If there is one thing I can appreciate it’s a hotel with a seemingly good restaurant and bar combo. Aside from being open almost always for breakfast/lunch/dinner/late night, hotel restaurants also tend to have some of the most charming staff you’ll encounter. Throw in a good menu and what more could you ask for?
Although I walk by Asana at the Mandarin Oriental almost every day, I had never actually been inside. Maybe I was subconsciously intimidated by the fact that it’s in one of the most luxurious hotels in Boston, I don’t really know. Either way, I finally made it over there last week just in time to try their new Spring Menu.
Although they have a desirable “Time Crunch” menu which includes an appetizer and entree plus a coffee and cookie to-go for just $20, I decided to say “screw it” and order a-la-carte – Starting with the seared New England Jonah crab cakes ($14) served with a sweet tomato jam and an avocado salsa.
I normally don’t go for crab cakes but after getting a recomendation from the staff it sounded like they were too good to pass up, and they were! Small, fresh and light with a somewhat crunchy exterior, they make for a perfect bar bite.
With so many great looking salads and sandwiches to choose from, picking a main course proved to be difficult. My lunch date went for the house cured Berkshire Prok Tenderloin salad ($16) served with heirloom melon, house made farmers cheese, bitter greens and a sherry vinaigrette. Certainly not your typical salad, this was refreshing and totally delicious. The carpaccio-style pork tenderloin was unexpected and proved to be a pleasant surprise.
I decided to go for the Seared Ahi Tuna Arepa ($22) topped with grilled napa cabbage slaw and a chili aioli. In line with the rest of the Spring menu, this dish was light and flavorful. Definitely my favorite, the Arepa was moist and possibly one of the best I have ever had (not in authenticity but in taste) and I LOVED the napa cabbage slaw. Maybe that’s because I’m harboring a serious obsession with pickled cabbage and any form of slaw so long as it’s not drenched in Mayo.
What could have ended as a light lunch was then taken to the next level. I don’t like to live by too many rules because sometimes creating boundaries can lead to contradictions, but there is one rule I must uphold – Always look at the dessert menu. ALWAYS! Dessert is an essential part of any meal and I hate when restaurants overlook that. It’s easy to say no to dessert when nothing on the menu jumps out at you (which is what I was initially hoping for considering beach season may or may not be right around the corner given our city’s temperamental weather) but if you’re looking at the dessert menu at Asana I can guarantee you won’t run into that issue.
At first glance, the dessert names seem pretty generic – Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cheesecake, Strawberry Shortcake – but as you read the descriptions you can quickly find that nothing is really what it seems to be. Already intrigued by the sight of “carrot sorbet” served with carrot cake, and a few other standouts, we decided to order two. And yes my waistline hated me for it, but I have a tendency to over indulge at times. Sue me.
Called “Like a Carrot Cake” this dessert included a spread of walnut cake, mascarpone cream, and carrot sorbet. Throw in some candied pineapple and you’ve got a dessert that reminds me of all things Thanksgiving. Taking colors and flavors that remind me of fall and turning them into a fresh and fruity dessert ideal for summer, the array of textures in this were all over the place and somehow blended together perfectly. Definitely not your typical carrot cake but certainly tasting just like one, it was one of the most fun and creative sweets I have ever had, leaving me quite impressed to say the least.
And then there was the Strawberry “Shortcake” ($10) served parfait-style with layers of vanilla cream, strawberry ice cream, fresh strawberries and sable crumbs. Omigosh, hi I love you. I had tried a sample of this dessert last month at the Taste of Back Bay, and to be honest I definitely had more than one. Of course those were bite-sized, this one was momentous! Quite hard to eat, but looking totally gorgeous at the same time; and like everything else it was fresh, light and full of flavor. On top, were small sticks of merengue with pepper, which gave it a unique kick. I was actually shocked that the two tasted so good together.
776 Boylston St.