Tasting Counter visit (Somerville, MA)

I just posted this back at the old place but it seems like the people I want to reach are all headed over here.

My wife and I had a great dining experience at Tasting Counter this past Friday for an anniversary dinner.

The restaurant is run by Chef Peter Ungar who previously offered the chef’s table experience he ran from his home as the Dining Alternative. While I was aware of the Dining Alternative the schedule never quite worked for me and I was happy to finally satisfy my curiosity.

Reservations are via a ticketing system on the web site. Like a ride from an Uber driver, this also makes it so there is not a financial transaction tied to the meal. They claim to accommodate a variety dietary restrictions though this wasn’t an issue for us.

The location is at the back of the Aeronaut Brewing Company Foods Hub near Union Square in Somerville. We entered through Aeronaut which seemed like a busy brew pub in a somewhat raw space - fine for what it was but very different from the experience we were headed for. We were greeted at the sliding wooden door at the far end of the food hub and were transported to an entirely different place.

The restaurant is set up as a U-shaped counter around the spotless food prep area. The decor is minimalist and modern without being cold. Seating is on stools at the counter. The music choices were amusing, at least to me.

We chose the wine pairing with our meal. The other couple next to us chose what looked like the non-alcoholic pairing which looked intriguing to try another time. All in all we were served 9 plates each along with 10 wine pairings, plus welcoming and parting bites and a unique palate cleansing juice of Schisandra berry with pine nuts that made it feel like 12 plates. The menu was set before we arrived and revealed as the meal proceeded.

Service was by Chef Ungar and his assistant for most of the plates, and by the hostess and Chef Ungar’s wife for most of the drinks. Part of the experience is seeing the final steps of the dish taking shape in the kitchen in front of you just before they are served, along with talking about the preparation and ingredients. Chef Ungar is passionate about his food and technique and is happy to elaborate when asked. With all of the plates and explanations of the dishes this is not a quiet couple’s dinner in a hushed room, but there are other places for that.

The menu for the evening tilted toward seafood, but included duck, beef and very pleasant sweets towards the end. Both my wife and I tried the plates with components that are usually not our favorites - sea urchin in my case, duck in hers - and were pleasantly surprised at the achievements in taste and balance. All of the ingredients were of the highest quality, and most plates allowed the diner to combine the multiple flavors on the plate at their own pace. Tastes and textures varied between dishes, and many plates included several sauces to build an orchestrated flavor for the plate. I did not see any component repeated throughout the evening.

The wines were all well paired, and served as a compliment to the plate rather than a separate course or cocktail-like service which I’m honestly more accustomed to. They were subtle and varied from a good and amusing pairing (a Lambrusco with the chocolate plate) to striking a clear and contrasting note on its own.

We came away stimulated, satisfied (I know some others on Chowhound leave some other tasting menu dining experiences ready for another meal - I’m a big guy and that was not the case for me here), and felt lucky in a new discovery. This was an experience, as much as theater, a musical performance, or a movie.

I would highly recommend The Tasting Counter to a couple or quartet interested in a dining experience. Given the seating and focus on the food I’m not sure how it would work for a larger group. The web site mentions late night and private dining options as well.


Thank you!! I’ve been really curious to hear others’ experiences there besides Devra First. Hope to give this a try soon.

We enjoyed Tasting Counter. It is certainly the type of place we are happy to have close by and would like to see succeed. There is some room for improvement, not that it wasn’t great, but we were not completely blown away considering the price.

I love the location and unique shared space Tasting Counter occupies. Before dinner we checked Brooklyn Boulders next door for some potential rock climbing classes for our daughter. It’s a very impressive facility and all the people working out made us feel a bit guilty we were about to strap on a serious feedbag. After that we grabbed a pre dinner beer at Aeronaut Brewing and checked out their fantastic and eclectically decorated space. Aeronaut had a line down the block by the end of the night.

The room at tasting Counter is very nice. It is interesting in that Chef Ungar had it custom built to his specifications with no artwork and minimal decoration beyond foodstuffs and serving wear. One knock on the space is that it was very cold temperature wise when we visited last month. I never complain about being cold, but my wife and I were both uncomfortable by middle of the meal. It is possible their small space within the building was not air balanced properly, as the space seemed fine until the sliding privacy partition closed at the beginning of the meal.

Even though they gave us the menu card at the end of the evening, I forget the exact order or specifications of the dishes. Everything was tasty with a few standouts including the foie gras macarons and the miso cured duck course. The chef gave us some background on the specific purveyor of these ducks. They certainly know how to handle seafood as well. Everyone gets some quick background as their party is served, and we found with some prodding the chef has much insight to happily impart. I wonder how much the menu is varying at this point, as most of the dishes we had have been in mentioned in the few reviews we have seen. However, the menu was well planned, with each dish being unique and complementing the next. This tasting menu was head and shoulders above a recent experience at Asta.

We had the sake paring with our meals, and it was expertly procured to say the least. We enjoyed every pour and noted some of the labels for future consumption.

The Tasting Counter is young, and hopefully will continue to improve as it hits its stride. All of the dishes were tasty, but for this type of meal and price point we really want to be blown away. Also, the atmosphere is a bit subdued. On the evening we dined, there were 8 parties of 2, and everyone was very much keeping to themselves. We commented that it would be fantastic to go here with a larger group, dominate the counter and make it lively. As time goes on, I hope Chef Ungar will get even more interactive. He has some great knowledge top share and the tasting Counter is his baby. I want to hear all about it. We will give the menu some time to turn over, but will look forward to a return visit this winter.

p.s. I LOVE the ticket system and being able to walk out at our leisure when the meal had ended

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We didn’t find the restaurant cold, perhaps that was an early issue since resolved.

The menu is varying, though as you’d expect the entire menu doesn’t change out within a month. Of the dishes you mentioned the miso cured duck was on our menu, but the foie gras macarons were not. Like you I’m looking forward to returning after the menu turns over.

I’m very curious what would rate “blown away” for you!

We were sitting on the far side of the counter. Where were you sitting? Maybe we’ll ask to be in the middle or on the other side next time.

I was blown away by the Italian sub I had for lunch at Coppa today. In Boston, not much blows me away at the high end. There are tons of restaurants I really enjoy mind you, but lots of let downs at the upper end (price wise). I don’t mind dropping the $ on occasion, but it comes with very high expectations. Cafe Sushi comes pretty close. I think the Tasting Counter could get there.

We were sitting at the “bottom right” corner of the U counter, facing the wall oven.

I’ll have to check out Coppa soon.

Just wanted to chime in here with another rave for Tasting Counter after my visit last week.

My friends and I had no problem with the temperature; it was very comfortable inside, so they’ve worked out that kink. Of the six of us, four got the excellent sake pairing, one got the wine, and one got the non-alcoholic. When I return, I’m definitely getting the non-alcoholic drink pairing; for as tasty as my sakes were, every one of his drinks was creative, unique, and delicious, from red bell pepper juice to a smoky shiitake mushroom tea.

Service was friendly, conversational, and casual while being professional, explaining the cooking process without ever coming off as snooty or elitist (I’m looking at you, Salts). They excel at focusing each dish on an ingredient and every ounce of flavor that can be gotten from it.

Some meal highlights:

  • Lobster atop lobster custard and lobster mousse in a rich lobster broth
  • Soured cream dumplings and parma ham in a beef broth
  • Moonfish and spoonbill caviar on cauliflower puree
  • Whole squab with duck liver
  • Pork shoulder with preserved orange, black olives, and pistachio
  • Roasted pineapple with apple and pine ice cream

The ticket system is a little daunting, since it’s non-refundable (crossing my fingers that nobody in my party gets a cold before our meal!) but it’s so wonderful to just walk in, sit down, eat an amazing meal, and walk away at the end with no bill, no tip, no hassle.

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Has anyone been to Tasting Counter recently? We are considering going this week but wondering what is current/new on the menu.

Haven’t been but I was at Aeronaut recently and noticed that they now have a late night wine tasting bar set up featuring organic and biodynamic wines. Looked tempting.

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Any recent experiences here? We’re in need of somewhere local to celebrate a special occasion. The price has certainly crept up considerably ($250/pp), particularly considering alcohol consumption is currently not a priority. I’ve been wanting to get back here, but it’s got to be off the charts at this price point.

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I’ll say!


I’m shocked at that price per person, even without booze.


The $250 does include the beverage pairings (wine, beer, sake, or non alcoholic) and gratuity. The price is the same even if you go non alcoholic. For what it’s worth they did a very nice job with the sake pairings on my last visit. However the ticket price has about doubled since they opened, and yeah, spending $500 on dinner for 2 makes me feel guilty and somewhat irresponsible.

Our Cafe Sushi omakase splurges cost little more than half of that, and those already feel like privileged excess.


I’ve been recently. They made a substitution (lamb for pork if memory serves) that didn’t quite work for the dish, though there were other dishes that were new and were excellent. The substitution wasn’t noted on the menu they gave us to take home, nor did they tell us it was a substitution, so I would chalk that up to a miss on an off night. I’m not sure they should have any off nights for the price.

The price is pretty much the old price ($180?) plus the wine/beer/sake pairing price if memory serves.

Honestly my favorite thing to do lately is to go to a stand up comedy show at the Comedy Studio at Bow Market, and then walk over to Tasting Counter for the wine bar.


I’m pretty sure it was closer to $160/pp the last time I went and the beverages were included at that time.

I logged in to look at my past purchases, and my mistake, $180 included the wine pairing in 2015 - but it was definitely $180.

How many courses does the tasting menu have currently?

In October it was 9-12 depending how you count.

Welcoming bites
Sea scallop
Atlantic sea bream
Lobster dumplings
Striped bass
Schisandra berry (drink)
Confit pork shoulder - the pork was substituted with lamb that night
Concord grape
Celery root
Parting morsels


I agree, and this is helpful in terms of my decision.

Also, my first meal there was definitely $165/pp, so just over a 50% increase in 4 years. Who says inflation is under control??