MICHELIN Guide’s Point Of View
The idea of a fine-dining space that features mainstream music, spare décor and young clientele in jeans may seem overdone, but Aster makes everything appear new and inventive, never forced. Set in a quiet residential neighborhood, its tawny banquettes, wood tables and strands of lights fashion a studied yet casual vibe that doesn't feel like it is trying too hard. The staff is attentive yet friendly, and eager to please. The kitchen heightens every element of healthy, light Californian cuisine made from only the best organic ingredients around. Like the space, the food has no sense of excessive complication; everything is cooked, seasoned and paired perfectly. Here, a simple garden salad is a graceful blend of tangerines, turnips and flowers tossed with pumpkin seeds over a bed of mashed avocado. This might be followed by a generous trout fillet, seared to crisp-skin perfection and set atop snap pea purée. Lighter main courses leave room for enjoying their excellent desserts, such as a sweet poached pear stuffed with vanilla ice cream and set beneath a crunchy pistachio scone and pear coulis. The fixed-price menu is reasonable for the trendsetting combination of cuisine and space.