“Have we ordered yet?” I asked my dining companion, unexpectedly changing the topic. We had been engaged in conversation for sometime and my thoughts, adrift in our discussions, suddenly snapped back to our tangible surroundings. A glance down at the menus, still lying on the table, immediately answered the question perplexing my once preoccupied mind. We had long waits on the first visit to Octavia and our second engagement was proving to be equally as enduring. So what brought me back for round two? Was it those fresh raw oysters? Or maybe the tender and crispy red snapper? Our first dining experience gleamed with creative potential and I felt the menu needed a more thorough shakedown.
The main menu, printed on weighty paper cotton, separated food into three categories: snacks, appetizers, and main entrees. Among the meals, which included soups, shellfish, pastas, and meats, there were also bolder dish offerings such as beef tongue and squid ink noodles with botargo. Though we eyed the beef tongue, we ultimately chose two oysters (3$ a piece), risotto ($20), and the red snapper ($28).
Despite being generally pleased with the overall dining experience, there was a feeling that much of the diverse menu remained unexplored. In addition, the long waits, which tarnished the experience, may have merely been caused by an “off” night. Before casting judgment, a revisit was in order.
Cleary, Perello is no stranger to high quality dining. Meals were marked by uniqueness, fresh ingredients, refined preparations, and overall flavor balance. Also, despite a full house of people on both nights, noise levels were moderate and the ambiance remained comfortable. Unfortunately, each experience was also notable for long waits and a staff that seemed inattentive and somewhat overwhelmed. Once Perello figures out how to better manage the dining floor, throttle customer reservations, and improve server coordination, she’ll most likely have another hit on her hands.