Good Things Come in Small Packages, and so does Oola
‘Local, seasonal, and flown daily’ sounds nearly not enough for spoiled San Francisco gourmands, and while it partially explains the overwhelming success of Oola Restaurant & Bar, the definition of this late night European-style bistro is so much broader than that. Executive chef and co-owner Ola Fendert, who jokes that his native Stockholm would be the best city in the world should there always be August, apparently enjoys the foggy and mild character of the City by the Bay. In the last 20 years, he used to lead such reputed establishments as Chez Papa, Plouf, Baraka, and Scala’s, and now places Oola high on a list of worlds’ best restaurants. For his new summer menu, Chef Ola whips up creative combinations of tastes and flavors, like his piquant sole ceviche, marinated in lemon juice and vodka (what not to like?); it’s citric spike grounded by a slice of soft avocado and a warm toast. Delectable foie gras and roasted chicken ravioli (always on the menu, summer or no summer) are bathed in delicate cream and truffle sauce with that prized black fungus shavings adding an unmistakable earthiness. The house specialty baby back ribs, glazed with ginger and soy – every flavor clean and pronounced – fall off the bone, making late-dining ladies lick their fingers in the discreet half-darkness of their booths.
The Pullman-style dining room with high-back beige plush banquettes and dark wood tables along a brick wall on one side, and a bar, lighted in orange neon on the other, invites romantic dates and youthful groups of friends to indulge in Chef Ola’s cuisine, which he calls “San Franciscan.” Hanging nylon panels of brown and purple hues, white orchid pots, and red-glass candleholders with flickering votives soften an industrial feel of the two-story high ceiling with oversized bare light bulbs on long black cords. Oil paintings derived from vintage snapshots by Manny Fabregas adorn the walls. Along with an intimate party garret upstairs, the restaurant seats 45. The value priced summer menu uses local producers, like Wine Forest Mushrooms, Dirty Girl Produce, Knoll Farms, Cow Girl Creamery, Star Route Farms, Snyders Honey and Swanton Berry Farm. An international selection of wines includes dry and refreshing Saint Hilare brut (France) that pairs nicely with those mean half-shells, served with notable mignonette; Kim Crawford pinot noir (New Zealand) a great ribs companion, and Castello Meleto classical Chianti from Tuscany, good for just about anything, but especially enjoyable with a side of parmesan and truffle oil fries. A new addition to the summer menu, some amazingly airy and stiff soufflés are a Monday specialty, so the hardest day of the week now becomes softer for Oola fans. A newly introduced cocktail menu focuses on some of San Francisco’s oldest classic cocktails such as the Gibson, Whiskey Crusta and Pisco Punch, and the full bar is open for a happy hour Monday through Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM with drink specials and attractively priced hors d’ oeuvres. Oola is open nightly for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday from 6:00 PM to 1:00 AM and on Sunday and Monday from 6:00 PM to midnight, and is located at 860 Folsom Street, SF. For reservations call 415- 995-2061, for more information visit www.oola-sf.com. Photography by Yuri Krasov. 1. Dining room at Oola. 2. Chef’s famous ceviche. 3. With Chef Ola Fendert.
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