The legendary Wylie Dufresne relaxes a bit in his accessible take on gastronomically adventurous pub food. While each plate still comes packed with surprises that seem to trick the palette at every bite, Alder delivers a conceptually strong and straightforward avant-garde menu that feels right at home in the neighborhood.
In its heart, Alder wants to be a local gastropub, full of drinks and little bites and snacks that fill diners up as they enjoy the company and cozy atmosphere. But in its mind, Alder is charming and smart and alternative and it can't help relishing in surprising its guests. It starts this game with the first item on the menu, the ever classic pub cheese. Though this time, when you see your dish and ask, "Why is my cheese purple?", pub cheese doesn't mean cheddar and cream cheese spiked with beer, but rather aged cheddar infused with a red wine reduction, seasoned with miso and mustard and topped with pistachio-white fig clusters, served alongside slices of potato bread that have been flattened, buttered, and then baked to a rich crispiness. The result is an addictive innovation that has you smiling at the ease and playfulness of it all.
Most diners order two plates per person, but share bites of the fun grub between everyone. And at $11-$24 a dish, a meal can range from reasonable to a bit pricey, but to taste a little of Dufresne's magic is worth every penny.
To complete a meal between two, the boneless and tender Roasted Quail bites with napa cabbage, cocoa, and fermented black beans, Shrimps on Shrimps with rock shrimp on an airy shrimp cracker topped with green papaya salad and nutty peanut powder, and the Rye Pasta with shaved pastrami round out an exciting and flavorful experience. Even after leaving, you find yourself wondering how a pastrami sandwich with mustard seeds translated into a perfectly cooked plate of fettuccine, but it's a happy puzzle that leaves you feeling comforted and challenged at the same time.