In recent years, people in Shanghai have been extremely lucky and spoiled when it comes to seafood. Just not too long ago, French Gillardeau oysters were the thing.
Today, you can choose from a plethora of fresh oysters flown in from France, Ireland and even Middle Earth.. I mean, New Zealand.
Live Boston Lobsters? Please, that is so 2010. These days, French Blue Lobsters are the prized catch.
Enter Ostra, a new seafood bistro located just across the Jing’an Kerry Center, on Tongren Lu.
Ostra is the latest restaurant from the owner of a Japanese restaurant 植藤, which sort of provides Ostra the same supply of sashimi-grade seafood.
Disclaimer: This was an invited tasting during their soft opening to sample their food and provide some constructive criticism and feedback.
Located on the classy retail stretch of Tongren Lu, right beside Butao Ramen, Ostra certainly stood out with its super classy decor. The restaurant at night has a dim ambience, with lights illuminating their seafood bar, and also highlighting the pretty white tableclothed table settings.
Ascending their spiral staircase which resembled a coral shell revealed 4 private rooms, providing groups a more intimate dining experience. This is a great place for a romantic date and business dinners. 9/10
As with invited tastings, an unbiased score of 7.5 is awarded to service.
The chef at Ostra is from Hong Kong and had previously worked at award winning restaurant, Amber, which will likely be favourable with the Michelin Inspectors this year.
The cuisine featured at Ostra does not belong to a specific region, but would be a mix of various western styles with a cantonese touch. That means, lighter sauces and preparation to highlight the freshness and natural flavours of the seafood.
Naturally, their focus is on seafood, and they try to feature seafood and oysters that aren’t commonly available elsewhere in Shanghai.
The oysters are imported 3 days a week, every Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, freshness guaranteed. There were some interesting names of oysters that I hadn’t seen before, so I was very excited to try them.
Ostra Regal, France (68RMB/ea)
The Ostra Regal were recommended as the mildest tasting of the lot, and a good choice for oyster beginners. During my tasting, I thought they were quite meaty even though they looked flat, with a medium level of brininess. I thought the flavours were not as mild and delicate as recommended, but nonetheless very tasty without any sharp fishiness one would get from aged oysters.
Black Pearl, France (68RMB/ea)
I found the Black Pearls to be surprisingly, the most delicate of the lot. They were smaller sized, their flavours were very mild, and the least salty. I would in fact, recommend these as a great starter oyster for the oyster noob.
White Pearl, France (68RMB/ea)
The White Pearls were super fat and meaty. Their flavours, not too much different from the Black Pearl in my opinion, and very easy to eat. Like all the oysters we tried that evening, this had a lovely sweet aftertaste.
Kaipara, New Zealand (48RMB/ea)
The Kaipara were the ones that took me by surprise. They looked small, but in fact were quite plump because of the depth of the shells. The meat had a light refreshing and unique flavour that was unlike any of the other oysters I’ve had. A tinge of cucumber perhaps.
I was definitely very impressed with the oysters we tried, perhaps one of the best oysters I’ve had in recent memory. Of course, at these prices, I wouldn’t expect anything less. 9/10
Jamon Iberico Bellota, 60 months (420RMB)
When I saw the price on this, I was quite shocked! That’s a really expensive pile of ham!
Then I realised it had been aged for 5 years, which explained the price for it’s exclusivity.
The ham tasted very tender and flavourful. Many of the Jamon Iberico Belotta I’ve had were dry and sometimes a little ‘sticky’ in the mouth. The mouthfeel of this was nearly like fresh ham, but with the complexity of the 5 year aging process. The rocket was unnecessary, because you really don’t want anything to come in the way of tasting the complex flavours of this ham. Good stuff, but can I afford it? Not likely. 8/10
Pan-fried Fresh Quail with Seasonal Salad (180RMB)
I was told that the Quail at Ostra was a specific French breed that they brought to Beijing and breed them there.
For a restaurant of this calibre and its pricing, I thought the presentation could be more creative and complex. The browning on the quail was also very uneven, partly because it was pan-fried — You can’t possible have every side of the quail to be flat on the pan. Perhaps roasted or finished in an oven would yield a nicer dish?
Taste-wise, it was nothing special for me. The quail was for the most part, overcooked, and I couldn’t detect any particular seasoning or flavouring to complement the quail flavours.
This dish can definitely be improved by a better preparation method and introducing a more prominent side-component. 6/10
King Size Scampi done 2 ways (180RMB)
The King Size Scampi was served with it’s flesh sashimi style, and it’s head baked with a bit of sauce over it to form a crust.
I have a pet peeve with seeing ‘Scampi’ on a menu, because Scampi is simply a broad term to refer to prawns, and could be many and any type.
These at Ostra, were likely to be Langoustines.
The raw flesh had a nice bite in its textures, and unlike Japanese botan shrimp, the langoustines had a more savoury taste.
The head was equally flavourful, and one could taste the freshness from the umami of the ‘brains’.
However, I do have a little issue with the price point on these. 180RMB is really quite steep considering it’s just sashimi and a baked head for one langoustine. 7.5/10
Lobster Bisque with Brandy (118RMB)
The lobster bisque was one of the strongest I have had. It felt like someone slapped me on the face with a lobster on the first sip. Full of lobster flavours, no shortcuts were taken with this one. Two pieces of bouncy lobster meat were discovered within.
Perhaps the bisque might have been a tad too strong, because I found myself requiring a sip of water to wash down my throat a bit. But that said, the flavours were pretty amazing. 8/10
Whole Blue Lobster with Chilli, Olive Oil, Garlic, Bay Leaf (1180RMB)
This arrived in a Dutch Oven, still sizzling and smelling amazing on the table. The lobster again like all seafood was impecabbly fresh. The dish looked promising. It reminded me of Spanish style garlic shrimp.
Our table was quite disappointed when we found that the lobster meat tasted pretty much like boiled lobster.
I was so hoping for the lobster meat to have been infused with the garlic, bay leaves and chillis, paired with some awesome umami released from charred lobster shells.
I mean, for 1180RMB, this really needed to be a stand out dish. One that I should keep thinking about whenever the word lobster comes up. Sadly, it was not. 7.5/10
M9 Australian Sirloin 8oz (980 RMB)
The M9 sirloin was cooked medium well on purpose, because of it’s intense marbling. This is actually an accepted norm for M9 beef, though I would have preferred mine closer to medium with a bit of pink.
The M9 was super fatty as advertised. 100 grams of these are enough. Any more and you would start to get tired of it.
I did feel that the side dish arrangement was a little uninspired, and wished it was more substantial. 8/10
Spanish Red King Prawn with Prawn Sauce (280RMB)
Thankfully, to end the meal, the King Prawn (Carabinero) pasta was excellent.
Beautifully presented and lovely flavours in the pasta sauce made from the prawn brains.
Pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, the flavours and texture of the carabinero simply exceptional. Crunchy, sweet and so full of that crustacean flavour I love. Amazing. 9/10
Home-made Panna Cotta (58RMB)
The fruit of the day was Mango, so we had a Mango panna cotta. It tasted almost like a Hong Kong style mango pudding, which was pleasant for me. Don’t be expecting an authentic Italian panna cotta though, but this was quite tasty. 8/10
This brings us to a close of this tasting at Ostra. Exceptional seafood ingredients, really. I do wish they would lower the prices, or bring more value to the dishes, because for many dishes, I felt there was too little on the plate and the cooking felt uninspired. All that said, they are still in their baby steps, and I hope will improve in the near future.
Set lunches are currently available at 188 RMB and 288 RMB per pax, for 2 and 3 courses respectively.
They also have a dinner set for 980 RMB, and one for 1180 RMB.
Refer to the set menus below for reference.