Tasting Counter: A Local, Gourmet Experience

by Julia Sementelli

Located in a warehouse in Somerville and sharing its space with a coffee roaster, chocolate maker, and brewery is an eatery that, at first, seems out of place. Following the signs directing me to 14 Tyler Street, I find myself in room with a flurry of white coats and black dresses as three chefs and three maître d’s bustle around. Service flows beautifully as if choreographed.

Selected by Boston Magazine as one of Boston’s 25 Best New Restaurants 2015, Tasting Counter is a unique experience. An open kitchen allows patrons to watch their meal be prepared and IMG_5839plated. The experience resembles a cooking class, but there is no instruction. The only interaction with the staff is when they present each dish. I appreciate the ease of the experience. There are no menu items to choose from, no requests to make. You simply walk in, sit down, and enjoy the show. Tasting Counter’s mission is “to establish the shortest distance between the production of food and you, our guest, by bringing you closer to the creation of your meal.” This mission is accomplished. Each night offers a multi-course tasting menu. And instead of making a reservation, you purchase a ticket that includes the price of the meal. The thought behind this concept is that you can leave your wallet at home. It’s difficult to argue with that.

The restaurant’s philosophy to describe how the food is sourced and prepared is based on the “0 carbon, 50 local, 100 natural.” Tasting Counter’s main goal is a zero-carbon footprint. Chef Peter Ungar, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Ginhee, sources a minimum of 50% of its products from within Massachusetts.

The meal is indeed a lovely balance of high quality and expertly prepared dishes with local and unique ingredients. Over the course of two hours, 12 dishes with wine pairings are presented:

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Welcoming Bites: Scallop, roe, sake, bonito rice; Black olive, almond, duck liver; Cured hake, orange sesame, lime

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame

Sea Urchin: Bonito custard, black truffle, wakame

IMG_5764

Sea Bream: Preserved Lemon, black olive, pistachio, avocado oil cream

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Tortellini: Lobster, pine mushroom, beef broth

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil , fermented soybean, orange blossom

Ocean Trout: Shallot, basil, fermented soybean, orange blossom

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Monkfish: Tomato, fennel, garlic, saffron, salmon roe

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Schisandra: Pine nut cookie

Miso cured duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Miso Cured Duck: Celery, apple, daikon, soy

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Cap: Beet, pomegranate, mascarpone, horseradish

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Lime Curd: Passion fruit, lime, ginger ice cream

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Bittersweet Chocolate: Guava, macadamia nut, orange

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Parting Morsels: Strawberry almond cake; Yuzu chocolate truffle; Plum vanilla chew

Tasting Counter provides a special experience. While the price certainly deems it appropriate for a special occasion, you receive a great deal of food and drink for the price. It is refreshing to see this restaurant commit to providing locally-sourced ingredients. Many other Boston restaurants provide tasting menus but without the local component. It is important to recognize restaurants like Tasting Counter that go the extra step to provide food that is both environmentally and palate-friendly.The Tasting Counter is currently open from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  There is an additional dinner service 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

Visit https://tastingcounter.com for more information.

Julia Sementelli is a first-year NutComm student. She is also a Boston-based registered dietitian. She is passionate about the Boston restaurant scene and dreams of being a food critic dietitian. You can find her blogging at “Girl Verses Food”

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