An evening at Ostra, the latest from Chef Adam Burress
Story and photos by JD Dotson
I would never consider myself to be an adventurous eater. Adventure calls for me in travel or experiences, but when it comes to food, I know what I like and stay pretty mainstream: not too spicy and definitely nothing weird. I am picky about seafood and would never intentionally eat a bug. Only in the past two years have I stepped outside of my comfort zone for some delicious chargrilled oysters on trips to New Orleans.
That being said, the new restaurant Ostra from Chef Adam Burress of Hammerheads, Game and Migo gets its name from the Spanish word for oyster, so it was only fitting that I have a bit of a culinary adventure here, too.
Warm summer nights call for dining al fresco, and Ostra’s two-tiered patio was a great place to start. Jon, my dinner date for the past 18 years, and I couldn’t have more opposite tastes when it comes to food, with him being the more daring usually. Our selections reflect our taste, but I was willing to step out my comfort zone for a bit. We started out with drinks. Jon ordered a margarita ($9) from the cocktail list and I ordered a Huey from the Ducktails list ($5). The Huey is coconut milk, honey, basil and turmeric (and named after one of Scrooge McDuck’s nephews in Disney’s “DuckTales”). Both cocktail and mocktail are perfect summer porching drinks for a warm evening in Louisville.
Of course, we couldn’t come to Ostra and not order oysters. Jon ordered the Hot Half-Shell Oysters ($15 for four), two with kale goat cheese and two with jalapeno mornay, and I ordered the watermelon salad ($11). The oysters were distinctly different – delicious and creamy with the goat cheese and just a hint of heat with the jalapeno. The watermelon salad was a refreshing, cool counterpart to the oysters. Basil yogurt, roseheart, toasted peanuts, feta and white balsamic blend together beautifully with the fruit.
Options for our next course were in the categories of raw and bocata – sandwich or sliders in Spanish – under the heading “More Amore.” I picked a bocata, the crispy avocado banh mi. Jon wanted a little more love and ordered the Bang Bang Chicken. ($7 and $12). My crispy avocado sandwich was served with mushroom pâté, pickled vegetables, kimchi mayo and cilantro. Bang Bang Chicken is a fried chicken on jalapeno risotto with toasted peanuts. My banh mi was a deliciously interesting, vegetarian twist on a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, with just enough crunch to the avocado and wrapped in the kimchi and pickled vegetable flavors. Jon’s sandwich had a great kick with the lightly-fried chicken. Ostra, which has numerous tapas-style plates, is perfect for trying a lot of things and sharing. All of our dishes were just the right size for both of us to try some new things and still have room for dessert.
The inside of Ostra is dark and romantic with warm light from hanging baskets and the concrete bar. The interior is intimate and sleek, a perfect spot to end the night with dessert and a drink.
Usually, it is difficult for me to choose a dessert. I love it all, so narrowing it down is usually the hardest part. But the choice was clear from the get-go. We had to embrace the culinary adventure and order the Cricket Brownie ($8). Studies show that we unknowingly eat several pounds of bugs a year. Yet, I had a hard time of intentionally ordering a dessert made of insects. It was the thing I love most in the world mixed with the thing(s) that make me squirm the most. The menu says the brownie is made from banana, coconut and cricket flour. Doesn’t sound too bad at first. I am sure I can handle it since it’s just flour, right?
The large plate of brownies was set in front of us. Just out of the oven, the smell of warm chocolate hit us first. Drizzled with icing running down the sides, the brownies were beautifully decorated with edible flowers. We immediately forgot the flour recipe and, wait, what is that? Sitting amongst the flowers and perched atop the gooey chocolate mounds were little candied whole crickets. I love dessert the most, but this is the one and only time in my life where I had to pass. Jon, being braver, than I dug into the brownie and insisted I try it, knowing the sugar fiend in me always wins the fight. I tried the dessert, my fork carefully avoiding actual whole crickets as it sunk into the good stuff. The brownie was heaven – rich chocolate, warm, hints of coconut and banana and no hint of whatever my mind conjured up cricket flour to taste like. Truly a spectacular dessert, cricket flour and all, and my adventures in eating just got taken up a notch. So the little guys on top didn’t die in vain, I made Jon eat the candied garnish so I could squirm a bit more and be adventurous albeit vicariously. VT
1758 Frankfort Ave.