Opening a new restaurant in the Cooper-Young district, to me, is a cause for concern. The area is over-saturated with an eclectic mix of restaurants. This excess of competition within a three block radius is what caused places such as Au Fond Farmtable and Grace to shut down. Therefore, I heard about Alchemy opening in the same spot that seems to be a little jinxed with its history of failed establishments, I was a bit skeptical.
However, last night changed my mind. I got a chance to dine at Alchemy for their mock opening night. Spending an evening in this establishment gave me confidence for their success. There are many a reasons I have faith for Alchemy. Below they are listed:
1.) The All-Star Cast: Nothing but industry professionals grace the cast and crew of Alchemy. Karen Roth, the head chef at Erling Jensen runs the kitchen and creates the recipes. Bert Smythe and John Littlefield, the owners of McEwen’s, are the guys who own this place as well. Ben McLean, who has been in the industry for years and most recently a manager at Soul Fish, is now the manager here. The head bartender Dave Carlisle has spent 13 years bartending for Huey’s. Not to mention, all of the servers have not only been in the industry for years, but have come from well-established businesses. All of these roles can make or break a place, and Alchemy seems to have the brains and business behind it.
2.) The Atmosphere: The atmosphere at Alchemy is romantic and a tad upscale, but it still has a relaxed comfortable feel. I have been several restaurants who have tried to master this, but it always comes out either tacky or just plain confusing. Alchemy masters it.
You have several options when visiting Alchemy. You can take a seat at the ridiculously large bar. It is seriously a giant square. You have four sides. From here you can watch TV or enjoy one of their signature drinks, all inspired by mixologists brought in from New York.
If you do not want to sit at the bar, you can relax in one of these cozy sofa enclaves. These are great for an intimate dinner or drinks with friends.
If you want to see the kitchen in action, hang out in the chef’s area. You can sit at a bar or table and watch the kitchen in action.
You also have options to sit at an actual table or reserve the back room for parties. The options are endless, so pick your fancy.
3.) The Drinks: This particular night, we only had Ghost River and wine to choose from, so I am excited to come back when they start making their signature drinks. However, I was incredibly impressed by their draft beer selection. I was giddy over the choices. Just a few include all 3 Ghost River beers, Yazoo, and New Belgium Seasonal. No Budweiser or Miller Lite here people.
4.) The Food: Now here is what I am excited about. The food was overall fantastic. I chose to sit at the bar, where I saw some familiar faces. We all ended splitting a whole bunch of plates, so we could try as much as possible. Alchemy does not have a full menu. They instead have small plates, and a lot of them. Yes, you have about 40 different tapas to choose from. They are all unique to themselves, which I loved. You did not see many repeated ingredients, so each entree was designed just for itself instead of what they just had laying around already. It is also a great idea, because there is something for everyone to try.
We started out with the “Pan Seared Diver Scallops over Creamy Roasted Corn and Edimame Succotash”. Scallops are hard to master, as they are easy to overcook. These were perfect. They were my favorite dish I had all night. They were tender and full of flavor. How Karen Roth comes up with these flavor combinations is beyond me, but man is she a genius at her craft.
I then had the Rock Shrimp and Chorizo Mac and Cheese. I had heard nothing but raves about it from the staff, so I had to try it. It was great! The bread crumbs were perfect on top for an additional crunch. It was like an upscale version of your traditional Velveeta shells and cheese. My only wish is that it was a little thicker. To each their own, but I prefer my mac-n-cheese really thick and rich.
I had also heard wonderful things about the Goat Cheese Beignets with Local Honey and Cracked Black Pepper. It sounded so unique that I had to try it. They were a little oily, but that did not take away from the immaculate flavors. You had the sweet and savory all rolled into one.
We then split the Wild Mushroom Pancake with Wilted Spinach and Chevre. Now there is nothing about that description that gets me excited to order it. I would normally just look at it on the menu and continue down the list. However, we were told that we must try it. So we did. It was a piece of heaven. The mushrooms acted as an undertone for the fresh taste of the spinach and the savory sweetness of the cheese. The pancake was cooked to perfection.
We then ordered the Prince Edward Island Black Mussels in Coconut Ginger Broth to split. I am not normally a mussels person. (To be completely honest, they kind of all taste the same to me.) These were good, though. They were tender and fell right out of the shell. Mixed with the juice and french bread, it was like a taste of New Orleans. Like I said, I am not a mussels person, do I do not know if I would order them again. However, if you like them, I would suggest ordering these.
We then split the La Belle Farms Duck Breast Pastrami over Baby Arugula and Ruby Red Grapefruit. Duck is also hard to master, as it is typically a very sweet meat. This duck was perfect. Mixed with the fresh greens and grapefruit made it divine. I could have eaten a whole lot more of this.
We also split the Duo of Oysters: Crispy Cornmeal Dusted over Stilted Coleslaw and Bienville. I normally do not like my seafood fried, because it makes it all taste the same. I also do not like bleu cheese. Period. I always say I prefer my cheese dead. However, I tried these though, and they were not bad. I don’t know if I would order them again, due to my aversion to fried seafood. However, I liked that they were lightly fried with just cornmeal, so you could still taste the actual oyster. The bleu cheese was very mild too, and did not have that moldy taste that I fear. The baked oysters were out of this world. Had I not been stuffed already, I would have devoured the whole dish and not left any for anyone else.
Our last tapa was a Trio of Risotto: Wild Mushroom, Sweet Potato and Duck, and English Pea and Lobster. I liked the three different flavors of risotto all in one plate. Each one was unique in its own right, which allowed for a variety of tastes in one plate.
Then for dessert. I did not even know dessert was an option, or we would not have ordered so many different plates.
I was immediately drawn to the Trio of Cheesecake, because I LOVE cheesecake. This was my favorite dessert of all of them. Not only was each cheesecake a different flavor, but each was a different texture as well. The chocolate was a dense fudge. The pumpkin was light and whipped, and the vanilla strawberry was somewhere in between. This dish could not be any more perfect, and I will definitely be back to order it again.
We also got the Bittersweet Chocolate Marquise was was a dense piece of chocolate with a glaze. It tasted like an orange chocolate truffle. I prefer heartier desserts, so I do not know if I would order it again. However, it was spot on. The flavors were perfect. I wish there would have been more of the sauce to compliment the chocolate. It seemed a bit lacking, but it was still great.
We also split the Irish Car Bomb Bread Pudding which was great. It was the perfect dense texture that bread pudding should be. It was dried out or flaky, but perfect. The different flavors were great as well.
Our bartender Lynne then ordered us a Cinnamon Scented Basmati Rice Pudding, because she said it was worth it. It was the best rice pudding I have ever had. There were layers to it like I have never experienced in rice pudding. The rice was thick and dense, which was not necessarily the best, but once again, to each their own. However, every single bite I put into my mouth was an assortment of flavor that I could not exactly pinpoint, but definitely appreciated.
I left that place feeling fat, full, and happy. So happy in fact, that I wish I could have laid down on the park bench right outside and not moved. We all stuffed ourselves, but it was totally worth it. Alchemy had me appreciating dishes I normally shy away from. I did not have one bad dish while there. Everything was fantastic.
These reasons are why I know Alchemy will be great. I am excited to go back and try it again.
Alchemy officially opens on this Monday, November 14th. Make sure to go try them out. You will not be disappointed.