Must-Try Tasting Menus In and Around Boston
As we looked ahead to the Most Anticipated Openings of 2015, the forthcoming Tasting Counter stood out as the latest in a recent movement that celebrates tasting menus. Many Boston restaurants have offered them since inception, but in recent years a few newer spots have sprouted up that place particular emphasis on the approach. Here are some of our favorite places to find fixed multicourse menus, with a taste of what you'll find — and spend.
Asta. The Back Bay standout has received plenty of praise since it opened in early 2013. No à la carte options here; it's a fully prix fixe affair, offering inventive New American cuisine in an unobtrusively hip space — somewhat rare in this more staid neighborhood. Just a taste: A sample menu might include octopus with chickpeas or sugar beet with short rib. Pricing: Three courses, $50. Five courses, $75 (add $45 for wine pairing). Eight courses, $95 (add $60 for wine pairing).
Bread and Salt Hospitality at Wink & Nod. Winds are a'changing, so there are only a few more months to catch this Southeast Asia- and Indian-inspired concept at Wink & Nod, a "speakeasy"-inspired South End restaurant that has been using its kitchen as a "culinary incubator" for rotating pop-ups. Just a taste: Expect masala chai-cured salmon and tomato-cured foie gras torchon. Pricing: Seven courses, $85.
Clio. Although you'll find à la carte plates too, star chef Ken Oringer's Back Bay icon is really stressing its tastings menus. And when there's this much goodness upon which to graze, why not? Just a taste: Seasonal standouts have included lobster and sea urchin cassoulet and duck with fig, confit fennel and XO sauce. Pricing: Five courses, $79 (add $55 for wine pairing). Nine courses, $124 (add $95 for wine pairing).
Craigie on Main. Chef Tony Maws' seasonal tasting menus are a signature element of his Cambridge stalwart, which offers vegetarian options for those inclined. They do require an entire table to take the tasting journey together. Just a taste: Among recent dishes have been Maine mussel with gold rice and piperade, and veal sausage ragout with sweetbreads and lovage. Pricing: Six courses, $98. Eight courses, $118.
Journeyman. The contemporary, minimalist style of the Union Square space stands apart from the more traditionally ornate settings for other tasting menus. So does the modernist American cuisine (pictured at top). Just a taste: Recent veggie plates have included local roasted sunchoke with watermelon radish and rainbow carrots, and confit rabbit with cheddar cauliflower purée, sunflower seed and cacao nib crumble. Pricing: Nine courses, $65-$95. (Prices vary based on unique menu and reservation's ticket time; add $55 for alcohol pairing.) On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays after 8:30 PM, Journeyman offers an abbreviated four-course menu for $40 (add $30 for alcohol pairing).
L’Espalier. It's a legend for a reason. Chef Frank McClelland's Back Bay French is excellent and elegant, if requiring a bit of a splurge. Just a taste. Winter dishes include bluefin tuna with braised Berkshire pork jowl, and licorice-glazed foie gras with mushrooms and hay ash roasted banana. Pricing: Three-course prix fixe, $95. Four-course degustation, $115 (add $70 for four wine pairings, $90 for six wine pairings). A larger "Tasting Journey" is $205 (add $138 for vintner's tasting).
Menton (pictured). Barbara Lynch's Relais & Chateau hit was not only an early Boston entry in the tasting-menu-only approach, it also helped put the now-buzzing Fort Point restaurant scene on the map. Just a taste: Right now you'll find a winter bouillabaisse with hake and scallop, and gnocchi with pumpkin, quail and poached egg. Pricing: Four-course prix fixe, $95. Seven-course tasting, $155 (add $105 for wine pairing).
No.9 Park. Unlike Menton, Lynch's Beacon Hill restaurant does allow for à la carte options. But we still say, the more courses, the merrier. Just a taste: Current offerings include wild striped bass with semolina, littleneck clam and saffron, and duet of duck with macomber turnip, lentils du puy and chestnut. Pricing: Three-course prix fixe, $69. Six-course tasting, $112 (add $74 for wine pairing).
Study. This Kendall Square-side sibling to Journeyman just opened. Though à la carte ordering is permitted, the emphasis remains on tasting menus; the beverage menu even includes cool flights of vermouths and sherries. Just a taste: Inaugural highlights include ink gnocchi with squid and mango, duck heart and monkfish with lobster roe and grapefruit. Pricing: Four courses, $59 (add $35 for drink pairings). 13 courses, $125 (add $85 for drink pairings).
Ten Tables. Whether you're heading to the cozy, quaint original in Jamaica Plain or its only slightly larger Cambridge counterpart, you'll find a romantic setting that has been serving up strong "locavore" fare since before that was a buzzword. Just a taste: JP guests might find marinated mussels or sweetbread terrine, while Cambridge diners could currently be in store for shellfish sausage or squash stuffed with confit rabbit. Pricing: JP is four courses, $48 ($36 for vegetarian). Cambridge is four courses, $55 ($45 for vegetarian).
Troquet. Considering that it's known for having one of Boston's best wine lists, it's sort of strange that the Downtown French doesn't offer a pairing option. But that's okay: with a list this large, you're sure to find the perfect sip anyway. Just a taste: Current menu items include wild striped bass with saffron gnocchi and shellfish bouillabaisse and beef duo with potato gorgonzola rosti. Pricing: Five courses, $105. Seven courses, $125.
T.W. Food. Though his newer German restaurant Bronwyn has been front of mind lately, chef Tim Wiechmann's fine-dining destination is fairly famous for its tastings. Just a taste: Right now you'll find Wagyu sukiyaki and parsnip and scallop soup. Pricing: Three courses, $55. Six courses, $85 (add $55 for wine pairing). Sunday brunch is three courses, $35. Tuesday wine-pairing dinner is four courses, $55.