From Faith — We waited in anticipation of the duck. There have been whispers that the chef and owner have discovered a New York State duck source akin to the Holy Grail, a small farm, a few esteemed ducks sitting around on thrones, eating exceptional things. We were not disappointed. The duck arrived roasted to perfection with dried cherries, and drizzled with an orange reduction infused with vanilla bean; heavenly. And then came the beef tenderloin, which made me swoon…
Olea Restaurant, just a short walk from The Yale Art Gallery in downtown New Haven, was formerly Ibiza; it is now a Mediterranean fusion restaurant. Of course Spanish food is a specialty since the owner and chef are Spanish Americans, born and raised in Spain, but now their creativity is explosive. The restaurant interior is casual chic. Yale faculty and students mix with actors and staff from Long Wharf and Yale Rep, buzzing across from business people and those who simply love to eat and drink. (Fantastic tapas, wine and innovative cocktails at the bar.)
Happily installed at a banquette, and noticing how we look so much better under Olea’s mood bath lighting, our bread appeared, light and airy and delicious, with a chewy, crackling crust. Then the fire-roasted shishito peppers were delivered, cooked in gorgeous Spanish olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, nothing more; I could eat them all day long.
The wild mushroom oxtail croquettes have reappeared at Olea, but this time served with caramelized onions and to-die-for crispy flakes of brussels sprouts.
While the duck is terrific, I was surprised to fall so deeply in love with Olea’s beef tenderloin in port wine sauce; it’s first marinated in the chef’s barbecue aioli, then grilled. The steak was a show-stopper, especially paired with a mouth-watering red, Vina Ardanza. (Do not miss this wine!)
Owner Juan Carlos Gonzalez is at the top of his game. The decor, thanks to a designer at Cesar Pelli’s architecture firm nearby, and the menu, are all new. Chef Romero is clearly happy, and inspired working exclusively with Gonzalez, a master.
Olea is now among the most exciting restaurant experiences in the state. Writing this, I’m thinking I might slip over there right now for that steak and a couple of glasses of that juicy Vina Ardanza. I’m in a leopard hoodie, running shoes and black yoga pants, but the thing is, no one will care. Just like New York, casual chic here belongs to everyone.
Olea: Highly Recommended.
39 High Street, New Haven, Ct. 203-780-8925.