Alchemy [San Diego]
Went to Alchemy last night and I had to ask myself why I haven't been there for so long!! I had the crispy skin jidori chicken that was so tasty. It was busy for a Wednesday night which is good. Finished up with the bread pudding yummy. I will be back often as I now crave that chicken.
We had dinner at Alchemy during a recent visit to your city, and — while the menu looked really appealing, and there were a couple of highlights — we wound up feeling mildly disappointed.
By far the best part was the happy hour half-price bar snacks, which are a great deal. I especially dug the pork belly tacos (with crispy fried taro "shells") and the chicken chicharrons. Fried pickles aren't my bag, but got a thumb's up from my tablemates. And not half-price, but quite nice, were the Red Lobster-esque cheddar-bay biscuits, served with honey.
The Vietnamese spring rolls, on the other hand, were laughable, filled with almost nothing but rice noodles (and maybe a couple of thin slivers of carrot).
In general, the more obviously "ethnic" a dish seemed to be, the less successful it was. This was especially true of the Asian-inspired dishes, which the chef just didn't seem to have the chops to pull off. An entrée of kimchi fried rice, for instance, didn't appear to have any actual kimchi in it, and just tasted salty and vaguely sour. The vegan "vindaloo" curry was just kind of bland (not even a hint of heat, really), and the assorted vegetables veered toward undercooked.
Anyway, reading the menu, I'd been under the impression that the kitchen was doing a whimsical, modern twist on these global cuisines — various "powders" and "airs" are listed among the ingredients. Instead, the only thing that seemed playful was the presentation: kimchi fried rice served inside a Chinese takeout container, for instance. That's all well and good if you're into that kind of thing, and it's not that I needed more bells and whistles — but, mostly, the dishes just seemed like watered down, dumbed down Asian food.
Did we just order wrong? Maybe it's best to stick with the Western/Latin stuff. I will say that the shoestring fries that came with my bbq pork burger (tasty enough, if nothing special) were very good. The suckling pig and roasted chicken dinners sound like nice options, but we didn't plan far enough ahead to make arrangements.
Finally, this is a personal nitpick, but it drives me crazy when a restaurant like Alchemy has multiple highchairs that all have broken straps (and are thus, for our toddler anyway, basically unusable), and they've clearly made a conscious decision not to do anything about it. Shell out the $30/chair and get them replaced, Mr. or Mrs. Restaurant Owner!
I've been to Alchemy quite a few times being that its local to me. I've found it to be really inconsistent. Sometimes the food is great, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and other times its devoid of all flavor and needs salt. Honestly, I think the cooks/chefs smoke, thats just a guess, i dont know, but the level of inconsistency points to people who like to wreck their taste buds.
Our catering for two days of meetings was provided by Alchemy --- two lunches and one hot breakfast. And I give them a thumbs up for all.
Top notch vegetables in abundance and high quality meats, plenty of choices for vegans though it was a bit hard to avoid gluten. I especially liked a chunky roasted eggplant salad. Breakfast was particularly strong. Despite being served buffet style from steam trays, the waxy potato confit hash was wonderful and the farmers scramble featured richly colored/flavored, moist eggs.
Dusting off an old thread- ate at Alchemy tonight, and had a very similar experience and the OP. Very high quality food- granted not the most expensive of ingredients- bulgar, peas and chicken. But perfectly prepared, well seasoned, clean, nice. I at a "high end" place last night, and the Alchemy entree I had was better than anything on last night's 5 course tasting menu, and I probably spent three times what I spent at Alchemy.
Ok, my ears are stil ringing from the din, but I need to return to Alchemy more often.