Tom Horan ranked Osetra among the

Top Ten Seafood Houses list for 2011

America’s Top Ten Club 2011

Osetra Fish House – Where Angels Still Fly

April 4, 2008 – CyberEater Review

By David Rottenberg


The name on the marquee was changed but the angels are still there – “wine angels”, that is. Osetra The Fishhouse, which has served diners for years at the corner of E St and 5th Avenue, has changed its name and operating focus. It is now known as Osetra.

“We want to expand the range of our customers,” explained Alberto Morreale. “For years, we were known as an excellent but expensive seafood restaurant. Our restaurant, now upstairs, still features seafood as well as steaks and chicken. But, downstairs, we’ve opened the E-5 Lounge, with a well-priced tapas menu in a casual atmosphere that local residents as well as visitors can enjoy.”

Osetra’s marketing emphasis now is to build a loyal customer base of local residents, many of whom live or work within walking distance. Its “tapas” menu features imaginative and tasty dishes such as Kobe Beef Sliders, mini-burgers with sautéed onions, blue cheese and mustard aioli. Other delicious dishes listed include Tempura Lobster Tacos, Baby Lamb Chops and Seafood Paella.

The E-5 Lounge (named for being at 5th and E, not some abstract scientific formula) is very comfortable, with bar and table seating.

The name “Osetra” refers to seafood. It is actually a type of sturgeon, from which a very fine caviar comes, with nice, firm eggs, delicious nutty flavor and beautiful shiny look. Naturally, Osetra features a good selection of caviars and vodka. “Our steaks also are excellent,” Morealle continued. “Our meats are all prime and aged 24 days.”

Now the general manager and part owner of Osetra, Morreale was once the executive chef whose recipes led to the restaurant’s success. Morreale heard the calling to become a chef when he was a very young man in Sicily. He was fascinated by cooking. He got a job as a helper in a local restaurant but his passion for food motivated his boss to mentor him in culinary skills. After a few years, he moved to Northern Italy to master the style of cooking that made that region so well liked. He later returned to Sicily but wanted to work in the “world’s most competitive restaurant market” – the United States. As luck would have it, his cousin, who owned another important Gaslamp restaurant, offered him a job. Morreale combined very creative sauces with many of his dishes.

The dining room upstairs is on a mezzanine-like landing that winds around the wine tower. Window-side table allow diners a view of the action on the streets below. Settings are elegant and décor is enhanced with attractive paintings on the walls, many by Miro. Service is attentive, as would be expected in a fine-dining setting.

Appetizers include the Trio of Tartare, layers of avocado, crabmeats and sashimi grade tuna, drizzled with wasabi oil. The Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, served with a mild but zesty sauce, was wonderfully fresh and tasty.

There is an elaborate selection of seafood, covering a range of textures. Maine Lobster, large 3 lbs, is very tempting or one may order Seafood Bouillabaisse, the famous soup which includes a half lobster in the mélange of fish, clams and crablegs. Pacific Escolar, a mild fish, is pan seared and served with a caramelized onion sauce. Chilean Sea Bass, one of the signature dishes, was wonderfully glazed and flaked easily. The grilled polenta strips that accompanied the fish were crisp on the surface and flavorful. Sole was baked, stuffed with blue crab meat and served as a roll over ratatouille mashed potato – an excellent dish.

The wine list is extensive and well worth reviewing. Servers can assist with selections. The Vouvray from the Loire Valley, followed by a California Pinot Noir, were excellent recommendations.

Desserts, always the best way to end a delightful meal, include classic Tiramisu and Cappucino Crème Brulee, with berries. The Lemon Tower, a sponge cake with lemon cream, also is adorned with berries.

Speaking of towers, the “wine angels” still fly. One of Osetra’s key features is a “wine tower”, a large cube that raises three stories to the top of the building. The tower holds part of the extensive wine collection for which the restaurant has won well-deserved accolades. Pretty girls, “wine angels”, are hoisted up into the air to get the bottles that are ordered. This exciting feature was first introduced at a popular restaurant in New York and was later duplicated at a major eatery in Las Vegas. Osetra brought it to San Diego.

Osetra is located at 904 5th Avenue. Prices in the upstairs restaurant are consistent with fine dining and the tapas in the E-5 Lounge downstairs are consistent with more casual dining.

Call 619-239-1800 for information and reservations.

Osetra and Her Wine Angels

Review by

Published : 08/14/2008 by Meg Day

Imagine the most idyllic way to experience downtown San Diego: is it a window seat on a popular intersection at a table for two?

Or, perhaps a smooth martini with light overtones of smooth jazz and conversation with your coworkers after a long day at the office? A fantastic glass of red wine and aged beef tapas with out-of-towners?

A light meal and a round of drinks to celebrate a birthday before walking a few blocks to the club? Maybe it’s just a place to comfortably catch the game with fellow financial district fans.

Call it cliché, but at the heart of the Gaslamp District, Osetra’s new E-5 Lounge is all that and more. The E-5 Lounge, named, quite literally, for its prime location at the corner of 5th and E Street downtown, has shifted the focus of the grill from chic downtown dining to a more casual, albeit still classy, atmosphere.

While more romantic lighting and formal seating can still be found tucked toward the back of the lounge, as well as on the beautiful second story, the grill’s crescent bar and intriguing wine tower, surrounded by tall tapas tables, are the most inviting elements of this phenomenal find on 5th.

Buff colored leather and dark wood create a warm and inviting vibe when first entering the grill. Large windows line the walls along both 5th Avenue and E Street, allowing an abundance of soft evening light and a number of optimal spots for people watching, should you be on a first date. Small amber lights suspended from the ceiling bring a professional appeal to the room, creating a sweet sense of privacy over each of the tables.

While there is comfortable outdoor seating with unobtrusive ceiling heat lamps, sitting inside will give you better views of the metallic wine tower, straddled on both sides by two large flat screen TVs above the crescent bar. Three levels high and accessible on all sides, the wine tower employs the dexterity of Osetra’s own “wine angels,” agile members of the staff who are suspended from cables in the ceiling and flit among the various levels retrieving requested wines from the tower’s temperature-controlled chambers.

The décor isn’t the only thing that’s been revamped at this classic San Diego restaurant. Sit yourself on a deliciously padded leather barstool and prepare to dive into the stunning assortment of tapas and seafare that Osetra has to offer. Start light with the roasted beets and blood orange salad, a zesty little kick in the taste buds that will be sure to get your attention. The balance between the beet and blood orange is extraordinary and adds some bite to the typical greens to make a lively starter.

Osetra’s mini crab cakes aren’t like the east coast cakes you’re used to – they’re better. Without the sweetness or spices of a typical east coast crab cake, the dish truly does the meat justice with a fresh mango salsa and Tabasco aioli. Pressed with diced red peppers and celery, each bite has its own bit of refreshing crunch. Both the tempura lobster tacos and the fried baby calamari and bay shrimp are grand slam choices off the tapas menu. Made with Russian remoulade and served with spicy marinara sauce, the bay shrimp is perfectly petite and delightfully tender. The remoulade adds some zest to this basket of bite-size goodness, perfect for sharing among friends.

For a more substantial array of dishes, try one of Osetra’s acclaimed meat dishes like the Kobe beef sliders. All meats at the grill are aged for twenty-four days and the taste proves it. One of the favorites on the tapas menu (and great with a glass of wine), these mini burgers come with sweetly sautéed onions, blue cheese, arugula, and a delectable mustard aioli. Toasted buns topped with halved cherry tomatoes and skewered through, these sliders have attitude.

And the only thing to accompany mini burgers is an amazing basket of fresh herb beer fries. Flawlessly browned and perfectly flavored, these beer fries took us by surprise. Without losing the texture of the potato, Osetra has totally transformed the taste. Take it easy on the good stuff, though, because a slice of homemade heaven is what you’ll be craving next and Osetra’s own New York style strawberry cheesecake is simply divine.

As with most downtown eateries, Osetra has realized the importance of doubling their appeal by offering elegant dining in addition to a more contemporary and stylish lounge atmosphere. While not an absolute necessity for an establishment with such an extraordinary location, the dual charm of the restaurant is what makes it such an amazing place to eat, drink, and socialize.

With more than forty vodkas on hand from Iceland, Sweden, Poland, and France (just to name a few), Osetra also carries nearly ten beers on tap, specialty and dessert wines, an extensive list of tequilas, liqueurs, cordials, scotch, and rum. Staff favorites include the ultra-smooth Ultimate Gaslamp Martini and the gregarious Flirtini, both made with top-notch vodkas. The staff is extremely knowledgeable about which wines are preferable with a variety of tapas, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Perfect for an after-work getaway, a meeting with colleagues, personal celebrations and even romantic meals, the revamped Osetra and E-5 Lounge is a true gem.