This venue is closed.
As the name suggests, Olana, which opened among the sooty gray office buildings along lower Madison Avenue, is a place of lofty, even romantic, ambitions. The restaurant is named for the Hudson River home of the nineteenth-century landscape painter Frederic Church, and so the windowless room is decorated with murals, some of them backlit, of bucolic Hudson River scenes. There is a round bar up front, circled with chairs covered in red mohair, and the tall wingback chairs in the dining room are covered in red mohair, too. I don’t know how many attentive waiters, sommeliers, and bread boys I encountered during my visits, but if you dine at an off hour, you might find yourself outnumbered ten to one. All of which contributes to a slightly strained stuffiness at Olana, a sense that this overpolished, overembroidered restaurant might be trying a little too hard.
The menu feels overembroidered, too, until the food begins to arrive. Al Di Meglio is the name of the young Italian-American chef in the kitchen, and his rococo, sometimes off-the-wall style reminds me of another flamboyant new Italian chef in town, Fabio Trabocchi, of Fiamma. I counted five extra ingredients (Champagne gelée, mint, and sunflower shoots, among other things) in my very nice striped-bass tartare, and if you order the inventive octopus salad, the tentacles come arranged in tender nickel-size slices and covered with a crisp, flat chickpea pancake. No proper Hudson Valley menu is complete, these days, without a poached duck egg (Di Meglio’s is nicely balanced over a crostini stacked with braised leeks, mashed chicken liver, and foie gras). But the best of these generally elegant appetizer creations are the Italian crêpes called crespelle, which the chef flavors with chestnuts, stuffs with lemony ricotta, and drizzles with mushrooms, pine nuts, and brown-butter sauce.
Olana seems to have attracted a modest but loyal following in its brief existence so far. The bar is crowded most nights with heavyset suit-wearing gentlemen from the nearby office buildings. And with the arrival of the warm weather, the tall louvered windows at the front of the room have been thrown open, to provide a kind of sidewalk-café view of the traffic grinding up Madison Avenue. The desserts, like the savory dishes, offer some relief from these surroundings. They include a wheel of buttery carrot cake, topped with cream-cheese-flavored ice cream, and a crunchy strudel stuffed, inventively, with candied rhubarb. But the most inventive creation of all is something called “strawberry soup.” Along with strawberries, it contains tomatoes, white chocolate, and a scoop of spicy black-pepper ice cream. It’s an improbable combination, but like many things in this improbable little restaurant, it works.Note
Try the croque madame with a duck egg on top at lunch.Ideal Meal
Chestnut crespelle, crispy chicken or veal strip.
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