A-Bar has always been a popular destination for the weekend crowd. A cool, trendy atmosphere with live music pumping everything from Reggae to smooth Jazz depending on the night. A spacious wrap around bar with a large draft beer selection, including some local breweries, a signature cocktail list and a special bar bites menu. It’s a great place to grab a drink or an appetizer to go along. However, there are two sides to this collaborative restaurant and lounge: A-Bar and Aspire Seasonal Kitchen.
Aspire’s dining room will impress anyone who steps foot inside. Fancy crystal chandeliers, red velvet booths and modern architecture dress the interior. Their dinner menu can best be described as contemporary New England cuisine. Chef Jori Rieben was brought in to lead the kitchen about one month ago. He is still getting acclimated and preparing the dishes he inherited, but will be revamping the menu very soon. Born in Switzerland, the new menu is expected to be similar with some Northern European influences. Either way, we were excited to try everything that Aspire had to offer.
We started with the Cauliflower Soup with Horseradish Creme Fraiche (shown in main picture above). The consistency was perfectly creamy and smooth. The cauliflower was at the forefront while the horseradish added a nice dimension of flavor without being overpowering. It was warm and comforting bowl, especially on a cold winter night.
In my experience, it’s tough to go wrong with calamari. Aspire’s rendition did not disappoint as it was lightly battered and fried. A generous portion of crispy squid and some pickled cherry peppers added a touch of acid. I could have done without the tomato relish which tasted more like sweet jam. Some heat would have helped counteract the sweetness.
The rigatoni was perfectly al dente. It was a hearty bowl of pasta with spicy links of Italian sausage. Chef Rieben did not hold back and added liberal amounts of broccoli rabe, which I personally appreciated. The bitter characteristics from the broccoli rabe jived well with all the other components in the dish.
I have to admit that I was initially skeptical about the pairing of these ingredients. However, after one bite, this dish turned out to be my favorite dish of the night! The cranberries, butternut squash, and maple-sage jus brought out the natural sweetness of the lobster. This luscious crustacean rested atop an irresistible mound of risotto. This dish is just one of the many reasons you should visit Aspire!