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November 1, 2023

With tasting menu, L’Ostrica opens last of three experiences

Diverse diner needs led to the tri-concept restaurant

by Kristen Wile

L’Ostrica is now open for regular business hours off Park Road. Photo by Unify Visual courtesy of L’Ostrica

L’Ostrica has gradually opened its Park Road brick-and-mortar space over the past several weeks, starting first with its Chef’s Market before kicking off its Sunday Supper experiences. Today, restaurant owners Cat Carter and chef Eric Ferguson introduce the third and final style of dining L’Ostrica will offer with its tasting menu experience.

The concept’s three styles of dining are intended to create a restaurant that fits a variety of diners’ needs and habits. The market fare includes the style of dishes popular when L’Ostrica first began creating restaurant fare diners could enjoy at home during the pandemic, from dips and spreads to pastas and proteins. The restaurant’s wine selection, curated by former Billy Sunday beverage director Stephanie Andrews, is also available for retail purchase.

On Sundays, L’Ostrica serves its Sunday Suppers — coursed menus focused on regions, ingredients, or other themes the kitchen finds inspiring — that are more casual and at $75 more affordable than the nightly tasting menu. That chef’s tasting menu includes 8 to 10 courses and costs $175. Carter and Ferguson say they don’t believe guests will be coming in multiple times per week for the tasting menu, but with the Sunday Supper and market fare, their customers can adjust their dining experiences with L’Ostrica as their needs change from day to day.

L’Ostrica’s Sunday Supper features coursed menus centered around a theme, including this recent first course from a Mediterranean menu. Kristen Wile/UP

If you’re looking to go out on a date or to celebrate something, most people tend to go out to eat,” Carter says. “But if you’re just looking to not have to cook a meal but you still want to eat something good, then there’s different avenues: that might be a casual restaurant, it might be takeout, or it could be the Chef’s Market here. We are trying to reach different people, not just on stages in life, but also what’s happening to them in that moment — in that week, even.”

Both Carter and Ferguson have long histories in Charlotte’s food scene; Carter as the former publisher of food publication Edible Charlotte and Ferguson as a chef. Both have seen the city shift from one where tasting menus were nonexistent to today, where they’re embraced by diners.

“When I was working here — I was at Barrington’s 20 something years ago — it was a different climate then,” Ferguson says. “This city is expanding like crazy, and there’s a lot of people moving here and a lot of people are looking for new experiences in dining. And that’s exciting.”

Ahead of opening, L’Ostrica has gathered a staff with a significant amount of experience, both in front-of-house and back-of-house capacities. The restaurant has been able to do so by creating a culture of curiosity.

“Everyone was just like, man, I really want to learn; I want to learn; I want to learn,” Ferguson says. “Cat and I have that same exact philosophy — we’re constantly talking about new food, new wine, what’s going on, what’s happening in the world. We’re constantly learning and talking about it and reading about it. That’s what excites us on a day-to-day basis, and when you surround your people with others that are thinking like that, too, they want to learn. They want to be a part of something.”

While the tasting menus will change every three to four weeks, they’ll always reflect the seasonality of local ingredients while still introducing diners to new flavors — flavors the L’Ostrica team hopes you’ll ask them about.

“Some of our dishes have a surprising simplicity, and then people eat it and they go, ‘Oh, wow,’ and I think a lot of that has to do with the process and the techniques and the sourcing,” Carter says. “And that’s why those questions matter to us. At the end of the day, sometimes we’re not necessarily using a completely different ingredient list or a complicated ingredient list, but we still think that each of these dishes resonates with people. And when they ask questions like, ‘Well, how did you come up with this?’ Or, ‘How come it tastes so different from what I’ve had?,’ we get excited to answer that question because there’s a lot of thought there.”

L’Ostrica’s Chef’s Market is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; tasting menu reservations are available Wednesday through Saturday nights, with Sunday Suppers taking place each week. Sunday brunch is expected soon.

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