I eat out a lot. Ha! Obviously!
After over 5 years of food-blogging, I have had the privilege of trying a wide spectrum of dining establishments near and far. Most restaurants I have tried, tend to have a few hits and a few misses on the menu. In some cases if the food was wow – the service lacked… or vise versa. Then there is a small category of places that have great food and great service to match their hefty price tag – but you just intuitively know that the service lacks genuine warmth and welcome. Instead, it is meticulously designed to go after that highly coveted Michelin star.
Ah! But very very rarely do I come across a restaurant where I find that everything was aligned and designed to create the perfect dining experience. In such a place you walk in and your first impression is of that warmth and welcome….. like they are genuinely happy to see you. The ambiance and decor is stunning… they practically make your eyes glow! The food in such a place is spectacular – perfectly conceived and executed…. in appearance as well as taste. So much so that throughout the meal you can’t help but repeatedly say to your dinner companion, “why hasn’t this chef been invited to cook at the James Beard House yet… and why hasn’t he received a Michelin star!”
Olea New Haven and chef Manuel Romero. ‘Nuff Said!
I was recently treated (on the house) to fabulous chef’s tasting at Olea and I will not be exaggerating if I said that I am still thinking of that meal! Chef Romero has an incredible knack of taking familiar Spanish/Mediterranean ingredients and flavors, and translating them into stunning and sophisticated dishes that delight all your senses. A few times during the meal, I caught myself thinking, “how did he do that!”.
He is quite an artiste, that chef Romero…. just take a look at the fabulous food pics on the Olea website and you will know what I mean.
There were many strokes of genius in this meal. Like the perfectly grilled sea scallop offering the most delicate crunch on top to complement the light-as-air potato foam underneath! This was the first time I had eaten a potato foam! What an interesting ingredient to transform into such a texture, don’t you agree?
I also enjoyed the Ceviche Mixto, where the two styles of ceviche contrasted each other in their use of temperatures, textures, as well as the balance of sweetness and acidity. One was topped with a delicate foam and the other with rich and luxurious Uni! One used tomato juice as its base while the other offered rounded flavor profiles with hints of coconut. Such a clever and unique way to juxtapose the two!
Speaking of juxtaposing, the Conejo showcased two very delightful ways to enjoy rabbit. The rabbit leg confit was so juicy with almost melt-in-your-mouth texture, while the bacon wrapped loin offered stronger flavor profile and contrasting texture. I also have to say that, every single piece of vegetable on this plate was placed on its own merit of flavor and texture. That is what I mean when I claim, “its all in the details”. And it may sound like a blah point to add – but to me it is really important to say that I really appreciated how beautifully every dish was seasoned – so that each component came through in all its glory.
Chef Romero is quite a master in the art of croquettes. The oxtailI beef and wild mushroom croquette was accented with caramelized onions and dijon mustard. Mmm…mmm! I could snack on these babies all day!
The desserts were just as exciting as the savory courses. At this point, I must tell you that unlike most savory chefs who end up hiring pastry chefs to do desserts for their menu, chef Romero is creating these magnificent and spectacular sweet treats all on his own! The Deconstructed Cannoli-misu was dynamite! I loved the thin, super-crunchy and super-dainty shell that enveloped the lightly-sweetened mascarpone mousse. I am still wondering how chef Romero filled these shells without crumbling them. And the Sweet Forest transported me to an enchanted forest! 🙂 I was floored by the artistic techniques employed to make this fun and whimsical plate. LOVED IT!!!
Olea is not a new addition to the New Haven dining scene. I am sorry that it took me this long to make it up there. If you haven’t visited Olea yet – do it soon. It’s a perfect place for a romantic date-night or when you feel like some delicious tapas or even a nice and relaxed meal with good friends!
Olea New Haven, CT | http://www.oleanewhaven.com/