2014-12-03 / Restaurant of the Week


Warm brick walls, floor to ceiling windows, sheer sunset-colored curtains, fresh lilies, crisp linen tablecloths, exposed beam ceilings, and Spanish music come together to spell romance in the intimate dining room at Café Olé Restaurant in Astoria.

Combine these elements with attentive service and an abundance of seafood, tapas, and Spanish dishes and you have the perfect recipe for a special night out. Alejandro Nava has owned Café Olé for five years along with his father and uncle, who, for the last 30 years have been running a handful of Spanish restaurants all around New York. That the restaurant business is in his blood is evident as Nava deftly works the bar and the front of the house, leaving the kitchen to his expert chefs. He mixes up cocktails and pours wine by the glass from an impressive Spanish, domestic and international selection, all of which can also be had by the bottle. But one has only to try one of his three hand-mixed Sangrias to know he is a master of his craft.

When it came to ordering, we placed ourselves in his able hands on the night we visited, leaving Nava to suggest house specialties for both starters and main courses. After forcing ourselves not to overdo with the buttery, toasted bread, we were treated to impossibly tender grilled octopus (Pulpo a la plancha) crusted with redolent garlic, and downright addictive mushrooms (Setas Rellenas) stuffed with crabmeat, breadcrumbs, butter, and cheese: the perfect preview of what was to come. A seafood lover, I was game for the Paella Valenciana con Langosta and my dining companion took Nava’s suggestion of the Australian lamb chops (Chuletas de Cordero). Were we ever glad! The paella was rich with lobster, clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp, plus savory chicken and chorizo (Spanish sausage.) The dish is so loaded with seafood and meat nearly every bite of the bed of saffron rice contained one of the scrumptious morsels, though the lobster came in the shell, easily cracked. And there’s no scrimping on that lobster either: a generous half tail, plus a huge claw packed with meat (though you can also get the Paella Valenciana without lobster). My friend allowed me one of the several lamb chops on his plate, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a juicier, more tender, or more flavorful chop. And from his exclamations, I’m certain he felt the same.

Café Olé is also a tapas bar, and you’ll have no problem making a meal of a few of those Spanish appetizer plates. Some of the selections include grilled prawns; empanadas; grilled asparagus; ham, chicken or crab croquettes; shrimp in garlic sauce; fried calamari and much more. A surf and turf lovers paradise, Café Ole offers prime sirloin, filet mignon, veal prepared in a variety of ways, grilled chicken, all kinds of fish including salmon, Chilean sea bass, and red snapper, traditional Spanish Mariscadas (seafood platters), a full one pound lobster, lobster stuffed with seafood, and many types of shrimp dishes everything at incredibly reasonable prices considering the caliber of the food, atmosphere, and service.

For dessert we tried one of the homemade delights, Tres Leches cake, an infinitely moist and decadent treat. By this time we were completely swept away by the food, wine, and romantic atmosphere, and it occurred to us what a perfect spot Café Olé would be for a date or special family occasion, especially during the holidays. Reservations are strongly suggested, especially on weekends, and I couldn’t help thinking it would be a prime destination for Valentine’s Day! Though delivery is available through Seamless, Café Olé is a dine-in experience not to be missed. Bring your sweetie, a business partner, or the family for a delectable meal with a Spanish flair. A memorable time is guaranteed.

38-09 36th Avenue, L.I.C.


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