In the era of shareable small plates and fast-casual burgers, burritos, and gyros, you could think of the amuse-bouche as an “anti-trend.” And yet the nouvelle cuisine–style presentation of a surprise treat to kick off a meal is still going strong, popping up on fine-dining tables across the city. A chef’s way of saying, “Let’s get this tasting menu started,” these intricate, elegant bites pack a whole lot of flavor and innovative technique into one tiny (but delicious) package. Here are eight creative takes on the formalized first moment of the meal.
Craigie on Main
Whether it’s an unexpected texture or an unusual flavor combination, an amuse-bouche should have some “pop” to it. So says Craigie on Main chef de cuisine Chris McMullan, whose lush, lightly cured sardine bite, topped with a crispy fried sardine tail and silky whipped sake, is a study in contrasts. The team’s duck chorizo bite, meanwhile, perfectly balances the smoky sausage with the sweetness of a dehydrated Candy Roaster squash chip and a bonbon made by dipping frozen chestnut cream into melted cocoa butter.
853 Main St., Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com.
Chef Alex Crabb has a secret weapon for “helping people get over their fear of offal”: delicate shavings of smoked beef heart atop a sauerbraten sugar beet. At Asta, his tasting-menu-only restaurant, he braises the unconventional veg—typically used in commercial sugar production—in beef stock before topping it off with the umami-rich organ meat. In contrast, the chef’s polenta with beet foam and hazelnuts, drizzled with smoked maple syrup, was inspired by a dish he created on the fly for a vegan.
47 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-585-9575, astaboston.com.
Trust me, you’re in good hands. That’s the message Journeyman chef Tru Lang hopes to convey with sophisticated first bites such as Adirondack blue potato with caviar and goat’s-milk yogurt, carefully tournéed and plated like a mini sculpture. Dotted with smoked butter, his dramatic puffed fish skin is just as artful, but decidedly more complex: It’s first dusted in tapioca starch before getting steamed, dehydrated, and deep-fried to a chiplike crisp.
9 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, 617-718-2333, journeymanrestaurant.com.
Menton’s decadent butter soup has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2010. But it’s still something chef de cuisine Scott Jones thinks everyone should try, so he sends it out regularly as an amuse. Servers pour melted butter spiked with lemon juice and chives over an array of caviar and shellfish. Another favorite? The “flower sandwich,” featuring fennel-vinaigrette-dressed magnolia and snapdragon petals held between wafer-thin sourdough crostini with a dollop of crème fraîche.
354 Congress St., Boston, 617-737-0099, mentonboston.com.
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