Al's Place

Just a few blocks from my house is a seemingly casual restaurant that is Michelin star rated. As a surprise graduation celebratory dinner, we walked to this local spot -and it is worth the hype. 

At Al's place, the star dishes are the vegetarian dishes, while the meat dishes are "side dishes". All of the dishes are unique to Al's Place, even if they are reinvented from American classics. Take, for example, the french fries: they are brine pickled overnight, fried twice (though not overly crispy) and served with a smoked applesauce. These are the best fries I have ever tasted.

Brine pickled french fries and smoked apple sauce

Brine pickled french fries and smoked apple sauce

The chawanmushi is a staple on the menu, yet is constantly changes so as to incorporate seasonal ingredients. This Japanese egg custard dish is savory, nutty, and a little tart. It is served hot and eaten with a spoon. It is so delicious, that it makes sharing it really hard.

Fava'd mushroom broth chawanmushi, cherry, and pistachio

Fava'd mushroom broth chawanmushi, cherry, and pistachio

Fava'd mushroom broth chawanmushi, cherry, and pistachio

Fava'd mushroom broth chawanmushi, cherry, and pistachio

Intricate in its design and its flavors, this salad-of-sorts was my favorite dish of the evening. I was definitely tempted to sneak a peak at the open-kitchen to see how they made this delicious dish.

Asparagus, green peach mayo, white beech, yuzu cucumber, and burnt miso 

Asparagus, green peach mayo, white beech, yuzu cucumber, and burnt miso 

I wouldn't mind if every salad I ate was this tasty and whimsical.

Lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed cucumber, and bagna cauda.

Lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed cucumber, and bagna cauda.

Pickling the strawberries made them surprisingly sweet, which added to the yin and yang of this dish: hot and cold, as well as sweet and salty.

Green pea curry, black lime-cod, and pickled strawberries

Green pea curry, black lime-cod, and pickled strawberries

Green pea curry, black lime-cod, and pickled strawberries

Green pea curry, black lime-cod, and pickled strawberries

In most restaurants, the head of  the animal is thrown out. At Al's place, fish heads are their own course. Though mostly bone and skin, we uncovered some secret pockets of juicy meat in the cheeks. The blackened fish head came paired with a sweet and sour sauce. Harmonizing contrasting tastes was a common theme found throughout all of the dishes on the menu.

Fish head cooked under a brick with sweat and sour sauce

Fish head cooked under a brick with sweat and sour sauce

We didn't plan on ordering desert, but we are so glad we did. Rhubarb is a perennial plant, but it is typically only found on restaurant menus in the spring, which made this a fun and seasonal dish. 

For dessert: stewed rhubarb with fresh coconut cream and flax seed crisps

For dessert: stewed rhubarb with fresh coconut cream and flax seed crisps