Thursday, June 11, 2009

OLIVETO Oceanic Dinner ****

Annual Oceanic Dinner at Oliveto, a seafood menu offered for three days. All the fish is wild caught or trapped. We focused on the antipasto and pasta with a whole black bass as the finale. As usual the service was excellent.

First Course:
Chilled ocotopus "soppressata" with Catelvetrano olives, celery heart, and Monte Iblei olive oil; and Green sea urchin flan with old aceto balsamico. Greek trap caught octopus, Southern California diver caught sea urchin. The octopus was thinly sliced and perhaps pressed into strips and dotted with chopped olives -- good texture soft with a slight bite to it. The standout was the sea urchin flan, as one that has both enjoyed and disliked uni, I thought this was wonderful, the flan's creaminess balanced the sea urchin flavor and spread it out so that it had a smooth sea urchin flavor rather than a concentrated punch. I would definitely order this again.

Second Course:
Crudo Study I: local halibut with paddle fish caviar, spicy razor clams, yellowtail jack with peach mostarda, salted and marinated king salmon, smoked bluefish with rouille, marinated anchovies with Espelette peppers, tai snapper with summer truffles, American mackerel with salted Bing cherry preserve. I was excited to see the spicy razor clams on the half shell, briny bright flavor with a spicy kick, my other favorite was the mackerel with cherry preserve, the sweet preserve punctuated the mackerel's flavor. I also thought the smoked bluefish was distinctive, strong smoke flavor good for a bite, but probably too powerful to have more than that.

Crudo Study II: tombo with oenogarum, striped bass with candied lemon, blood clam with bay olio santa, salted and marinated king salmon, marinated anchovies with Espelette peppers, squid in its ink with golden caviar, myagi oyster with rose vinegar. This was a well composed plate, spanning a variety of flavor combinations: spiced anchovies, salty salmon, slightly bitter squid ink and lemony bass. Standouts on this study were striped bass with candied lemon, the blood clam which had a highly concentrated clam flavor and the squid which was about the creamy texture of its ink against the crunchy thin ribbons of squid. Also enjoyed the oenogarum sauce on the tombo tuna.

Third Course: Mostaccioli rossi with shaved tuna "bloodline" and zuchini crema, Wild nettle tagliolini with geoduck clams and Nocellino olive oil. The bloodline is the darker part of the tuna, they took it out and cured it. It tasted much like cured tuna heart and was excellent with the perfect mostaccioli. I have yet to have a pasta at Oliveto that I didn't like. The wild nettle taliolini was dark green from the nettle. I couldn't taste the nettle because the pasta and the sauce had a delicious deep clam flavor. The pasta took on so much geoduck flavor the clam itself added a textural contrast.

Fourth Course:
Spit-roasted black bass stuffed with dried Italian sausage. This was a whole fish with a savory stuffing. The dish was hearty, rustic and a good way to fill any of the remaining space in our bellies. I would definitely eat this again, though overall it was less interesting than the other dishes.

Nothing on the dessert menu jumped out at us, and to be honest, I am still thinking about the incredible desserts we had at Babbo. We ended the night with a walk down to Tara's for ice cream, full, happy and making plans for our next visit to Oliveto.

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