Tasting Menus

By Eric Twardzik
O Ya: Kumamoto Oyster

Whether you’re opting for three courses or two dozen, these local tasting menus are a journey worth taking.

Craigie on Main is the Parisian bistro experience reimagined by Tony Maws, who brings a nose-to-tail ethos to his Chef’s Seasonal Tasting Menu. But don’t expect pure Francophilia—the five-course menu ($85) has been known to include the likes of sashimi and phytoplankton pasta. While it’s no secret that Maws is a fan of meat (you’ll realize it when a nearby table orders the Pig’s Head for Two), the menu is accommodating of vegetarians and pescetarians upon request.

Tucked into a quiet stretch of Mass Ave. in Back Bay, Asta seems to be hiding itself. Simple, schoolhouse-style seating, mismatched silverware, and a wide-open kitchen dispel any notion of tasting-menu stuffiness. What’s really on display is the culinary imagination of chef Alex Crabb, a veteran of L’Espalier who once apprenticed at Copenhagen’s legendary Noma. Crabb’s credentials are evidenced by ever-changing three-, five-, and eight-course tasting menus ($50, $80, and $110, respectively) that highlight the chef’s penchant for foraged flowers and botanicals in an understated, elegant setting.

A catering outpost in North Cambridge sounds like an unlikely setting for a tasting menu restaurant, but that didn’t stop chef Carl Dooley from opening The Table at Season To Taste. The 20-seat venue offers patrons a selection of two options for each stage of its four-course menu ($69), which changes monthly. The one-time Tony Maws protégé and Top Chef veteran explores a mix of cuisines, his creativity resulting in the likes of rabbit rillettes and pig foot pho. In addition, a snack menu allows tipplers at the standing wine bar to try simpler fare like house-made pork rinds and potato chips.

“Omakase.” Magical things happen when this word is spoken at O Ya, Tim and Nancy Cushman’s acclaimed sushi destination. The tasting menu here—consisting of 17 courses ($185) or 20 courses ($285)—is Boston’s biggest splurge. Expect a series of delicately constructed, artful sushi and sashimi; liberal sprinklings of shaved truffles; marbled, melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu filets; and ingredients that reflect seasonality and chefs’ whims. If you’re vegetarian, O Ya’s got you covered with a specialized 17-course menu ($165). And each dish just begs to be paired with sake from the restaurant’s storied collection.

The classic French prix fixe is alive and well at L’Espalier. Here amidst the dapper servers, white tablecloths, and hushed ambiance, most diners enjoy five- or eight-course menus ($98 and $118), while those seeking the best of the best opt for the Chef’s Tasting Journey, a 10-to-12-course meal ($208) that never skimps on the caviar or truffles. A single reservation is accepted each night for guests that wish to experience the full journey at a four-person chef’s table in L’Espalier’s kitchen ($265) —but expect the royal treatment no matter which corner of the restaurant you find yourself in.