Alex Crabb was Sous Chef at L’Espalier for seven years before opening Asta in 2013. Yes, that L’Espalier—yet while mention of the now-shuttered highbrow Boston institution conjures images of white linens and extravagantly set tables, you’ll find none of that at Crabb’s new venture. Upon seating at Asta, the one thing in front of you will be the one thing you actually need: a glass of crisp (and complimentary) bubbly.
Despite the lack of fancy tablecloths, this is no casual affair. Asta has perfected a kind of intentional minimalism by relying on carefully curated details: Under each wooden table, drawers can be opened to reveal gorgeous vintage silverware and cloth napkins. The whole place is airy, warm, and inviting, with neutral colors and exposed brick punctuated with hints of hot pink and teal. You’ll want Asta to decorate your apartment; you’ll want to borrow your waitress’s dress.
And when the first dish of the tasting menu comes out (in our case, a plate of edible flowers), you’ll appreciate how that minimalist decor allows the striking color in Crabb’s cuisine to shine. Each dish offers that found-and-foraged aesthetic mixed with evidence of careful crafting: an amuse-bouche perched on a piece of broken pottery, a dollop of butter atop a dark stone. Extravagant bases like duck eggs and sweetbreads are served alongside a range of foraged greens so wide you’ll wish you brought a botany textbook. (We knew that Japanese knotweed was an invasive species, but we didn’t know its crispy stems are succulent with lemony-rhubarb notes, perfect for sprinkling over a warm, savory almond cake.)
To really appreciate Asta, opt for pairings. Foraged and fresh greens in so many incarnations yield bitterness and atypical floral flavors not easily matched with a single vintage yet beautifully paired with eight or nine. Emphasis is on harmony over prestige; don’t be surprised to see lesser known wine regions and unexpected beverages (a sour beer from Detroit served in a shot glass, a Normandy cider alongside sweetbreads). Asta reminds us that a high-end experience needn’t be pretentious. When they’re in good hands, everyday items— from “everything bagel spice” to porridge—become all the more beautiful.
Newbury Street is an essential destination for shopping and strolling in Boston, yet there’s a surprising absence of great food to be found. Asta is just a five-minute detour.
Unless you’re with a big group, it’s usually ok if not everyone orders the same set menu.
As a general rule, reserve a week ahead for busy weekend nights and a day ahead for weeknights.
We learned a new word! “Gnudi” are made from a mixture of ricotta and semolina, rolled into balls, and left overnight until a skin forms, before being steamed. Chef Crabb’s version was characteristically stuffed with dark greens and topped with tiny flowers.
Tastes of Asta
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