Tapas and Wine: The Perfect Combination at Ostras!
When my partner and I moved to the Rogue Valley about eighteen months ago, two of the people we first chanced to meet were Oliver Fix and his wife Gilda Montenegro-Fix. Oliver was working at Thai Pepper in Ashland, and Gilda is a diversity trainer and consultant. Their remarkable backgrounds as world sojourners and Olympics-caliber kayakers made for great conversation and, as recent transplants, we appreciated folks who could introduce us to the must-know destinations for quality food and drink around town.
Now, Fix presides over just such a destination in Ostras!, a breakout tapas restaurant and wine shop just off Ashland’s plaza. Alongside Billy Harto, the successful local restauranteur responsible for a number of popular spots—Thai Pepper and Kobe in Ashland, as well as creating Bambu and the Asian Grill in Medford—the two have crafted an intimate, friendly place that introduces visitors to great local wines, cheeses, and other comestibles, in a cozy walk-in setting suited for drop-ins or more formal occasions.
Ostras! had been percolating for years in the mind of Harto—he saw a bottle shop featuring top quality wines for retail, inside a small plate eatery that merging old-school flavors and modern locavore sourcing. When the Italian-themed Salame closed after four years on the plaza, Harto leaped at the chance to bring this dual concept to life. The menu connects the Spanish tapas tradition—unique ingredients in small portions—with a carefully curated selection of wines and spirits, each complementing the other.
As Fix, a German-expat who grew up traveling the world, told the Messenger: “In Spain, eating and drinking are the same thing—there’s plenty of both happening, at once, all the time! We wanted to bridge that old world feeling with new world experiences.” The result is a menu as built for sharing as the long table at Catalan hostel—share a bottle, share a selection of small plates, you can even share your space at the corral of tapas tables placed near the bar, a great venue to strike up conversation with your neighbors.
Harto is serving as executive chef at Ostras! and was recently joined by Jordan Harto as head chef. The younger Harto, until lately of the highly praised Toro Bravo in Portland, has been bringing the latest in tapas technique to the menu. Meanwhile Fix manages the restaurant and the strong wine program. He says they all share one goal: “Plates with no filler. With the deconstructed experience of tapas dining, everything has to stand alone; every plate brings something special and unique.”
Since opening last March, the team has been hitting that mark with regularity. Your reporter freely admits to some bias in these matters, being both a fan of the Fix’s and of tapas, ever since a conversion experience at Austin’s fantastic Bullfight several years back, but don’t take my word for it. Go check out the goods: A pan-seared sea scallops in romesco sauce ($9 single order) and serrano ham-wrapped prawns in harissa ($9) are always in our order. The seared skirt steak with salbitxada ($11) (pictured) almost converted this very skeptical red-meat eater to change his colors permanently. The house cheese board ($13), with a rotating selection, some local, some imported, always has some surprises. And the fresh bread, from Mix Bakery, is a necessity to clean up the excellent sauces. The squid ink pasta ($13) is a delicious conversation starter and, in a large portion, guaranteed to fill up the hungriest members of your party. On the lighter side, empanadas ($6 each) and radicchio ($8) or fennel salad ($6) are a great way to get in and out quickly, and locals are starting to take note of the weekly paella nights on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The bar, with staff mixologist Blake Satre at the controls, is creating innovative cocktails to pair with the menu, such as the Orchard in the Abbey (Apple Brandy, Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, Angostura, and Frankincense), or the tongue-in-cheek Oliver’s Fix (Mezcal, Siete Leguas Blanco, Palo Cortado Shery, Allspice Dram, Cacao). Sometimes you need a sharp cocktail to bounce off the strong flavors in the menu.
The wine is often front and center, though. Along with quality Spanish varietials, there’s a fine selection from local wineries like Weisinger Family Winery, Cowhorn Vineyard, Kriselle Cellars, and Eliana Wines. These local bottles can be purchased from the shop and enjoyed with the meal with no corkage fee (other bottles, or bottles from outside, have a $10 fee). The energetic young crew, led by front of house manager Nico Ansel, have offered enthusiastic suggestions and consistent attention on our visits.
In a town loaded with great dining options, my partner and I were thrilled to find a place that brings some new international flavors to the scene. A blend, like their menu, the team of Harto and Fix is beautiful blend of deep local roots and new culinary talent, keeping the Valley connected to the latest, and tastiest, in cuisine.
Ostras! Tapas and Bottle Shop
5 – 10 pm, Tues. and Thurs.
5 – 11 pm, Fri. and Sat.
11 am – 3 pm, brunch and 5 – 9 pm, dinner – Sat.
47 N. Main Street, Ashland