Some things you eat once and you dream about them ever more (“she said that”). For some it’s caviar, for others it’s a sugary donut. For me it’s…a pink egg. A mini pink egg. Times 3. For a mere two buckaroos. All of those things combine into the sublime at… Alembic.
“Hey R2, I’m bloggin’ Alembic. Any thoughts on it?”
“…Can I REMIND you how Alembic ended???”
Anyway, I’ll get to that. But first – Alembic is a cute little bar with great great food, nestled amongst the crusties with their fucking CUTE doggies (how do they do it? where do they find them? it’s so unfair!) on Haight street.
We were seated by the most pleasant of greeters in a cute table toward the back. We were promptly served with one of their many cool cocktails with fun names and equally fun descriptions. We had a Gilded Lily (described as “there are things in life that require little adornment, but we are never ones to shy away from a bit of grandeur. so we’ve decided to bring a touch of sparkle to a dark and cozy barroom. this baroque number mixes plymouth gin, yellow chartreuse, orange flower water, and sparkling demi-sec and drop in a little flake of gold leaf. shine on.“), a Vasco Da Gama (described as “we don’t take any” well actually if I cut and paste all of these then this post will be Bible-lengthed), a Poop Deck, and a Pisco Sour.
And I ordered two orders of…the EGGS. The hallowed pickled quail eggs.
Gosh they are good. They aren’t fatty or sweet (maybe a little bit sweet) or any of those things that people normally associate as crave-worthy. They are tiny and tart and smooth and leave the best taste at the back of your tongue. You can’t have just one! Just like small, round, cold, eggy, sour potato chips.
We then proceeded to order the most decadent series of dishes ever.
But first, from the chef, some free poppycorn with butter, sugar, salt, and shichimi. I MUST do this at home and impress all my guests! ”[tinkling throaty laugh] Yes, well, shichimi is a seasoning we use in Japan, actually, and I thought it might be lovely on some sweet and savory popcorn. Cheers everyone.”
Decadent dish #1 was cauliflower bisque, with smoked potato, sea urchin, and tarragon. (no photo because my camera doesn’t know where to focus in white soups so it didn’t turn out.) Lovely presentation, starting with a big white bowl with the uni in the middle and our server (a most attentive and nice gal) pouring the thick but silky soup over it. Briny + creamy is, believe me, awesome. Hmmm. Maybe with the popcorn, and if I strike it rich, I’ll serve uni mashed potatoes!!! OMG brilliant.
Decadent dish #2: pulled pork sliders. (“smoked coke barbeque, celery root-apple slaw“)
Such a wee little thing, and yet, as if from a black hole in its middle, rivulets of juice. And can’t you see the gorgeosity of that puffy bun? You bet your ass it was warm, too.
Then, decadent dish #3: bone marrow (pictured top). With caper gremolata and garlic confit. It came out crackling and oozy and redolent of garlic. We used our spoons to scrape and scrape and scrape the shit outta those bones. We could have done with double the number of toast points, but didn’t want to get called out on our inability to handle the decadence of the meal we were constructing, so we didn’t.
“I’m still hungry. Are you still hungry?”
I didn’t even wait for the answer and went ahead and ordered one of their two specials of the day – decadent dish #4: crispy fried sweetbreads, on a bed of butternut squash puree and topped with pickled onions and tart cherries. I’d never seen such a gigantic cut (? are they cuts? or are they just, like, one thymus per serving?) of sweetbreads, and I would have appreciated it just a skosh more crispy, but the sweet and savory rich PUNCH was cut through just perfectly with the sharp onion.
A verrry foodie meal. One of the best of 2009, though blogged too late to make it into the Top 10. Everything from the service to the food to the cocktails were exciting and delicious.
My stomach also found it exciting in the way that watching a horror movie is exciting. As soon as the second mouthful of sweetbreads hit my tum, something was wack. We drove home with me doubled over in pain, and as soon as I got to my apartment I collapsed into bed and started sweating. I resolved to vom several times but couldn’t fathom traveling the seven meters from my bed to the bathroom. I just wallowed in my agony while a concerned/amused R2 listened to my lamentations (“There are hedgehogs in my tummy and they are leaning against the wall of my stomach and rubbing their quills up and dowwwwwn.”) In the end I didn’t yak though I was cleaned out from the other end the following day.
It could have been anything. It could have been the egg white on my Pisco Sour. It could have been the bloody marrow. Or the sea urchin? Or an egg pickled too long in some sort of bacteria. Or an undercooked sweetbread. Who knows. Probably the egg white since R2 escaped unscathed.
UNTIL SIX AM THE NEXT DAY! At which point he was shooting liquid out of both ends (if you know what I mean. I know I’m being vague.).
I sent an email to them, and this is what they wrote back:
Thanks for your kind words and praise despite what must have been a very uncomfortable situation for you. I am very sorry to hear of your experience and I have begun to investigate all possible causes, in the event that it was caused by something at Alembic. We are very proud of our ingredient sourcing and food preparation and I’d hate to think that something slipped through the cracks on our end. Serving food to the public is a serious responsibility and we definitely don’t take it lightly. I can say that thus far, I have not discovered any other complaints or similar/related issues, which is a relief, but not much consolation for you. I will continue to look into the issue, though, and will let you know if I discover anything.
I really do hope you will give us another chance! Please don’t hesitate to write back if there is anything I can do at this point to make you feel better.
So. If there’s any restaurant that is THAT GOOD that someone would return despite food poisoning, it’s Alembic. I cannot stay away from those eggs.
Alembic | 1725 Haight St, SF CA | 415.666.0822