Middle: Mushroom Hotpot with seasonal vegetables, tofu, Out Of The Dark mushrooms, shiitake cream. Bottom: Chargrilled Eye Fillet with swiss brown agria ragu, white onion puree, kale, roasted cipollini.
Ostro’s new menu – designed by executive chef Josh Emett alongside head chef Josh Shields – is full of fresh tastes of the sea and unforgettable classics with a twist.
Britomart: So, tell us what you wanted to achieve with the new Ostro menu.
Josh Emett: Well, it’s still sticking to the truth of what Ostro is and what we wanted Ostro to be when we started out, which is a really amazing brasserie serving great, simple dishes. But food tastes and trends have moved over the last five or six years.
Have you been experimenting, then?
I don’t tend to follow trends too much because I’m far too obsessed with food that’s comforting and has an element of tradition or nostalgia. That’s the food I love – food that’s known, that people recognise. We’re not doing molecular gastronomy or trying to reinvent the wheel here. This is food that gives you comfort but also surprises you as well. We want them to be the sort of dishes you want to come back and eat again and again.
Can you tell us a bit about what’s changed on the menu?
We’ve still got a strong focus on fish and shellfish. We’ve got a beautiful new salmon dish [cured Big Glory Bay salmon with pickled daikon, carrot and ginger granite, labne and salmon caviar] and a new ceviche [trevally with lime, coconut cream, cayenne and shore sorrell] that I’ve been doing for a little while. We’ve done a new pressed leek terrine, which is a dish that I haven’t done for a long time, probably 20 years, with a blue cheese and sour cream dressing that is absolutely gorgeous. The first tasting we did, we had probably 15 or 16 dishes and it was a real standout, probably because it’s just so different. But it’s a dish that’s been around long time. I do love leeks.
Is a greater demand for vegetarian or vegan dishes one of the changes in taste or trends that you mentioned?
Yeah, it definitely is. We’re also still seeing a lot of demand for gluten-free, dairy-free. It’s difficult, because you can’t be all things to all people. It can be mind-boggling when you’re planning a menu. You have to still keep the foundation of what the business is about and then fill in the gaps around the outside. Because if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything to anyone. You have to stick to your core while still being mindful of everything else.
So does that mean you won’t be ditching the beloved Sunday roasts?
We’ll still be doing the Sunday roasts! They’ve always been really successful for us, for the whole six years.
Six years is a long time in the restaurant industry these days.
It is. There are a lot of restaurants that have come and gone in that time. There are places in Auckland that have been around 20, 25 years but there are only a handful. It’s good to do a big menu change, a real refresh. It’s actually one of the best tastings I’ve ever done. I was a bit short of time before I did it, but we didn’t really put a foot wrong.
So did any of the Ostro classics survive the overhaul?
The smoked kahawai omelette is still in there because that’s something that’s been a consistent good seller that represents us really well. We’ve kept the burger, though we’ve changed it up a little bit. We’ve kept various steak elements. And we’ve always done a creme brûlée. We decided probably three years ago that we weren’t going to garnish our creme brûlée, we were just going to do the best bloody creme brûlée in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re going to do it, do it in it’s purest, simplest form and make it absolutely perfect. And we sell more creme brûlée than we do all the other desserts put together. Which says a lot about how much people love it.
Don’t mess with perfection, right? Speaking of which, where can people get your book, The Recipe, which contains more than 300 classic recipes from top chefs around the world, including your good self?
Well… they can’t right now! It’s actually been out of print since it sold out within a couple of months! But there will be new stock coming in at the start of October [and you can find it in all good bookstores].