Al’s Place is a hopping restaurant. A good sized place, it has tightly packed tables in a hectic, noisy and rushed atmosphere. We got there early and it was already full but it looked like they were trying to turn the tables 3 times in an evening. So don’t go for a lingering dining experience. The service is friendly and helpful but the entire staff seemed to share the room so no connection is made with any particular server. The food was fine but very variable in goodness. Plates are made to share and you can chose the ‘family style’ option where the chef picks a selection of plates from the first three sections of the menu and a dessert for your table to share.
With the family style option you can also add any of the sides, protein courses and also request something from the top that you want included in your menu. This was the way we went but a problem early on was the tiny table and the large plates that come in a dizzyingly rapid pace. The plates are attractive but it might make more sense to serve on smaller plates with less decorative space so it doesn’t overwhelm the table and guest.
Our family style started with the Mushroom broth chawanmushi, fuji apple and pistachio. It was a warm cup of custard, tasty nuts and tart/sweet apple. It was yummy fun.
The Vadouvan almonds were coated and covered with micro-greens. They were quite nice.
Radish was included in the chef’s choices for us but not on the menu. They were tiny and very fresh with a light dipping sauce.
The brined pickled french fries with smoked apple sauce were included on our menu at our request. They were crispy but I didn’t find the sauce helped them at all. They were fine but not as special as the description seemed to indicate.
Another off the menu item was the house cheddar cheese and creme fraiche whiz with brassicas (brussels leaves, smoked carrots). It was very mild and sounded more interesting than it was.
The lamb-bacon & pineapple yakitori with rosemary mayo was one of our side orders. It was great. The seared bacon pieces were grilled on top of tasty, juicy pineapple. It was a winner.
The baby lettuces with herbed avocado and pistachio crumble was a nice selection of fresh greens on top of the avocado.
The lightly cured trout with crispy potato, bashed turnips, walnuts, tartly pickled radish and bagna cauda. The crisp pieces of skin on the top were a nice touch and the potatoes were particularly good, both complimenting the mild fish.
The roasted beets were served with burrata, kraut mayo, borscht spiced seeds, and lavender apricot. The seeds added a fun crunch and the burrata was nicely creamy.
The grits were served with goat’s milk curds, chimichurri, figs, fennel-chi, basil bud mushrooms and something tart. The figs were nicely sweet with the grits being the dominant texture and fennel being a dominant flavor. It should have been tastier.
Pork belly with galangal soda, turnip and peach-chi and roe was another addition to menu. It was quite tart and an exceptionally fatty piece of belly which had hardly any taste. It was too tart for me to want to eat much of it.
The campanelle pasta was served with smoked fumet, grilled asparagus pesto, Meyer lemon and goat’s gouda. It was creamy and pretty good.
For dessert they served a warm chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream and “Payday” filling. The filling was to mimic the taste of a Payday candy bar and indeed it did. The ice cream was good but I liked the components better on their own rather than mixed together.