Review: The New Alchemist Menu!

October 22, 2008

Long-time readers will know that I really want to like the Alchemist. And there are already some legitimate reasons to like it–the service is great, the atmosphere is nice (particularly since they seem to have curbed their habit of playing music with the express purpose of deafening diners), and it’s close enough to where I live to feel close, yet far enough away to be lazy and drive, which I also like.

But in the past we’ve experienced some real food flops there, not least of which being the really limited options for vegetarians (never mind vegans). While they’ve always had at least a couple of things for veggie-heads to order, they’ve often fallen into the trap of offering multiple veggie dishes with the same main ingredient–say, both the appetizer and entree featuring mushrooms, or a big pepper, or tofu chunks.

In fact, the last time we went–and this was quite a while ago–we filled out a comment card to that effect, and our server came back to the table to tell us how firmly she agreed with our sentiments.

So imagine my delight when I got an email from the Alchemist mailing list informing me that they were unveiling a new menu–one specifically designed with more options for vegetarians.

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Review: Cambridge One

October 4, 2008

Let’s just get this out of the way: it is sort of silly to name a place Cambridge anything when that place is not, in fact, located in Cambridge.

That said, I friggin’ love Cambridge One. Read the rest of this entry »

Vee Vee: Take Two

June 10, 2008

On Saturday night, known to all of Boston as A Severely Hot And Unpleasant Night, I decided that the Sig Fig and I should peel ourselves off the furniture and actually go out and do something. As I slowly nixed every restaurant we walked by on Centre Street, she turned to me and said, “You secretly want to go back to Vee Vee, don’t you?”

Well, I wasn’t really trying to keep that a secret, no.

This time around I felt a little underdressed–shorts and a t-shirt, albeit a classy one–but no one sneered at me or anything. The place was less busy than it had been last Tuesday (which is kind of weird, right? I mean, I know it was wicked hot out, but it was still a Saturday night) so the ambiance was significantly more pleasant. Like, we could hear each other talk and everything.

The Sig Fig suggested that perhaps my last review didn’t quite convey just how much I like this restaurant. Let me be clear: I Love this restaurant. I would have Babies with this restaurant. I would have babies and sell them on the street if this restaurant told me to.

Not a lot new to add, since we did a lot of repeating from last time–I had the deviled eggs again, because they’re cold and the white bean stuff is so damn zingy; Sig Fig went with the pea tendril salad, which she enjoyed just as much as I did when it was on my plate last week. She also had the same entree (quinoa croquettes), which she enjoyed with just as much gusto. I opted for the primavera risotto, which was pleasantly not as rich and heavy as many a risotto can be. My only mild complaint would be that the fava beans were kind of blah- I would have preferred more asparagus. Once again we died over the flourless chocolate cake, while I drank the other port option. (Tasty! I would say the crusted port is a bit smoother all around than the tawny, though I recall the tawny having some luscious warm caramel notes.)

Anyway, we’re big fans.

Restaurant review: Vee Vee

June 4, 2008

Yes, it has a dumb name. But as the Sig Fig and I discovered last night, Vee Vee is a fine addition to JP, and well worth returning.

When we arrived a little past seven, the place seemed pretty dead- literally one other table of diners and a couple of folks at the small bar. (The whole restaurant is small- capacity can’t be more than thirty, servers included.) With the addition of just a few more people, though, it started getting pretty loud, and by entree time the volume level was close to really unpleasant. (Our suggestion: wall hangings!) The high ceilings mean sounds really bounce around and amplify. Once the tables were all filled I couldn’t even tell there was music playing over all the conversation.

Decor is lovely and understated. The waitstaff was pretty fantastic. Although I felt we waited a little long for our entrees, our server was attentive and warm, and happy to offer up answers to questions and recommendations. I could tell from a few diners who arrived that it’s one of those places with regulars, which some of you may know is extremely appealing to me. (I got super excited when the guy at Dunkin’ Donuts started remembering my Sunday morning order.)

On to the food: the Sig Fig ordered the crispy polenta & mushroom appetizer, which she described as fine but not remarkable, and one or two of the bites were too spicy for her taste. (The one bite I had was lovely.) I got the deviled eggs, which themselves were pretty ordinary–although, was that curry powder instead of paprika?–but the accompanying asparagus tips and white bean puree were superb. Although the Sig Fig reports the salty butter is divine, avoid eating all the bread too quickly so you can mop up your plate.

Sig Fig ordered the quinoa croquettes (how in the world do they get them to hold that shape?), which came accompanied by peas, curry pickled peaches, and a yogurt sauce. She was quite pleased with the combination of flavors and the portion, which wasn’t gargantuan like some entrees. I ordered the special, which was a decidedly un-barbecued barbecued chicken. Much more exciting were the fried green tomatoes, cold sweet potato salad, and wonderful pea salad that accompanied. I probably could’ve done with a smaller portion of chicken, since it was the least interesting thing on the plate.

A note about the drinks list: I was pretty underwhelmed by the wine list, since I usually prefer to buy American (not out of patriotism, but vague loyalties to the wine industry and the fact that I’m much more familiar with west coast labels than anything from outside the country), but the beer selection is pretty great, and appears to rotate seasonally while emphasizing local-ish brewaries. As some Yelp reviewers noted, most are a tad more alcoholic than standard offerings, which I’d say I noticed by the end of my entree.

For dessert we decided to split the flourless chocolate cake, which turned out to be absolutely fantastic. The raspberry coulis nearly made the Sig Fig lick the plate, which sadly isn’t generally considered polite behavior in mixed company. I had a tawny port (if only I’d been in a room that smelled of rich mahogany) that complemented the chocolate nicely, with some notes of caramel and sugar.

All in all, we’re sold. Having ample vegetarian options is downright thrilling, the service was lovely, and the food was tasty. I give it a rating of I Really Want To Go Like Once A Week, But Realistically I’ll Probably Go Slightly Less Often Even Though It Is Totally Great.

We need the sheets for the table

July 28, 2007

Tonight the sig fig and I ate, once again, at Alchemist. Some of you may remember the old Triple D’s, which looked a lot like a sketchy bar from the outside, and probably was. But possibly in the way the Midway looks like that, and look how much fun you can have there! Anyway, Alchemist is clearly going for a more upscale feeling, and they serve actual food. I’ll try to focus mostly on this evening’s meal, but it’s pretty inevitable that bits from previous visits will slip in here and there.

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