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Café Olé, Tenleytown - Closed


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Another place you never seem to hear anything about...

I was there for the first time last night for a wine dinner hosted by Robert Kacher. This post should be taken with a grain of salt, though, as the owner (blanking on his name) was there preparing the food himself, most of which he said was not available on the regular menu. Everything was very, very good. Most interesting thing about the small plates we were served was the spices used (the owner is Lebanese), which really added a unique, delicious twist to what I usually expect out of things like hummus, baba ghanoush and such. I tried to get him to divulge what some of the spice mixes were that were used in the plate of 12 (!) seperate dips and spreads we were given after sitting down, but he wouldn't reveal them.

We were also served:

An orzo paella of sorts, with lamb sausage and calamari

Shrimp with vegetables and a bean spread, served in a fried crepe-type thing

Mini lamb burgers in mini pitas (trends be damned, these were fantastic-- apparently they are only available Mondays at lunch)

A turkish cigar

I'll have to maybe post about the wines seperately on the wine board.

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Cafe Ole is right around the corner from me and I'm there almost once a week having a glass of wine with the hummus special (hummus with seasoned lamb and fresh pita bread). Other favorites of mine are the Lebanese Celebration and the Chicken and Macaroni salad. The tapas, as well as the glasses of wine, are very reasonably priced - sometimes $2 and $3 cheaper than those of other similar places -- plus, they taste better. I've had a few, err...inconsistent trips, but 90% of the time, everything is perfect. When you go as much as I do, you're bound to have a few less than perfect trips. The outdoor patio is perfect and it's barely ever completely full.

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I just got back from lunch and it was a lovely way to spend an hour on a beautiful day. We had hoped to dine at 2 Amy's but since they don't open until 5 on Monday :P we had to regroup and this was the perfect solution.

We had the lunch mezze sampler with hummus, lamb tagine, z Provençal and tapanade. I usually do not like restaurant hummus because there is not enough garlic or good olive oil but this is not a problem at Ole. The hummus was well seasoned and was wonderful with the big pieces of grilled pita.

The z Provençal is their version of chicken Provençal. Small pieces of chicken, tomato and olives. Again nicely seasoned although I would have liked a few more olives. The lamb tagine was served on pearl sized couscous (I think) which did a great job of absorbing the sauce/juice given off of the tagine. I am not a tagine expert at all but this was very nice.

The final addition to the quartet was their version of tapanade. If it had been named anything else I would have been very pleased. The dish was a combination of olives, tomatoes and pine nuts with more pine nuts than anything else. When I think of tapanade I think of an olive spread so this was not what I expected. None the less it was again very nice.

We also had an order of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) that is served with a tarmasalata. At first I found them a little under seasoned but when I tried them with the tarmasalata I understood why. The combination is wonderfully refreshing, especially with the other garlic laden mezze we had.

All in all it was a great way to spend a Monday afternoon. The total bill was $22 for the two of us, including drinks (non-alcoholic). My only suggestion would be to sit under the canopy when it is warm out because the sun made the silverware too hot to use!

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I used to live not far from this place and started going there not too long after it opened. The prices were so good that I even managed to eat there when I was a poor grad student. It has always been a solid place with good mezze and a solid, eclectic wine list with great prices. One of my favorite things to eat anywhere is the orzo salad at Cafe Ole. Of course I may be a little biased since it was also the location of my first date with my wife. :P

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Greetings all,

The girlfriend (foodbunny when she gets approved to post) and I visited Cafe Ole, a casual favorite for some time, last night and found many of the mezzes seemed to be totally different recipes. About the only thing familiar was the bread basket.

The lamb tangine, chicken shwarma, baddaganoush (?), calamari and Spanish Gold just weren't the same. Not bad per se (although the lack of merguez in the Spanish Gold rankled), but not what we were expecting.

Have they acquired a new chef or ownership since our last visit in the Spring?

Cheers,

bubbaque

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I used to go here quite often, especially on Monday's at lunchtime for the Lamb Burgers. I forget what it is that they put in the mayo on that burger, but it makes the trip there totally worth it.

I haven't been in a few months now, but maybe I will tomorrow and report back.

(I hope I'm not bringing this thread back from the dead against policy or whatever)

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I have had an obsession with their black bean hummus for 3-4 years now. I have tried and tried to recreate it but as simple as hummus is there is just something I haven't managed to recreate. And now that I live in NJ I can't go in for any more investigative tastings. When my brother and I used to live around the corner, one of us would always stop by and pick up a couple of to go orders of the hummus when we were having people over.

The other thing I loved there was the Lebanese celebration. I don't know what but there was something seriously addictive about that dish. For awhile, instead of getting multiple mezze, I would just get 2-3 orders of the celebration. Also in the probably close to 50 times I went there over the years, I never once had to wait for a table. Service, yes but never a table. Granted my brother and I both being in the industry ourselves, we were usually in there at pretty odd times but there just never seemed to be a huge crowd.

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A group of friends and I tried to get a table at 2 Amy's tonight and failed (there was an hour long wait), so we headed up Wisconsin Ave. and wound up seeing Cafe Ole. Stopped there and had a surprisingly good dinner of small plates, and for a good price:

Risotto - $8: Split this with a friend, and it was a delicious. Mushrooms, fried leeks on top. Really rich, so splitting it was perfect.

Portabello Napoleon - $7: A stack of tomato, mozzarella, grilled portabello with pesto, basil, and balsamic. This was pretty standard, but I enjoyed it, especially with the variety of bread that came in the bread basket.

Bread Basket - $6: A variety of bread, including some really great focaccia, and a giant pita chip with some awesome seasoning on it. The only issue with this was that they went pretty cheap on the focaccia while giving a giant pile of pita chips. It could have been more balanced

Sultan's Stew - $7: Beef stew with beans, rice, and yogurt sauce on top. This tasted great, but I only ate one bite since I was so full from the rest of the meal.

Macaroni au Gratin - $7: My friend got this mac and cheese, and while it was pretty standard, I liked the flavor a lot, and they gave it a nice crust, which really made the dish.

Others got a variety of soups, pastas, and kabobs, but from what I saw I think the mezzes are where it's at when it comes to Cafe Ole. One person's entree of pasta in a pesto sauce seemed only marginally bigger than my risotto, even though it was nearly double the price, and I'm sure she would have been more satisfied with my choice.

Overall, I'd definitely go back. They suggest 2-3 mezze per person for an entree, and while I was skeptical at first, they're right. I was full even though I saved one of mine for later, and had just enough room to go and enjoy a frozen yogurt from Robeks.

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