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Olana

A culinary homage to the

Hudson Valley.
72 Madison Ave., between 27th & 28th Sts.,
(212) 725-4900
Dinner, Mon.-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-1 p.m.; lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

CUISINE Modern American.
VIBE Dated elegance.
OCCASION Group dinner; neighborhood dining.
DON’T-MISS DISH Grouper ravioli; roasted rabbit; white peach & cherry mousse.
PRICE Appetizers, $11-$18; entrees, $24-$38; dessert, $8-12.
RESERVATIONS Recommended.

New Yorkers take their neighborhood
restaurants seriously. Every new eatery that opens around the corner
reinforces the notion that you live in an important culinary zip code.
Olana, which launched on the fringes of the Flatiron District two
months ago, is a refreshing addition for residents along what has been
a lonely stretch of lower Madison Ave.

Olana doesn’t strut for
attention with glitzy decor. The setting is civilly outfitted with
spacious banquettes, red mohair chairs and cherry wood paneling. With
its hand-painted murals and landscape paintings of the Hudson Valley, the dining room looks like an art exhibit devoted to this rustic region of New York.
Ignore the harsh glare of illuminated light boxes with even more
landscapes and focus your attention on the refined American cooking,
which bows to ingredients from the Hudson Valley.

Tapping into his Italian roots, chef Al Di Meglio
(Osteria del Circo) gives some of his strongest performances among a
generous selection of house-made pastas. Saffron-tinged ravioli,
plumped with moist grouper, are scattered with ramps and a hailstorm of
crispy capers. Di Meglio binds a fresh mint leaf between two doughy
rectangles, before throwing crumbled sausage, roasted peppers and
eggplant puree into the tasty mix. He also produces a terrific bowl of
veal and ricotta cappellacci glossed with a tangy tomato sauce. In
fact, the only weak link among the pasta dishes was the spaghetti alla
chittarra, afflicted by a heavy hand of chilies and pancetta.

The
pastas are worth the trip alone, but Di Meglio also manages to strike a
delicate balance between decadence and homey comfort food. There’s a
roasted rabbit loin stuffed with apricot, foie gras and almonds, set
over a hearty nest of cannellini beans. An appetizer of chicken liver
and foie gras crostini layered with braised leeks and a poached duck
egg is equally impressive.

At times Di Meglio tries too hard. A
striped bass tartare mingled with mint, sunflower shoots and grapefruit
benefited from neither Champagne gelée nor a frothy seafood broth
poured tableside. Pan-seared chicken consorted with an overbearing
array of sidekicks, including fregola, cipollini onions, roasted
artichokes and fiddlehead ferns. And there was a jumbled marriage of
filet mignon with a floppy semolina pancake, which was better suited to
maple syrup and a cup of coffee than a juicy steak.

Even
if you don’t order dessert, Olana refuses to let guests part without a
sweet ending of homemade petit fours and chocolate fondue. But when a
pastry chef is as talented as Katie Rosenhouse,
the desserts shouldn’t be missed. Her contemporary approach to classics
yields a Meyer lemon crème brulée finished with juicy blood orange, as
well as a flaky rhubarb strudel with a gingerbread cookie bottom. The
most thrilling option is a white peach and sour cherry mousse garnished
with spiced pumpkin seeds and cornbread. It’s a savory-sweet riot of
textures and flavors that leaves a memorable last impression.

Sometimes
you don’t need a celebrity chef or hip trappings to get the
neighborhood’s attention. At Olana, a bowl of Di Meglio’s pasta is
incentive enough.

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