Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Off the Map: We're Already "Those People"

Misty Knoll Flattened Lemon Chicken -- Oleana, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing like walking in on a staff meeting to kick off your reputation as "those people" at any establishment.

Now, "those people," granted, is a subjective term.  We can't quite define what kind of people we're talking about, other than the ones that are in some way inflicting annoyance and/or confusion on those who surround them.

Vodka and Ginger fear that we are "those people" quite frequently, especially when we, oh, sit at bars by ourselves in the middle of the day, or bring unsanctioned pickles or egg nog into restaurants, or show up three hours early for our reservation.  Just for instance.

Anyway, after nearly burning her face off at Gourmet Dumpling House, Vodka and her friend make their way to Cambridge for their 5:30pm reservation at Oleana.
Let's Hope This Doesn't Scorch Off the Remainder of Vodka's Mouth
When we arrive at exactly 5:25pm, we walk into the middle of a restaurant staff meeting.  Rather than sending us to the bar, or even back outside, for our five minute wait, the manager not-so-patiently shoos us into a dark corner of the restaurant.  Mildly perplexed by our position, we field various busboys, waiters, and the manager himself for the next ten minutes as they try to scoot past us in our obviously inconvenient location.  In fact, when the manager comes by for the second time, we ask if we're supposed to be following him.  "No," he states, as if we are not here under legitimate, now five-minutes-late-reservation, circumstances.

Finally, after my friend takes the opportunity to hang her coat on the provided rack in our corner, the manager fetches us and looks only mildly bewildered when we announce that we would just like to sit at the bar.  After checking Vodka's first and last names against the reservation list (despite the fact that there are a grand total of zero additional guests trying to check in at 5:30pm), the manager shows us to the bar.
Where, Thankfully, Bread Baskets Are Still Provided
"I assume you're drinking," Vodka says to her friend, temporarily forgetting that Ginger is not the one present.

"I may hold off on this round," the friend proclaims, forcing Vodka into a bout of solo boozing.
Least. Acceptable. Answer. Ever.
"Do you have flavored vodka?" Vodka asks the already looking-at-us-like-we're-lunatics bartender (oh, just you wait, buddy).

"We're too close to a church to serve hard liquor," he answers.


"It's an old Cambridge rule," he explains.  "Only wine and beer."  Talk about your unfortunate town policy, and this coming from a girl who lives in a city where you can't get a drink before noon on Sunday.  Blasphemy!

Settling for a glass of chardonnay, this great display of scripture absurdity has apparently awakened my friend's thirst for alcohol, as she orders herself a glass of sangria (and offers, inexplicably, for the bartender to put it in the same glass as her now empty Diet Coke in order to "cut down on the dishwashing"). 

"They have sangria?!  Excuse me," Vodka calls across the bar to the vodka-less bartender.  "EXCUSE ME."  Slowly he turns.

"I need to change my drink order to sangria," Vodka states, catching him just as the first drop of chardonnay is about to hit the bottom of the wine glass.  He nods solemnly, and we burst into immature giggles at our assured revelation: We are definitely "those people."
And Now, Let's Turn to the Purpose of Our Visit
Prying apart our magnetic menus, we order one Misty Knoll flattened lemon chicken with za'atar and a Turkish cheese pancake to share.  The dish, which was chosen by Gabriella Gershenson on the BIRD IS THE WORD episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, arrives minutes later, just in time for the bartender to hear by friend proclaim "I go to the bank for breakfast" (it seems they serve bagels), thus nailing the coffin shut on our reputation at the place.
Considering This is the Phone Said Friend Still Uses, The Bank Breakfasts Should Not Be Surprising
The chicken dish itself is pretty enough: a plump chicken breast coated in a black sesame seed-laden sauce, resting atop greens and a cheesy pancake.
Okay, It Looked Slightly Prettier in Person
The first taste reveals that Oleana wasn't kidding on the "lemon" description, as the lemon taste is so strong that it is overpowered only by the slightly burnt flavor of the top coating (which we assume is the "za'atar").
Sour Patch Chicken
The chicken itself is moist enough, though not overly so, and the "pancake" is more of a sweet-cheese-wrapped-in-phyllo-dough affair than the thick, more potatoey pancake which we were expecting.
This Chicken Is Looking More and More Unappealing as the Pictures Progress
Overall, the dish is good, if vaguely odd, and not something that we finish (and as our college dorm room flatware could attest, we are both members of the Clean Plate Club).
Poor Showing, Team
As we are getting ready to leave, our dear friend, the manager, stops by again to ask us to move bar stools in order to accommodate another party.  Vodka, who really doesn't feel like being bothered with such helpfulness, says that if we can just get our check, we'll be out of their hair in a matter of seconds.  We pay and free up the sought-after bar stools, only to go out with a bang on our position of being "those people."

As you might recall, Vodka's friend's coat is hanging on a corner rack in Oleana, the corner where the entire waitstaff, plus early reservation arrivers, seem to like to hang out.  As we make our way back to said corner, we discover that, though the restaurant is now full, my friend's coat remains the ONLY one present on the reject rack.
It Seems No One in Cambridge Uses Outerwear
Whipping out her camera, Vodka tries to explain to the four hovering busboys, "I need to take a picture of her coat because it looks sad."  As I'm about the snap the photo, one of them asks, "Do you know her?" 

"Yes," Vodka answers, unsure where the confusion at the situation lies, and she skedaddles off to the bathroom.

Her friend, who has been left standing in the corner in utter coatless awkwardness, finally states, "I'm going to get my coat now" and maneuvers her way through the busboys.

"That's your coat?!" the same busboy asks incredulously.

"Yes," my friend states.  "It's all starting to make sense now, isn't it?"

Though we have a sneaking suspicious that, like so much of Ginger's and my previous behavior that has been recounted on this blog, the whole thing still didn't make much sense at all.

Oleana's Misty Knoll Flattened Lemon Chicken: 3 stars


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. YES. Keep them coming.