Aster

Dinner – Saturday, August 5, 2017

Our first and only visit to Aster was two years ago, when we spent two days in the city looking for a place to live – it left a strong impression. I don’t know why it took us so long to return, but we finally did. I think the prix-fixe menu has only increased $10 in the intervening period, which is remarkable by San Francisco standards. Clocking in at under 80 minutes, here is what we ate.

Dry-aged beef, umeboshi, brown rice crisp, kimchi furikake
The tartare had nice, beefy flavour and there was lots of textural contrast between the different components – a strong start.

Cucumber, nectarine, seaweed, padron, yogurt

Cured trout belly, avocado mousse, radish, nori-togarashi
This was a perfect dish for the balmy evening. A cool tartare of trout belly, served with chilled avocado mousse. On the side, a sizable baton of crispy trout skin. One of my favourite dishes of the evening.

Soft-cooked egg, smoked trout roe, nori, puffed rice, bacon

Local shellfish, celtuce, melon, tomato, fig leaf
Juicy, plump mussels and an oyster sat atop an aromatic, chilled broth. The sweetness of the shellfish and tomatoes was really highlighted by the vegetal celtuce. Impressive.

Miso-kosho trout, tomato, spinach, sprouted wheat
Unfortunately, this was a real miss. The miso-kosho completely obliterated everything else on the plate. A pity.

Lamb, summer vegetables, black garlic, nepitella
A lot going on here. Lamb was served three ways Рconfit, loin, and belly. In addition to the protein, there were also pur̩es of eggplant, squash and black garlic. Tasty, but somewhat unfocused as a dish.

Andante Dairy Contralto, fig, rye and poppy cracker

Strawberry, chamomile, lemon, sesame, coriander
I’m not sure who’s in charge of desserts now that Sean Ehland has departed, but both were strong! Here, an intense strawberry granita over sweet macerated strawberries, balanced by earthy chamomile and coriander. The sesame tuile also added another savory element. This was also a visual treat – gorgeous.

Chocolate custard, black caramel ice cream, coconut mochi, anise

Aster remains my favourite of the DPG group restaurants, which includes it’s more refined sibling, Coi. The setting is casual and the food is fun, yet considered – I really appreciate how they make the most of their ingredients (see, e.g., how they used all parts of the trout). This meal confirmed for me its place as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco at its price point.

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