Sunday, July 10, 2005

Olena Gives Boston 3 World Champions

My good friend Adam Grosser Posts on 2 Boston Restaurants, One Burlingame fiasco and his new favorite herb. Take it away Adam . . .

Two Boston Restaurants

I have had occasion to eat at two very different restaurants in Boston recently, Hammersley's Tavern, and Oleana.

Hammersley's is a cozy experience, with redolent smells permeating the restaurant. I had a breast of garlic chicken over white bean puree that was fantastic. It was very simple, served with deglazed pan juices, and some rosemary. My guest had the evening special of short ribs - braised with vegetables, and again, well cooked. We followed it up with a lemon tart and home-made ice cream. If you're in the mood for lovely seasonal fare, with a bias toward comfort, check out Hammersely's.

Oleana, on the other hand, was something completely different. Tucked away on Inman Square in Cambridge, the restaurant is a tiny gem you could miss if you blinked. When we arrived, the place was packed, but they had our table ready. The place is cramped, and we were seated between the two aisles which compounded the feeling. As we perused the menu, our server asked if we'd been there before. When we said no she said, "The food here is a party in your mouth". I started with a small plate of grilled hummus wrapped in Turkish Pastrami (Basturma) served with roasted tomatoes. My appetizer was a Spinach Falafel and Arugula Salad with house cured Beets. My entree was "Sujuk" - a house-made Turkish Sausage with a Fava-bean Moussaka. Words don't begin to describe the flavors, and the sophistication of the pairings. The chef, Ana Sortun, was recently named "Best Chef Northeast 2005" by the James Beard Society. I'd be back once a week if I lived there, as all of us independently decided that it was a Top-Ten Lifetime Dining Experience.

A Burlingame Restaurant
Stella Alpina Osteria opened recently - less than a month ago. It is half a level below street level, and takes the place of the long-lasting Alpine Inn. Skip it. The food was awful. The servers weren't into the food, and all of it tasted like bad institutional offerings. My wife had the delightful sounding "Saffron Risotto with Sausage and Porcini". It tasted (and looked) like bright yellow paste with a bottle of cheap sauce poured on top. I had the "Gamberi a la Diavola" which turned out to be almost raw prawns in ketchup. Dessert was a piece of Chocolate Bread Pudding - ostensibly the owner's mother's recipe - I think she didn't share the full list of ingredients. The only pleasant part of the experience was dining outside on a warm summer night.

An Undiscovered Herb.
I'm obsessed with Shiso - the Japanese herb that tastes like a blend of Thai Basil, Tarragon, and White Pepper. You can buy a bunch of leaves in any Japanese market for about $1. I like to take paper thin slices of beef, wrap them around a Shiso leaf, and grill the bundle quickly over charcoal. Sprinkle with Olive Oil and Salt/Pepper. People will eat them faster than you can make them. I've also made a steamed Sea Bass in Shiso Broth with Shiitake Mushrooms. I'm going to make Shiso Pesto to see how that works, but I suspect, that will become a new favorite as well.


Blogger paul said...

I will mourn the loss of the Alpine in--a staple of my childhood.

10:40 PM  

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