This past Friday I found myself and Slow Food NU founder, Nicole Zub, trekking further and further into suburban Cambridge. The two of us were armed only with our oversized water bottles and iPhone maps on the second hottest day ever in Boston, but we were determined not to miss our reservations because of the heat wave (brought forth by climate change– but that’s for another blog post entirely).
Finally, we saw the sign. Oleana. What you will find there is an incredible menu full of rich, bold Eastern Mediterranean food dreamed up by Chef and Owner, Ana Sortun. You may have heard of this badass female chef from Top Chef Masters or from her being honored with the James Beard Award.
Just when you thought Sortun could not have anymore street cred, you’d be interested to know that the chef also sources all the local, fresh food that she can from non other but Siena Farms, owned and operated by Sortun’s husband.
The two of us wandered in a bit disheveled to find ourselves transported to contemporary Turkey with tapestries adorning the walls and low-lit Arabic chandeliers glittering above us. How far had we walked??
Nevermind that- we were ready to dine. Our first dish was the Fried Mussels, Hot Peppers & Turkish Tarator Sauce. I’m not sure why, but I seem to have a constant craving for fried hot peppers– so this dish really hit the spot for me. The batter was so light and crunchy, without being oily or heavy. This dish proved that you can fry without having to die.
Our next mezze was one that I heard a bit of buzz about on Yelp- the Warm Buttered Hummus with Basturma & Tomato. This. Was. Divine. Basturma is a wind-dried, cured beef sliced really thin. It was wrapped around the hummus and topped with these incredible, minced tomatoes. I don’t even like tomatoes, but they certainly brought the whole thing together.
Next up were our entrees. Nicole opted for one the specials of the day- so please forgive me for not remembering EXACTLY what it was, but I can tell you that it was locally caught fish, accompanied by corn chowder, spinach, more yummy things and a corn pancake…or two.
I opted for the Misty Knoll Flattened Lemon Chicken with Za’atar & Turkish Cheese Pancake. The crust you see on top is the za’atar which is made up of a herb similar to thyme, blended sesame seeds and sumac. And the cheese! I never hate on a cheese pancake.
We weren’t done quite yet though. The last course, dessert! We decided to go for something different and ordered the Sour Cherry Tea-ser with Mahlab Panna Cotta, Almond Kadayif and Cherry Spoon Sweets. This dish arrived and we were a bit confused, but delighted to discover how to devour it. The drink was some sort of cherry juice and tea concoction with a sugared rim (isn’t that just the most fun?) that we shared, but only after nibbling on the panna cotta for a bit until tossing it into the tea. Still have no clue if that was the idea- oh well. On the opposite end of the plate was what I had dubbed the best shredded wheat I’ve ever had until Googling Almond Kadayif and discovering that was the name of the mystery treat.
Alas, it was then time to leave this Turkish oasis to trek back to Northeastern in the blistering heat, but we were well-fed and had leftovers to look forward to.
If you ever have the chance to eat at Oleana or Sofra (Ana Sortun’s bakery with literally our favorite cookies- Earthquakes) please do! Also, check out Siena Farms at the Copley Square Farmers Market, Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am-6pm.