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 four-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.
Whether you’re opting for three courses or two dozen, these local tasting menus are a journey worth taking.
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.
Located at the far end of a raucous brewery and accessed via all-inclusive tickets purchased in advance, Tasting Counter marches to the beat of its own drummer. And that’s fine by us, as the experience whipped up by chef Peter Ungár has no comparison. That eponymous counter is all that stands between 20 seats and an open kitchen, where you’ll witness nine or so courses of highly creative, experimental dishes—the specifics of which aren’t known to guests in advance—materializing in real time. Dinners can be paired with a series of beers, sakes, or natural wines, and oenophiles can return to Tasting Counter all evening on Tuesday or late night Wednesday through Saturday to experience the spot as a more casual natural wine bar with small plates.