After a spectacular dinner at NYC’s The NoMad we chatted with the wait staff and told them our next stop on this foodie tour was Boston. They immediately checked with their sous chef, a Boston native, who said we must try Asta.

On a sunny, yet cool Saturday night, we headed out on Boston’s subway system to Massachusetts Avenue. Unfortunately for us, our train line also went past Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox were playing. Ne’er mind; it was only a few stops. We found the understated shop front without a problem and were given the choice of a table, or seats at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. Always interested in watching chefs work, we took the latter.

Asta offers three menu choices per night, all reflecting seasonal ingredients. You can opt for menus that have three, five or eight courses. A special foie gras dish is available as a supplement for each menu. None of the dishes are repeated across the menus. Chef Alex Crabb told us during the evening he felt his team was experienced enough to be able to turn out 16 great dishes a night. Unusually, not all diners at the same table need to take the same menu which is an unexpected and welcome degree of flexibility on offer here.

Greedy Girl thought she was taking the ‘lite’ option by going for three courses, while gluttonous husband opted for five. Tasting menus are, apparently, somewhat uncommon in Boston; the city’s diners seem to have a resistance to that style, so Asta is virtually pioneering the concept. Alex’s partner, Shish who runs the front of house, shot Greedy Girl’s expectations of a lighter meal down, saying the serving sizes varied depending on the total number of courses. No matter. We were both happily sipping a complimentary glass of French sparkling from the Languedoc region and happy to watch the ‘floorshow’ in the kitchen.

The dining room itself, which is a reasonably long room, is quite dark as it gets close to the kitchen, so apologies for the quality of some of the shots that follow. First up was the amuse bouche, a vichyssoise with squid and pesto. Delish.

Asta Boston

Vichyssoise with squid and pesto

We decided on a bottle of Les Vins de Vienne Syrah Saint Joseph from the Rhone to go with our menu. The friendly sommelier Page said she opted to include very few ‘new world’ wines, preferring the way the European varieties accompanied the food.

And so to the menu proper. Greedy Girl’s first course was a warm spinach salad with crispy escargot and ‘ajo blanco’. Ajo blanco (the creamy slick at the top of the plate) is traditionally a cold Spanish soup made from garlic, bread, crushed almonds and olive oil, among other elements. It was a delightful accompaniment to the very yummy crispy snails, while the warm spinach and bacon chunks were also delicious. It was a big serving.

Asta Boston

Warm spinach salad with crispy escargot

Gluttonous husband’s first course was potato with mussels and squid ink. Topped with a couple of pea shoots, it was a light starter with very succulent mussels. The potatoes were the size and shape of little melon balls. Gluttonous husband was well pleased with the dish.

Asta Boston

Potato with mussels and squid ink

Next up, he was presented with monkfish and charred ramps. The monkfish was cooked to perfection and sat on a glistening pool of what the chef termed ‘bacon glaze’. The ramps (an east-coast delicacy, sort of a cross between leeks and garlic, and a highly seasonal plant) were reasonably subtle in flavour but went brilliantly with the dish.

Asta Boston

Monkfish and charred ramps

His next dish was economically described as onion, cheddar and crispy duck (pictured at the top of this post). This was a very tasty plate of food. Various styles and treatments of onion were plated with crumbs of crispy duck and a slick of beer and cheddar puree. It was topped with crunchy rye cracker shards. Absolutely delish.

Greedy Girl’s next plate was squid ink pasta with preserved lemon and chilli. This was ribbons of black tagliatelle served with greens, the lemon, olive oil, calamari rings and chilli. The preserved lemon was incredibly intense and the chilli brought just the right amount of warmth. The calamari was very tender. Again, quite a large serving, it was not a heavy dish.

Asta Boston

Squid ink pasta, calamari, preserved lemon and chilli

Gluttonous husband was presented with the beef with turnips and a cepe foam. The beef had a fair bit of texture but wasn’t chewy. It was served rare and accompanied by turnips done in various way and the cepe (porcini) foam which was quite thick and eminently moppable. Yum.

Asta Boston

Beef with turnips and a cepe foam

Before dessert, we were treated to a palate cleanser, yoghurt with herb shaved ice and absinthe. Simple, clever, amazing. Greedy Girl generally despises yoghurt but this was exceptionally good.

Asta Boston

Yoghurt with herb shaved ice and absinthe

And so to desserts. Greedy Girl’s was a honey tart with rhubarb and strawberries. This was a triumph; the pastry was crisp, the filling not too sweet and the combination of rhubarb and strawberries was a treat. It wasn’t at all heavy.

Asta Boston

Honey tart with rhubarb and strawberries

Gluttonous husband’s dessert was Black Forest cake with cocoa nibs. Again, this was executed very well and the cocoa nibs were a nice textural change from the softness of the cake.

Asta Boston

Black forest cake with cocoa nibs

With pleasantly full bellies (rather than bursting and uncomfortable), we started to think about heading out into the night. Our delightful chef Alex was having none of that, offering us a digestif on the house.  Three little glasses appeared and were filled with Fernet – fast becoming a tradition in Boston (stolen from San Francisco, who embraced it from Italy, we were told) and were recommended to down it in one shot. Both Alex and gluttonous husband achieved that feat, Greedy Girl was less successful. It wasn’t quite to her taste and so the genial chef brought out a different style of digestif, a Zucco. It was very good.

A plate of petits fours featuring gingerbread rabbits (the rabbit motif is found throughout the restaurant because, as Shish commented, they just like them) and a delish salty, sweet popcorn and we were ready to hit the road. Shish very kindly presented us with another little bag of the popcorn which we intended to keep for our trip a couple of days later to Martha’s Vineyard. Hah. That was gone the next day.

Asta Boston

Rabbits – they just like ’em

Asta has a great atmosphere, friendly, knowledgeable and personable staff and well-executed food. It’s also very inexpensive for the quality that’s on offer. Greedy Girl learned subsequently that the chef had spent a stint at Noma in Copenhagen as a volunteer apprentice, to help hone his skills. Asta has only been open about 18 months and already shows a mastery of techniques and ingredients that chefs of vastly more experience would be envious. If you’re in Boston (or heading there) don’t miss it.


47 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Asta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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