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home > dining > usa > massachusetts > cambridge

Oleana Ė I want to like this restaurant. I really do. It is very highly thought of by critics and the public (including many whose judgment I trust), and Ana Sortunís cooking is inventive and playful. But every time I dine here, thereís something that casts a pall over everything. On some visits, itís the service, which can be oddly off-putting at time. On others, itís the food. For someone who has such an interesting touch with (to Western palates) exotic spices, far too many dishes end up either organoleptically or texturally bland. In a more restrained setting, these might not stick out so much, but when some plates are full of vivid, exciting flavors, the disappointments are highlighted.

The wine list oscillates between fair and good, with a quirky sensibility that will not appeal to all palates at all times (which is not, in itself, a criticism; a sense of purpose in wine list construction is a positive thing, and here itís a focus on the organic and/or natural), and prices are reasonable. The most difficult criticism isnít really the restaurantís fault: parking is virtually impossible, and spaces must be trolled on nearby streets that can lead to occasionally lengthy walks, which is fine in good weather, but less appealing in extreme cold, heat or precipitation.

Final verdict: thereís enough thatís good about this restaurant that I canít recommend against it, especially as my perpetual disappointment seems to be a fairly singular thing. But it would be unlikely that I would ever choose to go here, when much more reliably excellent options exist. (Review based on multiple visits over several years.)

   

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