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Anyone been to Ostra yet?

Heading there this weekend and was wondering if there are any early reports. For those unaware, it is the new restaurant from the Columbus Hospitality Group folks (i.e. Sorellina, Mistral etc.). located in the Charles Street space that was previously the forgettable Avila.

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  1. A friend who was there during the soft opening said the food was excellent and the service unexpectedly polished for a newly opened place. She didn't have a lot of detail to offer beyond that, but is someone whose recommendations I generally trust. I'll be checking it out soon as well and am very much looking forward to it. From the menu, the crudos look very promising. It is a bit of a head scratcher that they have 4 different cuts of steak on the menu. I think one would have more than sufficed and they could put the emphasis squarely on the seafood.

    1 Reply
    1. re: black_lab

      All that steak suggests that the targeted clientele require it.

      Broiled Maine Lobster, 3 lbs, Roasted Cauliflower, Broccolini,
      Delicata, Herbed Butter Sauce - 65 -

      Woo!

    2. I'll be there on Sunday evening and will post a full report. I've heard good things so far so we are looking forward to it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RoyRon

        ohhhhh - we will be there late sunday night as well( party of 7)
        please come say hello!--- ( i have heard fantastic things about the food and service)

      2. Just checked out the menu. Yike$$$!

        6 Replies
        1. re: C. Hamster

          Raw oysters at $3 and $3.50 a pop, most appetizers over $20, $52 for a 10 oz filet mignon. Ouch. And what's up with the scare quotes on the "whole" fish? (The 3-lb lobster does seem like a decent deal.)

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Sea Bream is not commonly served in the US, maybe there's a scarcity premium? I predict it will be the next "Branzino" as far as marketing

            It's caught and farm raised n the Med. Called Orata in Italy and Daurade in France.

            Also caught off Baja, MX. Brought back some nice memories. Wild caught was really tasty on the grill and even with inflation, it was a bargain. These are smaller than the Euro version that Ostra likely sells. Lot of fun buying, cooking and eating them

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

            1. re: 9lives

              I've seen sea bream at a few places locally for some years (Erbaluce comes quickly to mind). I was just busting on the inept menu prose. It's probably "whole fish", not "'whole' fish".

              It's just a dumb punctuation error, not like the quote-happy menu prose I kicked Tim Wiechmann in the shins for in the early days of T.W. Food. That was a tic I suspect he copied from Thomas Keller, who can be forgiven for solecisms first-time restaurateurs should probably avoid.

              There are websites devoted to quotation-mark abuse, to say nothing of the grocer's apostrophe. It's just a bit funny coming from detail-oriented veterans like Columbus Hospitality Group.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I was wondering whether the quotes referred to the Columbus Hospitality Group's whole/deboned hybrid (which I love), though not sure quotes work for that purpose, either.

                The several-steak-option thing is a CHG trademark that makes a lot of business sense, but I always wonder if it undermines the credibility of, say, Sorellina as a legit Italian restaurant among a certain set—when, in fact, it's pretty excellent.

                Looking forward to trying it!

                1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                  You are precisely correct as to the description of the whole fish utilizing quotation marks.

                  Sorrelina only used to have one steak on the menu, they added a second at some point. To my sense the steak is less out of place at a place like Sorellina then at a seafood restaurant. I get the economic incentive, but a seafood restaurant doesn't need 4 steaks on the menu to cover that segment. I'd rather they add an extra creative seafood option, but that's just to suit my taste. I was hoping Ostra would aim to really set the bar on high end seafood. That may not have been completely realistic considering the realities of the Boston dining market and this restaurant group. Don't misunderstand me though, I do enjoy Sorellina and Mistral very much.

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              Maybe "someone'' will be afraid of a fish staring them back from the plate. IMO, prices seem to be reasonable for the descriptions.

          2. We had a decent meal at Ostra, but nothing mind blowing that I will rush back for. Hopefully they continue to refine the preparations, which executed very well for a brand new restaurant. However, it was the concept and flavor combinations of many of the dishes that needs serious work.

            We ordered all of the seafood crudos available. While the preparations were tasty, they were not well-balanced dishes. All of the crudo completely masked the flavor of the fish. The salmon tartar tasted only of smoke. Tuna Carpaccio was cut microscopically thin, and didn’t even cover the plate (quite a meager portion). The scallops were a generous serving (6 scallops), but completely lost in the pepper relish. All a pristine fresh scallop needs is a sprinkle of salt and maybe a very subtle touch of citrus. The kale Caesar was a very tasty salad and not overdressed, though the pumpernickel croutons were cut way too small and there were not enough of them.

            The sea bream is a whole fish, but served deboned and without the head. The preparation in the trevisano leaf was well done and really served to retain the moisture of the fish. The preparation complemented this dish, rather than overpowering it. This fish was the highlight of the meal, if a bit overpriced at $40. One really distasteful gouge was the broccolini side. What arrived was not broccolini, but a medley of veg (carrots, cauliflower and one sprig of broccolini). The portion was laughably small and not an adequate side for even one person.

            The dessert we tried (Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeux) was delicious, albeit mislabeled. The cremeux was chocolate and had absolutely no hazelnut flavor whatsoever. The waiter told us the hazelnut was in the caramel (it wasn’t).

            Note that some of the items and prices on the online menu are not current. For example, the lobster is only $57 (not $65 as listed online), which is a good deal for a 3 pounder. The branzino (which we were told was not available) was listed at $96.

            The atmosphere was just OK. They definitely need to dim the lighting a bit to set the mood a bit better. The crowd skewed heavily to the older (50++) set. I’m assuming the pull a lot from the residents of the building in which they are located. Service was adequate, but really nothing special for a restaurant of this price point.

            Given the dearth of high end seafood options, I might be interested to give it another visit in 6 months or so to see if things evolve. I’m not overly concerned with value if the food is good. However at $263 before tip (for 4 crudo, 1 salad, 1 entrée, 1 dessert, 5 cocktails & 1 glass of champagne), my dining $ will be better spent elsewhere for now.

            3 Replies
            1. re: black_lab

              Thanks for a very detailed report! I guess that explains "'whole'".

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: black_lab

                I had dinner at Ostra on Saturday evening and my experience was very similar to yours, black lab. "Nothing mind blowing" was exactly how I would describe our meal. We started with the Hamachi and the Jonah Crab Salad. The Hamachi was tiny for the $20+ price. It reminded me of something I was served at o ya although not quite as good. I would not order it again considering the hefty price and tiny portion. The crab salad was ok but nothing memorable.

                My wife had the salmon which had to be rarest piece(s) (it's two separate pieces of fish) of purportedly cooked salmon we have ever been served. Completely raw (i.e. cold) on the inside. We normally like our salmon medium rare but this seemed to be cooked far below that temp. I will say that the quality of the fish was excellent and my wife ate 2/3 of it nonetheless.

                I had the paella which our waiter described as "better than Toro's." Odd description aside, it was pretty good. NOT better than the paella at Toro but perhaps the second best I have had in town. At $44 it is certainly the most expensive paella I have ever had. But in fairness, there was a large amount of lobster, clams, shrimp, octopus etc. and the portion overall was quite large. The rice in the paella was very good. We each had two drinks and our total was $195 before tip.

                The space is a little odd and could use some tweaking. I agree it was too bright in there. Service was what you would expect (waiter did get some props for recommending one of the more reasonable wines by the glass when my wife inquired as to what would go best with her meal from their list). In short, I will not be rushing back given the price point. If I am craving seafood, quality seafood can be had in several other places in town without completely breaking the bank. Side note, the space was never full when we were there. When we left at 8pm (what you would think would be their busiest time of the week) only about 60% of the tables were taken. It's very early, but it will be interesting to see how this place does over the long term.

                1. re: Gordough

                  Thanks for the review...I saw the Boston Globe gave it "3 stars," and tried to compare it to Le Bernardin in some ways. Kind of weird, because it seems like the reviews are a bit mixed in terms of consistency and the dining room noise, and the food might be a tad bit more conservative.

              2. We went there last night and although I had low expectations going in, I was pleasantly surprised. We began with oysters (Pleasant Bay, nicely briney with a great cocktail sauce...no mignonette) and a shaved pea pod and radish and salad that was delicious. Dinner brought on a branzino special, served with a red wine risotto (perfectly al dente) with caramelized onions. This was excellent, although I question the $38 price tag. The whole scup with Mediterranean veg was good, although nothing to write home about. Dessert was the "Snow Egg" which was amazing, lemon mousse inside a meringue shell with a sweet basil sauce, fresh raspberries and spun sugar. Definitely the best thing we ordered. Wine list was pricey and not that great, we had better luck with the cocktails.
                Dining room was fine, although a little sterile. Service, however was excellent. Reuben, our server was the perfect blend of knowledge (helped out with the lame wine list) and friendliness. Best server I've had in a long time! Overall a well prepared and tasty dinner....ridiculously expensive though.

                1. Anyone who is familiar with the Columbus Group will not be surprised that the service is outstanding. They are the benchmark in training front of house staff in hospitality in my opinion.

                  And surrounded by some big steak and the future Strip by the Strega boy, they would be foolish to not have a few steaks to draw the business crowd from their neighbors.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Bellachefa

                    At Mistral recently the waiter brought out a special desert for our anniversary, which we thought was a nice touch, until we saw that they charged us for the desert (we didn't order it). I have had excellent Service at Mistral and Sorrelina, but also some real head scratching misses such as the incident above. While minor, it left a very bad taste. I found service at Ostra to be adequate, but not outstanding.

                    In my experience Menton is one of the few local restaurants which I would consider as a benchmark for service and hospitality. In a less formal way, Rendezvous has consistent service as well. Overall, I think the service at high end Boston restaurants is pretty lacking.

                    1. re: black_lab

                      I agree Black Lab. Love or hate their pricing policies, I find service at all the Barbara Lynch places the most solid. I've also had a couple (minor) head-scratching moments at Columbus Group places, though still consider them very strong on the service front.