacious settings. Its refreshing to be eating out in the city and actually have ample space between you and the neighbor for a change. While respecting the restaurant’s namesake is the upstate estate of an artist known for the Hudson River style, I still don’t get the illuminated murals done in the style he helped popularized. It looks like cheesy stained glass and just isn’t very attractive. The oversized stuffed chairs and the blood red banquettes were however.  

tacconi pasta

The restaurant serves upscale American food in a manner more intricate and fussier than what I usually am attracted to (e.g. authentic ethnic cuisines or upscale comfort food). Yanru was a little wary of the menu at first, each dish consisting of what seemed like one too many ingredient. Fortunately most of the dishes delivered with nuanced but not jarring flavors. We started with housemade rolls (4 types a little cold) and an amuse bouche of very subtle goat cheese flan with dollops of asparagus puree. Appetizers were really strong on the whole. I was charmed by my pasta, thin squares of pasta dough sandwiching a mint leaf between each pair, dressed in a light lamb sauce that drew inspiration from Morrocco. Yanru’s chestnut crespelle stuffed with ricotta and mushroom was at once rich and earthy yet tangy at the same time.  A must order. Gerrie’s ordered a daily special and was rewarded with a poached duck egg oozing rich creamy yolk over leeks and some other seasonal vegetables, simply but effectively cooked. A tartare of some sort is de rigeur, and Olana’s version which Simon picked was a delicate seabass shaped in a disc and swimming in a pool of lightly acidic grapefruit juice. Yummy and refreshing.

slow roasted halibut

We all agreed that entrees were not as satisfying as the appetizers. They were still good, my slow roasted halibut perfectly flaky and delicate in a saffron and mussel jus that had just the tinge of minerally and musky mussel taste. Simon’s rabbit dish stuffed with foie gras, almonds and apricots was a revelation, unfortunately not because it tasted great (it did) but because it tasted uncannily like cantonese roast pork. I swear it did. Gerrie’s pork tenderloin was staid and a tad dry while Yanru just didn’t enjoy her duck ravioli as much as the chestnut crepe appetizer, which was really great.

strawberry and chocolate napolean

We finished off with 2 desserts, a rich meyer lemon creme brulee with almond biscotti and ice cream and a very attractively presented strawberry and chocolate napolean with rich gianduja ice cream. The napolean consisted of white chocolate discs layered with a spongy, chocolate mousse like filling that was ingeniously surrounded by a ring of strawberry mousse, so subtle that it took me until my very last few bites to figure that out.

Along with the check then came a small pot of molten chocolate with mini macarons, chocolate pinwheels and housemade mint marshmallows that were pillowy soft and lovely dunked into chocolate and equally good eaten alone.

The evening would have been perfect but for some issues with respect to service, which was attentive in general and helpful. We got some wrong utensils but remediated that with switcheroos amongst ourselves, and the maitre’d was seriously confused by our request to split our bill with a mix of cash and credit cards (we were going dutch, and who carries so much cash in the wallets? no one). But they are but in their second month of service, and given the experience, this is definitely a place to return.

Olana

72 Madison Ave (between 17th & 28th Sts)

http://www.olananyc.com/index.html