The newly opened Asta in Back Bay was one of the most anticipated restaurants of 2013; Chef Alex Crabb, of L’Espalier, and his girlfriend, Shish Parsigian took over the space formerly occupied by Cafe 47 and created a simple but elegant atmosphere with a wide open kitchen and a selection of three tasting menus that change nightly.
I made a reservation for a Wednesday night, and when we arrived we were given the choice of a table or a seat at the bar directly in front of the open kitchen. Of course we chose the bar, and enjoyed watching the dishes being prepared and plated almost as much as we enjoyed tasting them!
As soon as I looked at the menus, I knew I wanted the eight course option but there were a few options from the five course menu that I really wanted to try. The staff was happy to accommodate my request.
Before the first course, we were treated to a complimentary glass of champagne and tasting of vichyssoise. The Chef himself delivered many of the courses, and the potato and leek soup he explained, could be served hot or chilled. I loved the chilled preparation and the topping of shaved truffle and truffle oil.
The first course was a razor clam and parsnip puree topped with crispy fried parsnips. This was a perfect spring dish, light, fresh, and incredibly flavorful.
The second course "After the Storm" was one of my favorites and definitely the most creative. This included a mix of mussels, salmon roe, seaweed pasta, seaweed, and foam.
The third course on the menu was a sheep's milk cheese with fava beans and mushrooms, but I substituted a course from the five course tasting, an Essex greens salad with a soft egg and anchovy cracker. This was like a deconstructed ceasar salad, and the combination of the broken egg yolk and bits of anchovy cracker made the dressing.
The fourth course was a poached arctic char with ramps and cherries. The chilled, rare preparation felt like sushi, and the sake pairing worked beautifully!
The fifth course was an equally delicious and creative dish - escargot stuffed quail with a green garlic puree and fava leaves.
The final savory course was the beef with peas, Maine Beans, noodle rags, and tatters - cooked perfectly and fork tender!
The next course was a bit of a palate cleanser; citrus fruits with brown butter vinaigrette, shiso, and cocoa nibs. The citrus included both orange and grapefruit, and though I don't normally enjoy the bitterness of grapefruit but the combination of the cocoa nibs made it a little more sweet. I also loved the kombucha pairing, which isn't something I've ever seen in a high end restaurant!
The last course was my second substitution, I requested the swiss roll from the five course menu in place of the almond apricot cake. Being a chocolate lover I had to try it, and I was so glad I did! This was a gourmet version of one of my favorite childhood desserts, filled with passion fruit creme and topped with bits of tobacco.
Although I was stuffed at this point, I was able to finish the whole thing. A perfect ending to a fantastic meal!