Asta and never check it out. That would be a serious mistake. I feel bad that even though the restaurant has been open for a few years, I hadn't dined there until earlier this week. I had read the raves, heard plenty of people recommend the place, but I just hadn't been there and there was really no reason why. Fortunately, my good friend Adam Japko, who has dined at Asta numerous times, convinced me to join him for dinner there this week. And now I can't wait to return.
Chef/Owner Alex Crabb (on the left side in the above photo), previously worked for about seven years at L'Espalier and also spent a couple months in 2011 working a stage at the famed Noma in Denmark. Alex's partner, Shish Parsigian, runs the front of the house, and I had the chance to meet both of them. They bring a certain energy to the restaurant and Shish was very personable. There is no pretension here, instead there's a casual and fun elegance. It is a place to relax and enjoy great food & wine.
When I dined at Asta, I didn't take any notes, though I took numerous photos, as I wasn't planning to do a detailed review. Instead, I was more there just to spend time with a friend, enjoying a nice dinner with a few wines. However, the experience was so compelling, I needed to write something about it, to share my positive experience with my readers.
Asta only serves three different tasting menus, a three-course ($50), five-course ($75), or eight-course ($95). Each menu has different dishes, with the more adventurous items on the eight-course menu. You can also get a supplement of Seared Foie Gras for an extra $30. Wine Pairings are available for the five-course (+$45) and eight-course (+$60) meals. You can also order wine, by the glass or the bottle, or beer.
The wine list is relatively small but well-curated, diverse and interesting. Wine geeks are really going to enjoy this list, and Shish can help you navigate through the choices. There are 6 wines by the glass ($10-$16), from Soave to Grignolino, Cinsault Rosé to Dolcetto. There are 20 wines available by the bottle, including 2 Sparkling, 8 Whites, 1 Rosé and 9 Reds, priced $60-$167. There are also 7 other wines available by the glass, including Sherry, Madeira and Dessert wines. You'll also find 8 beers on their menu, priced $6-$14, from countries including Japan, Belgium, Germany and more.
When you are first seated at Asta, they deliver a small glass of bubbly to you, a fine way to begin your meal. We opted for the eight-course dinner, ordered a couple bottles of wine (a white and a red), and also opted for a couple of wine pairings with specific courses.
It started with an Amuse Bouche, a Radish Sandwich, and though usually I'm not a radish fan this was a tasty opener. Thinly sliced radishes, with interesting seasonings, on very soft bread (without any crust).
I was pleasantly surprised that Asta has two Sakes in stock, a Junmai and a Nigori, which they pair with various dishes though it isn't listed on their menu. We were served the Kaguyahime Junmai, which is produced by the Yamamoto Honke which was founded in 1677 in Kyoto. It was made with Biwaminori rice, milled to 60%, and made from soft spring water called Shiragikui, which translates as "water of white chrysanthemum." This Sake is smooth and light, with subtle flavors of melon, pear and mild honey notes. It goes great with seafood and has a nice umami taste that pairs well with umami dishes, such as those including dashi.
With also got to taste another course, from the three-course menu, a Chicken Taco (and I don't have a photo). Two fresh corn tortillas held the chicken, sauce and slaw, and it was absolutely delectable, with such rich flavors, everything working harmoniously together. If these were sold out of a food truck, there would be a long line to buy them. I don't know much of the details of what goes into the sauce atop the chicken, but it was savory, with a little spice, and a touch of sweetness.
Overall, I was very impressed with Asta, including the service, its casual atmosphere, the cuisine and wine. Chef Crabb is creating inventive and delicious dishes while Shish has designed an intriguing wine list. I highly recommend you dine here and let yourself be open to the tasting menus, finding the adventurous diner within yourself. I'll certainly be back, seeking to try even more of the tasting menus.