3/29/2013 04:28:00 PM

Day One: Alder, Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 Followup in the East Village

Foie gras terrine on an English muffin
Wylie Dufresne opened his second New York City restaurant last night in the form of Alder, and the crowds were there from moment one. We showed up about an hour after opening, and there was already a 90-minute wait at the smallish no-reservations eatery. We braved the wait, grabbed a table, and sampled six courses of moderately-priced but still molecular fare. If you're gonna head over and geek out, here are some of the things you can expect:

The Wait: The host will take your phone number and text you when your table is ready, and we ended up waiting for about half the 90 minutes that we were first quoted. Our text summoning us was quickly followed up by a call from a female robot warning us that we had 10 minutes to get back. Stay close and hit up neighboring Kingston Hall or Bar Veloce for a cocktail while you await your turn.

The Room: A white rectangle. The unadorned space keeps the focus on the food. There's a bar in the front of the room near that's near the host stand - if you do have to wait for a table it's advisable you spend the time elsewhere as space is at a premium here. The back dining room reminded us of similarly no-frills Empellon Cocina - it is a space in which to eat.

Decor Details: If you look more closely, you'll find some details that are meant to charm. Water bottles are labeled with rubber bands inscribed with "New York City" and the straws in Kevin Denton's cocktails looks like twigs made from the namesake wood. Instead of coat racks, the tables come equipped with handy cubby holes beneath the booth seat where you can store your goods.

The Food: Is it more casual than WD? Well, the room is laid back and the prices are cheaper, but the dishes we tried were just as playful and out-of-the ordinary. A purple "pub cheese" (which tasted strangely familiar, like Combos filling) comes with a crunchy pistachio brittle that wouldn't appear on any other spot's plate around town. The foie gras terrine was wrapped in a poached apple and served on an English muffin, bringing to mind a gourmet breakfast sandwich.

The combination of sweet and savory seemed to be a common theme - Dufresne's take on "pigs in a blanket" were thick slices of Chinese sausage that was served with a sweet sauce that was closer to honey than the advertised chili and circular disks of fried quail were served on a bed of mashed curried banana that added some sugar to the plate.

The Drinks: Denton's list of cocktails is presented on the back of a wooden slab (birch, presumably) and many of the libations are available without alcohol. Innovative ingredients are used - although the orange hue of the carrot sure made the St. Marks the Spot look pretty, we're not sure we could really taste the sea buckthorn. The cocktails are affordable at $12 a pop.

The Crowd: Though the rush was on when we first arrived, things thinned out toward 9:30 PM or so and Dufresne emerged from the kitchen to say hi to well wishers in the industry-heavy group. A lot of the folks seemed to be pros on the Downtown dining scene - half were hushed as they reverently tried the food, and the others were dressed to go out (or so said the blonde twenty-something in the see through white shirt with the black bra).

The Details: 157 2nd Ave.; See the website here


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