After a medium term break of traveling to Japan twice and continually eating (just not writing about it), we are firing up the old word processor for round two. Our first meal back on the horse was at Aster, a new establishment filling in the former Beast and the Hare location. Aster is the work of Outerlands chef Brett Cooper and is a part of the Daniel Patterson Group (Coi); expectations have been set.
Aster sectionalizes its California centric menu into into sized based blocks with light bites ($8), small plates ($13-16), entree courses ($26-33), and dessert ($12). Fresh bread and house cultured butter is $5. Corkage is $30 and waived with a purchase. Internet rumor indicated the prices would be tip-inclusive but this was not clearly outlined on the menu and the credit slip still had a tip line.
We ate this meal in a group of four, doing our best to quarter each dish. The result is that we were all able to get an ample bite of each dish; large enough to get an enjoyable taste while still small enough to often leaving us wanting more.
We shared the bread, which came out in four warm sliced and an ample enough of butter. Hunger got the best of someone and the dish was demolished prior to its modeling session.
espelette, charred avocado dip, chive
Light and airy; crispy yet chewy. The avocado dip was delicious and could have been its own meal; though transporting it to the vessel wasn’t as simple as dunking. This is not for those wearing a white shirt, its a bit messy on the fingers.
Next up is a series of three of the five small plates. If I had my way, all would have been ordered.
ham hock, spring onion, egg yolk, sorrel
Two dishes in and we can see everything is going to be colorful and bright. The asparagus was firm and fresh, complimented nicely by the sauce.
Cold Smoked Trout
sunchoke, radish, preserved meyer lemon
Keep the colors coming! The flavors of this dish are stuck in the back of my mind because of the awesomeness of the next.
Pigs Head Croquettes
mandarin kosho, arugula kumquat
It is hard to explain how amazing this was. First off, the kumquat was like taking 10 oranges and condensing it into a single, zesty, citrus bite. The croquette hard and crispy on the outside and a melty gooey explosion lurking within.
We were getting into our groove as these three courses came out.
spring porridge of green farro and pioppini mushroom
Meaty and earthy and placed directly in front of me. I would have been absolutely satisfied if I didn’t have to share this.
Potato Black Pepper Dumplings
maitake, peas, charred scallion
This might have been the consensus favorite among the other three. The dumplings were hearty and thick. While flavorful, I felt the dish was a little dry (possibly biased by this following the steak).
new potato, rhubarb, grilled broccoli
Three on the menu…why not get all three! Don’t be fooled by the simple names – these were anything but conventional.
buckwheat, farmer’s cheese, sichuan peppercorns
Tart. Tart. Tart. I also don’t think the structural integrity of those “floors” would pass a building inspection, they beautifully split in two with a slight amount of spoonular pressure.
mandarin, cocoa nib, basil
Sweet. Sweet. Minty. The dish was a chocolate lover’s dream. The marshmallow thing on top was good. Get a basil/minty leaf and the flavor profile changes completely.
Beet & Rhubarb Cremeux
white chocolate, hazelnut
Strangest sounding before dessert…..favorite of the three after.