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Apr 7, 2013 08:34 AM

Anyone been to Alder yet?

I know its early but anybody have any dish recommendations for Wylie Dufresne's Alder in the East Village? What's the wait like?

Making a cross-continent trip to NYC next weekend and want to stop by and try it out. Absolutely loved WD-50 last time I was in town.

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  1. I went there last night and I thought it was just fair. We split 6 courses. Here is my take on what we ate. I am going to steal Lau's dish rating system as I think it helps put things into perspective. Hope you don't mind Lau. I always enjoy your reviews btw.

    -pigs n blanket (5/10) - rather bland sausage in a wrapper that reminded me of a corn dog. maybe that is the point? I don't know, but it didn't do much for me. The Japanese mustard tasted like it was just wasabi cream and the sweet chili sauce tasted like honey to me. Overall it wasn't much more than a wedding appetizer.

    -salmon tartare (5/10). Both of us commented at the same time that we could have made this at home, and better too.

    -foie gras terrine (8.5/10). I liked this dish. The apple worked well with it and it was the first dish that showed some promise. However, the apple tasted almost raw to me, not poached like the menu says. I liked the crispness of the apple with the foie gras.

    -fried quail (8/10). This was good but not great. The banana curry was full of flavor but not to overpowering with the curry. The quail was nicely fried little medallions with a "fried chicken" type breading.

    -Smoked Arctic char (9/10). This was my favorite dish of the night. Very smoky flavor and nice texture on the fish. The rest of the dish was a throw away tough.

    -Rye pasta (7/10). This was okay. The pasta was fresh, cooked right and had a strong rye flavor. And there were two thin slices of fatty pastrami on the bottom of the bowl. I would have liked it better if the pastrami was chunked up instead of sliced so that you cold east it together with the pasta.

    I would like to try some of the other dishes but i am not sure how quickly I am going to go back there. The room was deafeningly loud and I felt like I was yelling the entire time. Note that some but not all is communal seating. It is tight quarters overall.

    Oh about the wait time...we walked in at 630 on Wednesday and it was mostly full but we had no wait at that time. There was a wait when we left tough.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Yaxpac

      Thanks for the review. I managed to read it just before leaving for the airport. I ended up getting different dishes than you so here are my thoughts:

      Pub Cheese
      The cheese itself was quite good, so smooth. The pistachio crisp was good when you got a crispy bit but not so much when you got a chewy bit. The "potato chip" had nice flavour but I found it too hard.

      Caesar Nigiri
      My first piece I quite enjoyed the richness of the sauce with the fish (not sure what fish, perhaps smoked mackerel?) which had a nice level of smoke to it. My GF said she really liked the lemon which wasn't in mine at all. Then I had my second piece and it was there and added another dimension to the dish. I guess they missed finishing the piece I started with.

      Fried Cauliflower
      Probably our favourite dish of the night. Cauliflower tasted delicious as well as the lemon almond purée. The cocoa nibs made for an interesting flavour combo but probably unnecessary. The lardo was probably unnecessary as well.

      Sea Bass
      Second favourite dish of the night. Fish was perfectly cooked. The jasmine rice was actually little deep fried rice nuggets with a wonderful flavour to them. The nori salsa verde was fine, definitely briny. However our piece of fish had a bone in it. I wasn't too fussed about it but I was surprised that the staff didn't seem to care about it either when I told them.

      Pork Rib
      This was my least favourite dish of the night. The pork was cubed and nicely smoked but I'm used to pork having a texture where I can make out the individual muscle fibres. This had more of a processed ham type texture; a bit spongy which I found completely unappetizing. The hash was brunois-sized and the textures all blended together and I couldn't detect the saffron flavour, only the apple. It was kind of like baby food spiked with Spam.

      Root Beer Pudding
      Loved this. The pudding had a great root beer flavour and it felt like it still had carbonation in it. The crushed smoked cashews added a nice textural contrast and tasted great too.

      Misc. Notes
      - Portion size felt comparable to the dishes on WD-50's tasting menu perhaps a touch larger. We weren't super hungry so the 5 dishes and dessert was more than enough for two of us.
      - Got there at 9pm on a Sunday and the restaurant was half empty.
      - The room is loud.

      1. re: Yaxpac

        Had some of the same dishes as Yaxpac. Agreed with the ratings for the pigs n blanket and foie gras terrine. Probably would have given the quail a 7 (enjoyed the banana curry) and the rye pasta a 5 or 6. Too bad I didn't get the arctic char.

        I liked the pumpernickle crostini with kale and trout roe. I don't feel the need to go back or recommend that someone go there right away.

      2. Just returned.

        Not impressed. Best dish of the night was the roasted cauliflower. Everything else was just a bit overplayed. It's like Alder is tragic caricature of WD50.

        1. Went on Friday night and had a really nice time. I like how like WD-50, the space is not over-designed -- just simple and comfortable. I am really, really tired of seeing Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood at every new restaurant.

          Now for the food. Like WD-50, lots of imagination and some winners and losers. For us, the stinkers were the 2 starters we got -- the Pumpernickel Crostini (with trout roe, ponzu and sunchoke) and the Caesar Nigiri (romaine, egg yolk and parmesan). The Crostini was just unbalanced and didn't come together that well. The "Nigiri" was balanced atop a romaine rib and was both ill-conceived and not tasty. Parmesan everywhere, and romaine! I don't need to eat that lettuce unless it's in a true Caesar or on a turkey sandwich.

          We were much, much happier with the mains we got -- Grilled Octopus with Cashew Pesto (perfectly executed), Grilled Asparagus (with scrambled eggs! what a delight), Fried Cauliflower with lardo and cocoa (surprisingly amazing), Foie Gras terrine with apple (light and rich at the same time) and the Fried Quail with Banana Curry (a really nice combination). We rounded out the night with the "cherry cheesecake" which was just little mounds of cheesecake, graham cracker crumbs and cherries on a piece of slate. It was a little precious, but good.

          We got several cocktails amongst us. The only one I remember was the one with vodka and horseradish, which I wouldn't get was a lot of horseradish.

          Lovely, casual service. Wylie was sitting at the bar when we left, which induced a little star-strucked-ness.

          Not terribly expensive and fun. Would definitely return.

          1. Stopped in for cocktails this past weekend. Love that they do 1/2 sized versions of some. Hey Rube was delicious and refreshing, Pimm’s, gin, rhubarb, served in a tiny red camping mug. Great for this hot and muggy weather. Bikini Season was good as well, but more "standard," cachaça,‌ kaffir lime, falernum. A lot like a caipirinha. Tai Me Up Tai Me Down was a nice, savory twist on the Mai Tai. Rum, smoked cashew, olorosso, with a carefully balanced umbrella on top that eventually fell down onto the bar (there being no crushed ice in the drink). Dr. Dave's 'Scrip Pad was the best of the four we tried. Rye, yuzu, amaro, smoked maple. Tart and sweet and boozy. Yum. Really nice, talented bartenders. The place was pretty busy with only 1-2 empty bar stools on Sunday night of a holiday weekend.