Last week, my friends and I met up for dinner at Alder, Wylie Dufresne’s latest project that focuses on casual, pub-like eats. I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant about the restaurant because the reviews on Yelp aren’t that great, but still, it’s Wylie Dufresne (hey, fangirl over here!) after all, it can’t be that bad, right?
To start, we ordered a selection of small dishes to share (so we could try most of the dishes on the menu) with plans to order more if we liked it a lot. Some reviewers mention that the portions are very small, but the four of us had twelve dishes in total and we did not leave hungry.
Overall, the dishes were presented beautifully, but some were just hit-or-miss. I will start with the dishes I didn’t care much for.
The Pub Cheese was served with pistachio-white fig and “potato chips” that were too bland and hard to chew on.
Eggplant Ribs with brussels sprout slaw and cornbread was a vegetarian take on the classic barbecue platter, but the texture and taste of the “ribs” were just like regular eggplant with a smoky flavor. Not to mention the cornbread tasted rather dry.
I love sweetbreads in general and was disappointed with how bland Fried Sweetbreads with Sunchoke, Pickled Shishito, and Red Miso was. The sweetbread pieces were so small I could only taste the breading – I couldn’t taste the other ingredients of the dish at all.
French Onion Soup Rings tasted like good ol’ thick, crispy onion rings. But the French onion soup part was completely missing.
Rabbit Sausage with string beans, egg yolk, bonito flake was pretty bland and left a lot to be desired.
Shrimp on Shrimp is basically shrimp, chili, and green papaya on shrimp crackers. I expected a lot of bold Asian flavors (and heat, especially with the hint of chili on top), but really, it was nothing to write home about.
Now, let’s talk about the dishes I did like.
The Toasted Honey Bread was actually really tasty, but I could not detect any uni-pumpkin, ranch, nor sunflower seeds.
Rye Pasta was a hearty dish just like a pastrami sandwich with great textures and flavors. I thought the pastrami would be better off incorporated into the dish instead of sitting on the bottom of the plate though.
Pickled Beets with coconut ricotta and Thai basil was refreshing, flavorful, and made me want to go back for more bites.
Hanger Steak with Delicata Squash, Boy Choy, and Timut was tender and perfectly cooked to medium rare. No complain there!
We all thought the desserts were amazing. Chocolate mousse cake with banana and rum sauce was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but not overly sweet.
Honeycrisp Apple Tart with Buttermilk Ice Cream and Cinnamon Granola was definitely a seasonal dessert. Honeycrisp apples are known for being sweet and extra crisp — they were fantastic in the tart especially when paired with the tangy buttermilk ice cream!
All of the dishes sound very interesting in concept and have a lot of potential, but the flavors just weren’t there. Overall, I was just expecting honest, delicious food and wouldn’t care if they didn’t involve complicated cooking techniques, special ingredients, or different flavor combination. Alder was a lackluster experience for me :(