Alex Crabb's newish Back Bay tasting menu-only Asta gets four stars out of a possible five from The Improper Bostonian restaurant critic B.N. Lee. "Don't underestimate Asta" warns sentence number one. Okay, sorry! Why? Because the "unassuming former pizza parlor" location "would easily earn five stars," if evaluated solely on its five-course menu, that is. (Other options include three and eight courses.) What about that menu is so extraordinary? For one thing, "a risotto made from carrots painstakingly cut to resemble Arborio grains." So what's wrong with the other menus? The eight-course menu "ventured into the overly conceptual" with dishes bearing names like "After the storm" and "Anticipation of spring." That in and of itself is not an issue, but the "technical, performative aspects of both dishes were more memorable than the actual taste." Still, four stars! [The Improper Bostonian]
For the Globe, Katie Johnston reviews Will Gilson's mucho-anticipated Inman Square restaurant Puritan & Company. The verdict: two and a half stars out of four. MC Slim JB happened to love the swordfish pastrami in his Food Coma column in The Phoenix. Not so for Johnston, who writes that the dish is "is just plain odd: mushy, gefilte-fish-like ribbons with a smoky corned-beef flavor, a smear of pumpernickel, and a startling scoop of cold mustard gelato." Does Johnston just not like intense flavors, textures and creativity? She writes of "mouth-puckering grapefruit and sugary disks of meringue" as though it's a bad thing. The word "beard" appears three times. Once, it refers to the facial hair in the kitchen. The other two reference a recent James Beard Foundation award nomination for Gilson, here referred to as "his restaurant's James Beard award." [BG]
Correction: Johnston's was not the first full-fledged professional review of Puritan & Company, as reported earlier.
The blog Food Coma (no relation to Slim's column, and none intended, says the author) worships Vinny's Ristorante in East Somerville, which becomes more restaurant than sandwich shop in the evening. The littleneck clam appetizer with garlic and oil is a "must-have" and wine is well-paired to the menu and reasonable: "I like to enjoy the first half of the bottle at a leisurely rate, and then shotgun the second half in a desperate attempt to regain my appetite after the massive bowl of butter and clams." But the osso bucco is "one dish that every newcomer must experience." And repeat customers, it seems. [Food Coma]
Muqueca in Inman Square is the subject of Richard Chudy's lastest Man Food column on Chowder. If you've never experienced the Muqueca muqueca, it goes a little something like this: "A violently spitting clay pot arrives with an inverted pile of rice, pirao (a thickened sauce of sorts using stock and fish bones), and hot sauce." But despite all that violence, the cod "is soft and luscious, just flaking so that it barely dissolves into the rest of the pot." [C]