As a serious “foodie,” I pride myself on knowing all the best choices near my Connecticut home — so no one was more surprised than I, when a chef friend raved about a restaurant housed in a local strip mall.
I’ve passed the place dozens of times and never gave it a glance, but from the moment we walked in the non-descript door, we were blown away by the ambiance of this compelling Latin American Café.
OLA, located on US 1 in Orange, CT is owned by Guatemalan born brothers Chef Melvin and Wayne Lopez and is a shining example of why not to “judge a book by its cover.”
As soon as we entered, we were immersed in the Latin American ambiance with its colorful décor, beautiful bar and exuberant staff.
Upon being seated, we were immediately offered one of the fresh signature drinks. Since OLA bills itself as a mojito bar, it seemed only appropriate to partake of the local specialty. Mine was a mango mojito, made with fresh fruit puree and plenty of fragrant mint. The combination was delicious with the mint highlighting the fruity flavor. OLA’s most popular mojito is a “Mojito de Coco”, made with coconut rum, fresh lime and coconut juice and – of course – fresh mint. Coconut is one of my personal favorites and I appreciated this unusually flavorful version, using flavored rum. Some other choices were pomegranate, blueberry or raspberry margaritas and the classics, white or red sangria, all prepared with the freshest of ingredients, all leaving you wanting more.
For appetizers, we had to have the seasonal lobster and avocado quesadilla as well as the guacamole, prepared tableside, and served with assorted spicy chips. The tortillas were homemade and a great receptacle for the delicious melted quesa fresca and of course fresh lobster. It was served with a salsa that was a delicious complement.
Nestor, our server and a self-proclaimed “foodie”, was extremely helpful in making our selections. He had us try the “appetizer special of the day” which was a Panella and Rum Smoked Cured Salmon Tostado (served over an avocado puree and finished with a chimichurri, fresh mango sauce), unexpected fare for a strip mall, and — as advertised — spectacular!
Moving on to the entrée we shared the Sugar Cane Caramelized Wild Salmon (served over baby spinach, shitake mushrooms, sweet plantain and a warm quinoa Salad, topped with an albarino sauce. It was the first time, I had salmon caramelized in this way and it worked to retain the moisture in the fish.
Our second entree was traditional Paella made with diver scallop, shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, corn and braised tomatoes a ll swimming luxuriously in a roasted garlic sauce and served with saffron rice. It was presented very artistically with the clams surrounding the other ingredients and blended together for the perfect bite. The” sufrito”, which is the base for the paella, had a lovely garlic flavor and the traditional saffron in the rice takes this dish to the next level.
To finish our meal we chose the Tres Leches (with caramelized bananas and figs). Tres Leches is prevalent on menus in Spanish Restaurants, but this cake was exceptionally creamy, not too sweet and had a great texture, showing it was clearly homemade. We completed this wonderful meal with a delicious steaming cup of Café Guatemala and a sigh of contentment.
Ola is located at 350 Boston Post Rd, Orange CT