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Ostra is a pearl in the Theatre District

Inside Ostra. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff/Boston Globe
The Nantucket Bay scallops at Ostra. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Where to Ostra, a new seafood restaurant in the Theatre District space that was formerly Avila.

What for The restaurant is a project of Columbus Hospitality Group, behind the likes of Mistral and Sorellina. Ostra is similarly swank. And where else in this area are you going to slurp oysters while listening to live piano?

The scene In the rectangular white room, groups of women with artfully curling-ironed hair and well-dressed couples eat crudo and salt-crusted branzino. The piano is silent this evening; girly pop plays in the background. Tables are covered in white cloths, chairs upholstered in cognac leather. Dangling white lamps resemble jellyfish; on the tables are white chargers with a horseshoe crab design. Large landscape photos show rocky shores. An open kitchen is fronted by potted herbs, with gorgeous, shiny pans hanging overhead. Women with shopping bags take photos of the herbs: “That is so nice!,” one comments as she takes her shot. Two men clad in stylish backpacks and parkas depart, ready to traverse the wilds of Back Bay. Time for post-meal applications: Women in stiletto booties, puffy white shirts, and tight black pants break out iPhones and put on lip-gloss. When one of a threesome gets up to use the bathroom, the other two quickly start taking selfies without her.

What you’re eating There’s caviar, but for luxury minus a zero at the end of the price tag, you can have luscious raw Nantucket scallops with Meyer lemon, blood orange, ginger, scallion, and mint. For something a little richer but no less lush, try a bowl of tiny ricotta gnocchi with lobster, mushrooms, and truffle.


Care for a drink? There is a full list of house cocktails, with several drinks made with egg white and one oyster martini that includes tomato vodka, sambal, and celery bitters. But with this food, a glass of sparkling muscadet seems right.


Overheard Talk about the restaurant: “It’s the kind of place where you might spot someone you’ve seen on TV and realize they’re much shorter in real life,” one woman observes. Talk about the food: “I think this smells like truffles because it has actual truffles in it,” says an apparent survivor of truffle oil overdose, in a voice of surprise. “I mean, I’ll have a sip of it, just because it’s wine,” a diner says when her friend offers her glass. Snippets of drama: “She is, like, clinically crazy.” “He had a restraining order.” Snippets of affirmation: “I’d never want you to change or be different and that’s OK.” “You don’t have to tell me that I look hot.” Talk about menu and fine-tuning service among staff: “For a lady it’s good,” one says of the grilled sea bream. “They don’t want something heavy.” Couples not talking at all.

1 Charles St. South, Boston. 617-421-1200.

Devra First can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.