When the Chew Haven team walked into Olea with a few friends, we were immediately intrigued by the restaurant’s new design and ambiance. The restaurant has a sleek, modern style and its sandy color palette and wave-like shapes give off an oceanic vibe. As many know this location to be the old home of Ibiza, a once favorite Spanish eatery in New Haven, we can tell you that more than just the design has changed. The chef, Manuel Romero, has shifted the menu towards a more mediterranean focus, and the menu consists of many fusions that you won’t find elsewhere. Olea’s strength is in its ability to combine unusual flavors in a fresh and delicate way. While the dishes are complex, the outcome is refreshing and delicious.
We had a fantastic meal with some unusual dishes such as the oxtail croquettes and the squid ink pasta. The oxtail croquette was lightly breaded with tender meat inside. The squid ink pasta was light and savory, without the fishy aftertaste you sometimes risk with squid ink. An all time favorite of ours was the tuna tartare, a dish we recommend for anyone visiting Olea for the first time. This flavor-loaded appetizer is soaked in ginger and soy sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served with crispy wonton crackers. The yellowfin tuna is fantastic and melts like butter in your mouth. The menu is certainly geared towards more adventurous eaters, but to the picky eaters out there — don’t be discouraged. Even with octopus, squid ink, quail, and oxtail on the menu, there is a dish for everyone to enjoy.
Olea also tastefully executes some Spanish classics. The red snapper “pargo” is a full piece of fish grilled with the skin on. The skin comes out crispy and delicious, while the meat of the fish is moist and refreshing. The fish is matched with some capers and mediterranean olives which balance out the meatiness of the fish, and crispiness of the skin with a salty reminder of the ocean. The dish is served with grilled potatoes and sugar snap peas.
Not only is the food delicious to taste, but each plate is also beautiful to behold. Olea prides itself on its plating, and each dish is gorgeously arranged on the plate. Each plate is composed differently, with colors balancing out the flavors. It is classy in taste and in appearance.
Overall, we’d give Olea a ten out of ten, and can definitively say it is one of our favorite restaurants we’ve been to so far. We might even go so far as to say it’s the best restaurant in New Haven. Because the prices are on the higher side, we’d recommend this spot for special occasions…or when your parents are in town. That being said, it’s definitely worth the splurge if you just want to treat yourself. You will not be disappointed!