Tasting caviar has never been quite on my radar. I was very intrigued when I found out that Olma Caviar Boutique & Lounge, which also has a location in the ritzy Plaza Food Hall, recently opened up in my area — Manhattan’s Upper West Side — at the former location of a much more familiar place: Yogurtland. My friend and I were completely new to caviar, and so in efforts to avoid looking like a scrub when I indulged in a tasting at Olma, I googled a lot of things. Things like, what is caviar? What does it taste like? How do you eat it?
The translucent mounds of expensive tiny fish eggs are just that: a processed and salted cured fish roe. However, true caviar is sturgeon. Each variety of fish produces a different tasting caviar, and while it’s known for being a luxuriously high-class snack for the wealthy, the price tags range from affordable to thousands of dollar per tin.
If you’re a noob like I was, I would agree with the commonly stated fact that caviar is an acquired taste. I love salty things (lox, smoked fish, beef jerky) so tasting caviar wasn’t too out of my range. Seasoned caviar eaters, however, eat this stuff by the spoonful, straight up. I’m not sure if that will ever be me.
That said, the tasting at Olma opened my eyes to the variety offlavors, textures, and types of caviar out there. We were extravagantly served a platter of different caviars, each spooned on top of a buttery crème fraîche, which was delicately spread on blinis. Accompanying our platter of fish eggs was a bottle of Champagne. After all, caviar is best when paired with Champagne — or shots of ice cold vodka — according to specialists. I stuck with the bubbly.
We started our caviar journey with the mild salmon red caviar. These were the biggest eggs of the night. Bright reddish-orange in color, each ball exploded with well-balanced salty and sweet flavors. It reminded me of the type of salmon roe on sushi, just a lot less fishy.
Next up was the America Bowfin Black caviar which comes from wild sturgeon in the Mississippi. Naturally black in color, these eggs are much smaller than the salmon ones, and more distinct in flavor. This black caviar is more firm and briny.
The Paddle Fish caviar was similarly tiny in size and was dark gray-black in color. More on the bitter side, these American fish eggs are rich in flavor, and firm. This type is known as the “Chevrolet of caviar” to chef Wolfgang Puck, as it’s one of the more common and reasonably priced sturgeon types.
Hackleback Caviar, harvested from either hackleback or paddlefish sturgeon, is a black caviar. These eggs are firm and have a nutty taste. With an oily, buttery consistency in the mouth, this one was flavorful but not over powering.
Next we tried the white sturgeon Osetra caviar, which is produced in a controlled environment of the aquaculture farms. The medium-sized light brown eggs are delicately buttery in texture, juicy, and individually distinguishable eggs.
Then we tasted the Osetra Siberian caviar. This type is farm-raised and noted for its gastronomic excellence comparable to Beluga caviar (the most expensive) from the Caspian Sea. These glossy, black eggs were buttery, nutty, and smooth in the mouth.
The Russian Osetra Karat caviar was black in color and had smaller, firm, juicy, and distinct beads. The sturgeon used to harvest the eggs is raised in a controlled environment to ensure consistency in quality. These eggs were rich, a bit nutty, and fresh.
The last — and priciest — type we tasted was the famed Belugasturgeon caviar. Described as “extremely mild, buttery, and unique full flavored after taste” by Olma, this glossy caviar comes in larger, pearly, light grey beads. Coming from someone who hasn’t had much caviar before, this taste was much stronger and oceanic.
Olma is an upscale, trendy, and classy spot that also serves as a shop that sells a variety of elegantly packed caviar tins, from small to larger sizes. It also has a gorgeous bar filled with bottles of quality liquors, wines, and Champagne. Moreover, if you’re in need of other foods, Olma offers salads, sandwiches, foie gras, fresh seafood, and smoked fish.