Despite its prominent placement next to the Yale Center for British Art, Olea — a Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant — remains relatively unknown to Yale undergraduates two months after its opening.
Olea opened in late August at 39 High St., where local favorite Ibiza had operated for over 15 years. The restaurant closed in the Spring due to a dispute between the landlord and restaurant owners Sonia and Ignacio Blanco, the New Haven Independent reported in March. Although Olea is now operating under the same chef and much of the same staff as Ibiza, Manuel Romero — chef of both Ibiza and Olea — told the News in an August interview that he wanted to “break away from traditional dishes.”
According to an email from Olea management, most of the restaurant’s customers on weekdays are Yale students, faculty, staff or other affiliates. But most students interviewed were not even familiar with the new restaurant. Of 17 undergraduates surveyed, five were familiar with Ibiza while only three of those surveyed knew of Olea, and only one had eaten at Olea.
Despite Romero’s proposed change in menu, student customers familiar with the change of names said they have not experienced a drastically different dining experience from Ibiza.
“It will be the same type of cuisine and not groundbreaking like something in New York City,” said Earl Lee ’15, co-editor in chief of the Yale Epicurean, an undergraduate publication about food.
Han-ah Sumner ’18 visited the restaurant last weekend with her parents and noted the high quality of the service and the complimentary dishes.
This past weekend, Olea offered a special Family Weekend menu tailored to those visiting campus and looking for a special meal.
Student foodies recognize Olea as filling a unique niche.
“Olea, just as Ibiza was, is one of the best restaurants in New Haven within their price range,” said Lucas Sin ’15, co-editor of the Epicurean along with Lee. “The food is well executed and the profiles are unique to the establishment.”
Lee echoed Sin’s sentiments but identified other “finer dining experiences” including Zinc, Heirloom and 116 Crown as potential competitors to Olea in the upcoming months. Other students mentioned Barcelona and Briq as rounding out the roster of restaurants appealing to the same audience by offering a high-end dining experience close to campus.
Students remarked that Barcelona, located next to the Omni Hotel, has similar offerings to Olea’s Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine options and also offers a larger venue and renowned ambiance.
But Romero said in August that he was not worried about potential competition and not interested in his competitors’ prices of ingredients.
Olea’s marketing material notes that its new name is from a genus of about 40 species, including the olive, in the family Oleaceae, native to temperate and tropical regions of Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
Olea’s hours are Monday to Thursday from 5—9:30 p.m. It is open Friday and Saturday from 5—10 p.m.