- scene: Minimal and downtown, Alder is intrinsically cool without any special effort
- sip: Fancy cocktails, some of which have umbrellas; wine, beer, etc
- savor: Pigs in a blanket; shrimps on shrimp; I imagine the rye pasta with pastrami
- sit: Definitely a place to chat with a friend and casually nibble and discuss how good the food is in between catching up
- spend: $$
- address: 157 Second Avenue
- phone number: (212) 539-1900
- website: www.aldernyc.com
Wylie Dusfrene is the Willy Wonka of cuisine, injecting (some times literally) every dish with a bit of wizardry and tricks of taste and texture. As I read the Alder menu, and not having not had Dusfrene’s food in quite some time, my mind was going double time, imagining all of the wild ways that the dishes would be liquified, gelatinized or generally messed with. I was surprised and impressed with the food at Alder, a very cool, lively, clever place. Adding to the magic of the evening, I was able to pay for our meal without even putting my hand in my pocket, thanks to a genius little app called Cover. More on that…
I was a little apprehensive when I walked into Alder because the counter was pretty full, but most of the tables in the dining room were empty. As I waited close to 40 minutes for my friend (calling you out Claud, xo), the entire dining room and counter filled up. Magic! Our server was casual and friendly in the downtown way, but very good at her job; she let me make up my own mind about the orange wine (gross) and helped me find my way to a fantastic cocktail with an umbrella in it, and did not once make me feel bad as I sadly sipped my drink and waited for my friend to come. The Alder space is pretty simple- wood beam ceilings, white-washed brick walls- not spare but definitely not over done. The straightforward atmosphere allows the food and drinks to take center stage. Like Azasu, Alder is now on top of my list of restaurants to go to for having some drinks and sharing food, although it is probably not for everyone; nothing will taste exactly as you expect, but in this case, that is a good thing. See below for what we ate.
“Pigs In a Blanket” The Chinese sausage was juicy, the wrapper thin and the mustard had a little kick; the sweet chili added an unexpected hint of sweetness, the perfect bar snack
Shrmps on shrimps- This dish packed in a lot great flavor while keeping the overall impression surprisingly light. The only downfall is that the shrimp toast got a little soggy if not eaten fairly quickly. ( see title photo)
Madai- very pretty to look at, the madai was quality sashimi, pesto gave some nice flavor without overpowering the delicateness of the dish.
French Onion Soup Onion Rings- This is a really hearty dish that almost eats like a meal; I could only have one and a half of these, but the flavors were right without being too gimmicky. This is onion rings as a main course rather than a side dish.
Hanger Steak- The one misstep, there was not enough concentration on preparing the meat to maximize its natural flavor; the flavors were masked by an added fat or oil, with a poor result.
We were amazed by most of what we ate, and Alder’s portions are substantial for a shared plates restaurant. There are a few dishes on the menu that I would return just to try, including a rye pasta and pastrami situation. There is a certain amount of magic in the food in Alder, a sprinkle of whimsy that twists the food just so and makes it that much more interesting. File this place under ” I am in the mood for something a little bit different, but easy and fun.” Thanks to Cover my friend and I were able to split the bill and leave, all without taking out our credit cards; a full receipt was emailed to the both of us by the time we reached our homes, all through the magic of our phones. AbraCaDaBra indeed…