Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tasting Counter: Now Open For Lunch

It was my Top Restaurant Experience of 2015. The restaurant has garnered many accolades from the local press and has even gained national attention. Chef Peter Ungár and his Tasting Counter deserve all of the attention and more. The cuisine is inventive, appealing and absolutely delicious. The setting is cool and intimate, a twenty-seat counter where you can also watch the chef and kitchen staff preparing your food. And they charge one reasonable price, which includes food, drink, tax and tip.

Recently, the Tasting Counter has started serving a three-course Lunch every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 1pm-2pm and his team will select dishes from the nightly tasting menu, including a pasta course, meat or fish plate, and dessert (with dietary restrictions accommodated). And the menu will change daily, so there will always be something new. Lunch also includes four courses of beverage, your choice of Sake, wine, beer or nonalcoholic, and it costs only $55, which includes tax and tip. (Try something different and opt for the Sake!) You just have to make your reservation through their online system.

This is a less expensive way to check out Chef Ungár's culinary skills and I'm sure that after lunch it will convince you to check out dinner as well. Chef recently invited me to sample the Lunch menu so I wanted to present a glimpse into what you can expect from such a Lunch. I opted for the Sake pairing (no surprise there), though they have a new Beverage Director, Eileen Elliott, who has selected some very intriguing wines, including Cider from Switzerland. They also have a delicious Travessia Rosé on tap, as well as Dovetail Nakahama Junmai Sake on tap.

Lunch began with a few Welcoming Bites, intriguing tidbits with lots of complexity and taste. They included Fluke, sake, rice; Rhubarb, almond, black rice; and Ocean trout, sesame, grapefruit. A beautiful presentation and an excellent way to awaken your palate for the rest of the lunch to come.

The First Course was Hand Rolled Seaweed Pasta with lobster custard, hen of the woods mushrooms, sea urchin and wakame. A potent dish of umami, it provides a taste of the earth and sea with some sweetness from the custard and briny notes from the sea urchin. Very impressive.

To cleanse your palate, you receive Schisandra Berry, a cold brewed tea which was sweet and salty, sour and bitter. I really want to make a Sake cocktail with this tea.

The Second Course was Hake with miso torch, beluga lentil, enoki, and charred leek. The sweet, flaky fish was complemented by the smokiness from the leeks, the savory lentils and earthy mushrooms.

The Dessert Course was Chocolate, covering a sponge cake and accompanied by two sauces: milk jam and preserved orange. A rich chocolate layer covered the moist sponge cake,  enhanced by the creamy milk jam sauce and strong citrus of the orange.

Finally, you receive a few Parting Morsels, which included a green tea meringue; blood orange chew; and foie gras bonbon. Again, little bites with powerful flavors, ensuring you leave on a positive note.

Overall, you receive plenty of food for lunch, though you won't leave feeling bloated. Chef Ungár creates compelling and complex dishes, which also impress with their beauty. I highly recommend you check out Tasting Counter for lunch or dinner. And give the Sake a try.

As a matter of full disclosure, I consulted on their Sake program & they possess the largest Sake menu of any non-Asian restaurant in the Boston area. Currently, I am working with them to redesign the Sake menu, to bring some new and exciting Sakes to their list.

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