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Asta

k
kspst Jul 30, 2013 04:42 AM

I'm not one to usually post reviews, but after searching for a place to eat on my one night in town (see prev. post) several people recommended Asta. But I couldn't find out much. There's no PR machine at work here. Nary even a thread on CH. So here I am.
I have to start by saying that I have some control issues, and barely let my husband order what he wants without chirping in. I need to know what's happening, what to expect and then...I'm going to critique it. And here, I couldn't do that. My choices- how much do I want to eat (3, 5, or 8 courses) and do I want wine with that. I didn't even get to keep the menu. When I asked about flatware, I was told " Chef will give it to you when you're ready for it" Clearly, I was not ready. From the moment we walked in and were given a lovely little glass of bubbles (with The Clash!!!! playing in the background), to the final course, I was not in the driver's seat and that was good. Fantastic. Sublime.
I loved how the kitchen was more than just an open-concept. The kitchen participated in my meal actively. Not something you see. The sommelier was engaging, knowledgeable, charming, and had some amazing pairings.
Now the food. I won't describe each dish. In a way, it's not the point. I will say that I found everything to be thought-provoking, well- thought out, beautifully executed and some times very polarizing. (I will say that the house 'signature dish' is just this. I loved it. Husband took a pass) I found the foie gras to be 'outside the box' and man, did it work. The sweetbreads? Beautiful. Again prepared, with a different angle. My striped bass- it's like I won a lottery ticket. And the cereal for dessert? It made me laugh and slurp every drop.
As we were about to begin our meal, the couple next to us was finishing up, and the lady offered some general (and very specific) criticism to the owner. As someone who does this often (although usually just to myself or my dining partner), by the end of the meal I realized that that kind of "control", is something best left at the door here. Just eat and drink what they give you, use the forks when they're there, and enjoy.
It was amazing.

  1. gini Jan 27, 2014 04:37 PM

    Well, that was one heck of an experience. I hope we're able to go seasonally as I bet the menus are equally delightful as we roll through the year.

    We arrived and were seated at the bar near the kitchen so we could watch all the action. Glasses of sparkling wine were brought out, as well as a crostino with quince paste and lardo.

    Attached is a photo of the menu. We opted to get one 5 course and one eight course with pairings. The nice thing about getting both is you're able to have some courses with two dishes, some with one, and all of the pairings. I have to say I was more blown away by the 5 course, but that's quibbling.

    Cauliflower - bottarga (not shaved), anchovy, capers, roasted - very briny, very bright!
    Warm oyster - more turnipy in taste than I was prepared for - unusual.

    Seaweed pasta with roe & mussels and foam - evidently the only surviving original dish from the opening. This dish challenged and delighted me as a diner. I loved it.

    Monkfish in bacon broth with roasted brussel sprouts. I tried to steal the pot bubbling on the stove to take the broth home with me. Best taste of the last 6 months, easily. There was mention of a take on ramen in that broth. Please, please, please.
    Fresh Cheese X3 - nori, kale chips - it was definitely a nice rendition, but shouldn't have been served next to the bacon broth - it couldn't stand up.

    Braised celery with black garlic gnocchi, chicken skin, braised chicken - comfort food elevated - the gnocchi were really complex.
    Celery root with black truffle & apples - way too sweet for me. The only thing I really enjoyed was making tiny sandwiches out of the apple & truffle slices.

    Duck breast with farro and radishes in a cheddar beer sauce - perfectly crisp skin, rare duck, earthy sauce.
    Venison - fermented rutabaga, pickled beet - the venison, while masterfully cooked, was a bit tough, and the accompaniments didn't sing.

    Beef heart with bitter greens and sunflower seeds - so incredibly tender, if slightly chewy, this was a salad I could eat daily.

    Carrot & coconut - cold carrot soup with a meringue and toasted coconut - a bright palate cleanser.

    Black cocoa pavlova with passion fruit, citrus, olive oil - let me go on record and say I normally hate pavlovas. This I loved.
    Cream puff - black sesame and smoked maple - the cream puff broke and the most delicious cream poured onto the smoked maple. It was good.

    The pairings were interesting and sometimes obscure - the sommelier is an incredibly talented woman from Menton & L'Espalier. I felt the pairings really elevated the food.

    Probably one of the best 5 meals of the past 2 years. That includes all my eats in Europe and across the US.

    Go. Now.

     
    8 Replies
    1. re: gini
      c
      cambridgedoctpr Jan 27, 2014 05:39 PM

      I cannot remember the details of my last meal, but the food is remarkably good and is a place that i go to about once per month. My only complaint when talking to the chef was that the Venison - while done perfectly - could have come from Rendezvous or even Jean-Georges while every other dish that i tried was something that I could only have at ASTA.

      One criticism: this is not a restaurant such as Troquet or Babbo where you will find a real gem on the wine list. That said, the wine is well chosen.

      I much prefer ASTA to L'Espalier and think that it is a candidate for best restaurant in Boston. I like the food even better than Ribelle which is also very good. These may be my two favorite European restaurants in Boston.

      1. re: gini
        b
        bear Jan 28, 2014 03:23 AM

        Beautiful report, gini. Just a delight to read. Thanks! (and congrats!)

        1. re: bear
          gini Jan 28, 2014 08:10 PM

          Thanks!

          1. re: gini
            Alcachofa Jan 29, 2014 11:47 AM

            Congrats!

        2. re: gini
          opinionatedchef Jan 28, 2014 05:23 PM

          wow, gini. th you so much for taking the time on all the details. You certainly got me picking up the phone !

          1. re: gini
            Pia Jan 28, 2014 05:50 PM

            Great report, thank you! How far in advance do you think you have to reserve?

            1. re: Pia
              opinionatedchef Jan 28, 2014 07:44 PM

              we called tonight and asked for next wk; all set.

            2. re: gini
              t
              teezeetoo Jan 29, 2014 12:36 PM

              I've been recommending this to everyone asking for a splurge meal. To me, it's the most interesting new high end food I've had in Boston.

            3. gini Jan 23, 2014 07:12 AM

              Has anyone been here recently? Thoughts?

              3 Replies
              1. re: gini
                opinionatedchef Jan 23, 2014 07:20 PM

                gini, enter Asta into a CH search and choose Recent as your criteria, because there was a very recent thread asking for help with a restnt choice, and the OP chose Asta and (iirc) was v happy with that choice.

                1. re: opinionatedchef
                  Allstonian Jan 24, 2014 05:05 AM

                  You may be thinking of this thread, but the OP doesn't seem to have posted a review of their dinner at Asta (at least not in the same thread.)
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9265...

                  1. re: Allstonian
                    opinionatedchef Jan 24, 2014 03:55 PM

                    yep, that's it ,A;thx. Let's hope they post a review..

              2. s
                suzysue2 Nov 8, 2013 12:12 AM

                My husband took me there for my birthday this past Tuesday, and wow, we both agreed that it was nearly too cool for Boston and felt transported to somewhere much more cosmopolitan. The transformation from the old Despina's space was really well-executed, service was so friendly and fun and as the OP mentions the food was really thought-provoking and delicious. I would go back in a heartbeat.

                They also seem to have the right dispositions for an open kitchen, and it is great how the chefs interact by running food. It always makes me laugh when chefs with bad tempers decide to put an open kitchen in their restaurant.

                1. opinionatedchef Jul 31, 2013 10:06 PM

                  Thx so much for taking the time,k. Very few high end places get CH talk so this is very very helpful.

                  btw- Control issues>> who, me?
                  Just because I carry my own pepper grinder and sweetener(at least)? :-}

                  1. GretchenS Jul 31, 2013 06:14 PM

                    thanks for your review. since I have similar control issues (unless I know the kitchen, in which case I am fine with letting go) this is very useful to me!

                    1. s
                      ScotchandSirloin Jul 31, 2013 04:09 PM

                      Excited to try it. Thanks for the post.

                      1. k
                        kspst Jul 30, 2013 04:46 AM

                        sorry for the duplicate post.

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