A few months ago, a San Francisco Gilt City deal popped up with a pretty cool sounding deal -- a three course meal with custom created off-the-menu cocktail pairings at The Alembic, a bar in the Haight-Ashbury district that's known for its cocktails. You hear about wine pairings all the time -- but cocktails? This was unique! I checked out their menu and tasty libations aside, they had some pretty neat sounding dishes as well. Coincidentally, one of my best friend's birthdays approaching, so I kept my eyes peeled for things that he would like. In terms of culinary delights, he loves what he refers to as "girly cocktails" and also has an affinity for unusual foods, so it was a done deal -- we were going to The Alembic for his birthday.
I got the deal a bit before we had planned on going and I kept the actual location a secret for the birthday boy to surprise him, but made sure to give him a few little teasers once in a while to keep him juiced. Here are some of the tidbits that I fed him based mostly off of the Gilt City description:
This bar has achieved "cult status" according to The New York Times.
The cocktails would be off-the-menu, and therefore, a taste and experience that we've never had before, or could have anywhere else.
The mixologist who creates the cocktails, Daniel Hyatt, is, according to SF Gate, “one of the most respected folks in his field, both locally and nationally”.
The cocktails would be made to be paired with tasty fare and the menu includes dishes like pickled quail eggs, jerk-spiced duck hearts, crisp pork belly with quince and pickled mustard seeds, and bone marrow.
It's in way Upper Haight-Ashbury. We can go to Golden Gate Park afterward!
I had been told that The Alembic is typically packed on weekends, so we decided to descend upon Haight-Ashbury on a week day. They don't take reservations, so if you want dinner there, you just show up between 5 PM to 1 AM any night of the week. When we got there, it must have been happy hour because the bar area was completely packed, but luckily, the restaurant portion was only about half filled, so we were seated right away. The ambiance of the place was laid back chic, yet old timey. The whole place was darkly lit red and the crowd seemed cool.
We had the two Gilt City vouchers for a three course meal with cocktail pairings and on top of that, we ordered the duck hearts and bone marrow as well. Apologies in advance, but the cocktails were stiff, yet went down a little too easy -- so I don't remember them. Plus, they were off-the-menu, so I really don't remember what we drank! At least I documented the grub though, therefore, this review is more about the restaurant portion of The Alembic and the food, but just know that their drinks were fantastic and went really well with each dish.
Duck Hearts Jerk spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple and thyme salt
We didn't expect our duck hearts to be served on a skewer! The bed of pickled pineapple slices was unusual, but seeing as the duck hearts were jerk-spiced, it only made sense that there would be a tropical flair to it. The smokiness of the duck hearts contrasted nicely with the tartness of the pickled pineapples.
Bone Marrow Served with caper gremolata, garlic confit and bread
I had previously seen pictures of this dish online and knew that we had to get it. I love that the bone is sliced in half the way it is and then topped with all sorts of goodies. The roasted garlic was definitely a nice touch. I would love to try the bone marrow sans the topping someday though, just to taste the natural flavor, so perhaps I'll request that next time, but it was really good prepared this way as well. No bread necessary, just a spoon!
Tai Snapper Sashimi Dungeness crab, grapefruit, white soy
This was definitely one of the most unique and innovative dishes I've ever had. I love seafood with citrus, with the citrus usually being lemon, but in this case, it was grapefruit, which added a sweet, tangy twist to the dish. With tai snapper wrapped around dungeness crab and grapefruit drizzled with white soy sauce, this is just about the best sushi I've ever had.
The lamb loin was cooked perfectly. It was so tender, easy to cut into and had these gorgeous grill marks on it. The two dollops of harissa infused chickpea puree topped with cauliflower and piccalilli complemented it nicely. It was so interesting to have a mix of rare meat with sweetness and tartness. Not to mention all of the greatly contrasting textures.
Huckleberry Financier Meyer lemon curd with coconut
I so love the name of this dessert. I love financiers in general, but to have huckleberries in it is extra mmm-mmm good, as well as makes the name of this dessert sound extra awesome and cute, yet... fancy. With the lemon curd and toasted coconut on top, they might as well have called this the Huckleberry Lemon Coconut Financier because everything just tasted like it was meant to be together.
If you can't already tell, head chef Ted Fleury seems to love contrasting and nuances in flavor. I'm not complaining. Nor would the birthday boy who ended up totally loving the whole experience.
If you missed out on the Gilt City offer, never fear -- they seem to have a prix fixe menu for $35 every night, and I'm sure they would gladly recommend you a great cocktail pairing, whether on the menu or not, to go with your meal!