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asta : boston, a new gem

I'm surprised to see no one has posted about Asta yet, so figured I'd get things rolling. I ate at Asta its opening weekend and was impressed all around. The atmosphere is casual and comfortable, the staff inviting (with nary a sign of just-opened jitters), the open kitchen plan terrific (at the bar/counter seats you can watch the calm choreography among the kitchen staff and front of house, all sharing in the effort bringing food to table), and the food fantastic.

We tried the 8 courses, a splurge well worth it for the (generous) amount of food but most of all for the chef's creativity, care and confidence with preparing and serving excellent food. A number of the dishes are memorable for their playful and astute combinations of texture, color and flavor. I hesitate to say too much about the specifics–part of the delight is discovering these details as dishes are placed before you (and I don't know how often the menu will rotate); as you take a bite some individual elements reveal themselves as different from what your eyes expected, and the taste buds and the brain experience the concept and the taste and feel of the food in tandem.

These surprises don't feel strange for strangeness' sake; rather juxtapositions and provocations are smart without compromising on sensual pleasures. My husband and I are looking forward to trying the 3 course. I should add the restaurant accepted my request for a pescatarian version of the offerings without batting an eyelash–indeed only 1 of the 8 courses needed to be swapped out to make it so. I imagine they could do just as well for vegetarians.

Feb 04, 2013
rammeyers in Greater Boston Area

Anyone Been to House of Chang in Cambridge?

Disappointed but not at all surprised to read this is mediocre Chinese food, but will give it a try as it's in the neighborhood. BTW how come noone mentions Sichuan Garden in Brookline? In my mind the best Chinese hands down in the Boston area. Order off the special menu.

Dec 03, 2009
rammeyers in Greater Boston Area

Current recommendations around Dubrovnik

I'll be in Dubrovnik in a couple of weeks (also a day in Korcula and Boka Kotarska, Montenegro) and am looking for current recs for great restaurants. All the threads I've seen are a couple of years old (or more) so I'm hoping for suggestions from people in the area in the last year.

Looking for not-to-be-missed spots (from casual to fine dining to markets). Even names of places to avoid would be useful. Ideal = fresh, delicous, "authentic," eg not the tourist spots, unless those happen to be divine! I love seafood so I know I'm in for treat, am also into spirits and looking forward to the Maraskino!

Many thanks!

Jun 08, 2009
rammeyers in Europe

Hugo's Rob Evans wins Beard Award

I went to Hugo's last night--drove up from Boston, had really been looking forward to it and was very disappointed. Before I get to the food, I have to say that the service was terrible: we arrived for a 5:45 reservation on a Saturday night (all I could get) and the host and manager were confused and frantic on the phone, respectively. They asked me for my name three times before they seated me and my husband at a table right by the door--although the restaurant was empty but for one table. I asked for a nicer spot and they complied, seating us by the service area. Our waitress then returned to the table every 60 seconds for our order, not understanding what we need a few minutes means--it felt as though she was already trying to get us out for the next seating. This was compounded when she asked to take my plate away when I was halfway done--had set down my fork for a second! The spiel here is that each person should order 3-4 dishes "to be comfortable," entrees and apps being about the same size. So be prepared to spend at least $50 a person--if each dish packed a punch of "wow!" this would be acceptable, but this didn't happen for us (see below). The push to have us order wine was transparent--I tried to give the wine menu back twice before our waitress would take it (we both ordered cocktails). To top it all off, at the end of the meal, the bill was $30 over. This was fixed, along with the explanataion that they tabulate the old fashioned way there, thus the mistake. Huh...

The food: we ordered 7 courses between us and without a doubt the only special, memorable thing we ate were the hot potato flour, garlic biscuits, with hand churned butter that were served in place of bread. Truly fantastic and, happily the waitress did offer to bring us more when we ate all four. After that, the plates were lacklaster. All fine but for the price and considering the acclaim, we were underwhelmed. The version of a Caesar salad, with white anchovy, was probably the next best thing after the biscuits. The spicy steak tartare was not at all spicy, though the two small fried gherkins on top were both delicious and visually and conceptually right on. The risotto in the whelk dish was not creamy or very tasty, the seafood didn't deliver the punch of ocean the waitress advertised, there was an unchewable piece of overcooked something mixed in... The king oyster mushrooms, so promising on paper, were just OK. The poached halibut, white with two greens, was plated very nicely, cooked right, and nice but again, not memorable.

I'm afraid that the place, with its strange choice of music (generic pop rock), emphasis on uniqueness and unconventionality per the menu (though nothing was so unusual and twice a dish was delivered with no explanation by the service staff of what, for example, the caramel power on the sundae was), and nervous service staff is trying too hard and failing where it counts most--in the kitchen. Maybe it was an off night but for those prices and portion sizes, I won't be trying again. It made us wonder: is this really the best there is out there?! The Beard award sets the bar pretty high and the food just doesn't excel.

May 24, 2009
rammeyers in All New England Archive

Classic cocktails near Lincoln Center

I was nursing my resentment at the place by focusing only on my Knob Creek--my husband had the Buffalo Trace, and didn't get a report, but want to try it myself...

Oct 16, 2008
rammeyers in Manhattan

Classic cocktails near Lincoln Center

Thx everyone. Thought I should report that I wound up in the Blue Bar at the Algonquin and was sorely disappointed. I ordered an undrinkable Manhattan (that costs $18) and had to return it. We wound up getting just scotch because the mixing there was obviously not good. The bartender also tried telling us that the Buffalo Trace on his shelf was a whisky when we first asked about it, until he pulled it and we all read about its being from Kentucky...

Oct 04, 2008
rammeyers in Manhattan

Classic cocktails near Lincoln Center

Hello. I'm hoping to find a bar near Lincoln Center that:
1. Is open by 5pm
2. Has a relaxed, not too cramped atmosphere
3. Has good cocktails (eg isn't all about vodkas or infusions--knows about good things like gin and classic cocktails like Manhattans--if not variations like Red Hooks).

If I had time I'd be downtown at Death & Company or the like but need it to be near Lincoln Center. I was thinking there must be a hotel with something like this... Any great hotel bars?

Thanks for yr suggestions!

Oct 02, 2008
rammeyers in Manhattan