Alchemy’s standard dinner menu includes eight “beginnings” ($8-13), a couple of soups ($7), five side salads ($7-11), nine entrees ($17-34), six side vegetable dishes ($4-6) as well as a printed page of daily specials. Marty, who likes his meat well-done, smiled at the menu’s warning that the kitchen honors customers’ requests for dishes to be cooked well-done “but it breaks our heart and we cannot be responsible for the outcome.”
Some small yet dense, warm popovers wowed us while we struggled to decide what to order. After considerable analysis, Marty and John finally decided to share the mojito mussels appetizer, and our friend Rita opted to start with the calypso hummus. For entrees, Marty experimented with pepper fennel-crusted hebi (a mild Hawaiian white fish, $29); John ordered a peach cider glazed pork chop ($27) while Rita decided on a vegetarian stuffed acorn squash ($17).
The mussels were large and plump (with more than enough for both of us to share) but it was the broth that really got our attention. With mingled flavors of lime, orange, cilantro, and garlic, it was fantastic and addicting (we started scooping it up with mussel shells at first, then with some French bread our server brought when she noticed our enthusiasm!). Rita’s hummus had a distinctive tang of unusual herbs and spices, which she couldn’t quite place but enjoyed; she smiled as she realized she’d never before described a bean dish as “refreshing.” Both starters rated a “Thumbs Ups!” from all three of us.
John’s large, double-thick pork chop dominated his plate and reclined on a bed of (yummy!) white bean cassolet and an interesting corn purée. While the cider glaze wasn’t really evident, the chop was good and not overdone. Marty’s fish entrée served with marinated artichokes and pickled radishes and a dab of fennel purée was artfully presented. The fish was mild tasting and the fennel purée wasn’t to Marty’s liking so he asked Debi Matassa, one of the owners and who keeps a close eye on the dining room, for ketchup. Poor Debi was obviously taken aback! While she explained that Alchemy avoided serving processed foods like ketchup and that if necessary she would run across the street to grab some ketchup, she then suggested a couple of sauces from the kitchen. A dab of a creamy crab sauce turned out to add just the touch that Marty wanted! (Bravo Debi!) The clear star of the entrées though was the acorn squash which arrived overflowing with roasted autumn vegetables, tomatoes, capers, and lightly braised arugula. Mixed in with the veggies, long wide strands of homemade pappardelle pasta (which Rita said was “superb!”) added a wonderful contrast. Rita thought that her entrée was the best vegetarian dish she’s experienced in a restaurant. This extraordinary dish showcased the talent of the alchemists in the kitchen.
After such a feast, we decided to share one dessert and our server suggested the Grand Marnier tuile. The tuile was a softball-sized, thin, crispy, cookie shell with scoops of vanilla ice cream topped by Grand Marnier-soaked raspberries and strawberry slices sitting in a 10-inch soup bowl with a half inch of thick cream dabbled with traces of more Grand Marnier. Not necessarily evident from this list of ingredients, the tuile was surprisingly light and not overly sweet, which probably contributed to the three of us making it completely disappear! John also loved the option of having steamed milk with his coffee!
Alchemy’s food and service impressed us considerably and both clearly earned a “Thumbs Up!” from all three of us. The kitchen’s alchemy magic at dinner doesn’t come cheap, and the prices may have some considering this a place for “special occasions” rather than every day dining.
1011 W. 36th St.
Open Tues-Sun for lunch & dinner
Full bar • Street parking