Asana

>>  Friday, May 20, 2011



Asana (noun) in yoga, a sitting position intended to restore and maintain well being.

Asana is one of several restaurants inside the Mandarin Oriental in Back Bay right next to the Prudential Center. The Mandarin hasn't been in Boston for that long, only about 3 years. Within that time, Asana is still trying to find its voice.

As many of you may know, the Mandarin Oriental is an Asian hotel, with headquarters in Hong Kong. When the hotel first opened, French Chef Nicolas Boutin (who has worked at several three star Michelin restaurants) left the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental to come on as Executive Chef in Boston. Unfortunately, his innovative fusion of Asian and French cuisine wasn't that popular with Bostonians. Since then, Asana has taken a safer approach, offering local, seasonal New England inspired fare with an emphasis on fresh, high quality ingredients.

Asana's actually looking for an executive chef right now. Meanwhile, the current staff is doing an admirable job of delivering a wonderful assortment of farm fresh, locally-inspired dishes.


The space is beautiful and is connected to the Mandarin Oriental. This means that residents of the building can order room service from here and also dine here without having to step outside. Though it's not as flashy as, say, the Ritz Carlton, the Mandarin gets its own share of celebrities and dignitaries. They are just much more low-key about it.

Housemade Pappardelle wild mushroom, arugula, truffle oil, shaved pecorino romano cheese $21

I was excited to see that all their pastas are freshly made! The housemade pappardelle was very good, though I wished it were just a hair more al dente. I loved the fragrant flavors of the wild mushrooms, truffle oil, and cheese. This dish was richly full of umami and very enjoyable. Bryan enjoyed my leftovers and spoke quite positively about dish (he loved the fresh pasta, of course!)

Georges Bank Seared Scallops Siena Farms english pea, pancetta crisps carbonara style gnocchi, sorrel $26

This was one of my favorite dishes. The scallops were cooked perfectly - nicely seared yet moist and near sushi-quality in the center. I loved the seasonal addition of English peas as well as the crunchy, circular pancetta discs.

Crispy Maryland Soft Shell Crab vine ripe tomato, avocado, wild arugula, meyer lemon vinaigrette $25

Though we didn't order this crab dish, the chef brought out this new menu item for us to try because it was one of his favorites. I thought it was alright, but then I've never been a huge fan of soft shell crab (I feel like I'm eating shrimp shells), so I can't really be objective on this one.

Four Course $58 / Wine Pairing $31
My dining companion, Edwina (who actually works for the Mandarin Oriental), decided to try their new tasting menu. Every month they switch up the tasting menu to feature a seasonal ingredient. This month? The ingredient was cheese!

Below are the four courses you would get with this tasting.

Shaved Serrano Ham
arugula, farmers cheese, heirloom melon, 12 yr aged, balsamic
2009, bodegas burgans, albarino, rias baixas, spain 

Chef Tim uses house made ricotta cheese in this simple but flavorful starter. And guess what? I was able to get the recipe for the cheese! I'll be trying it soon and promise to report back.

Homemade Farmers Cheese Gnudi
shaved easter radish, cherry tomato, Siena farms english pea, blondie frisee, ramp pesto
2009, terrazas, torrontes, reserva, argentina 

Do you know what a Gnudi is? It's like gnocchi, but made without flour. Some refer to it as a "naked" ravioli since it has the cheese and "filling" but no wrapper! In fact, "gnudi' means "nude" ravioli. I loved this dish - I'm already a fan of fresh peas, and the ramp pesto was so flavorful and totally reminded me of spring.

Grilled P.T. Farm Hanger Steak
hand cut truffle fries, farmers cheese, asparagus rosemary jus
2010, laboure roi, pinot noir, burgundy, france

Edwina let me try a small piece of the steak, which was also served with the house made ricotta cheese. Alas, I enjoy my steaks medium rare (or maybe even rare sometimes!) so I thought this medium-cooked piece of steak was too tough. Hanger steak is tricky. It's a flavorful cut of meat, but it's also a tougher cut of steak and thus needs to be cooked as little as possible (or prepared using sous vide!).  If you plan on getting the hanger steak, definitely order it rare or medium rare.

Housemade Ricotta & Raisin Tart
lemon sorbet, apple wine air, lemon crisp

Desserts are amazing here.

Executive Pastry Chef Nelson Paz is really really good at his craft. Edwina absolutely loved her Ricotta and Raisin tart, which she could not stop praising. The dessert is composed of several different complex parts, each of which takes quite a bit of work to prepare. For example, Nelson described to us how the he dried the lemon "chip" for countless hours (I think at least 6!) in a low heat oven in order to prevent it from burning.

Quintuple Chocolate Cheesecake - $10
Valrhona chocolates

This crazy chocolate cheesecake is one of Asana's signature desserts, and it's worthy of the accolades. It's made from at least 5 different kinds of Valrhona chocolate, starting from the white chocolate caramels to the 85% ultra dark coating and all the way to the 100% cocoa nibs sprinkled throughout. This dessert is excellent - it truly showcases both Chef Nelson's attention to detail as well as his exquisite artistry.


The food at Asana is overall very good. I personally especially enjoyed the fresh pastas (both the pappardelle and the gnudi), as well as the pan-seared scallops.

Nothing on the menu is particularly risky - you'll see a pleasant assortment of seafood, meat, and farm fresh vegetables. Like most hotel restaurants, they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's the type of place that would be perfect for special family gatherings like Easter, Mother's Day, or graduation dinners. It would also work fine for client dinners as well as other work related meals.

The desserts are the true stars here. They would stand perfectly well on their own in a fancy patisserie. If nothing else, try the quintuple chocolate cheesecake. You won't be disappointed.

 Asana
776 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02199
Asana on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer:
Time to time I receive free products, meals, etc. as a food blogger. I do not receive any payment for blog posts/reviews nor am I required to write a post when I receive free products, meals, etc. The views expressed in this post are completely my own. This meal was paid for by Asana.

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