Brooklyn Girls Night Part 4 had been scheduled for Thursday night at Beast in Fort Greene. And just like last time, some last minute cancellations caused us to postpone till October.
Judith, Roxanne and I decided to still do dinner, so I suggested Alias on the Lower East Side. I'd been a few times before and had really liked the restaurant's cozy ambiance, even if it was a little too loud due to poor acoustics (Thursday night being no exception).
Whenever I go to the Lower East Side, I love how it's much grittier than other New York City neighborhoods, but still full of so much life, especially on Clinton Street. Hair salons, Chinese bakeries, Middle Eastern sandwich shops, and now even some pricier restaurants all sit sandwiched together, not to mention that there's usually not a Bugaboo baby stroller in sight (and this is coming from someone who loves babies -- it's just a nice change of pace, that's all).
The first time I ever saw Alias, decorated with neon lights and a bright, colorful exterior (leftover from the Latino rice and beanery of the same name that used to occupy the space), I assumed it was a bodega that had yet to be swept up by the area's ongoing gentrification. Instead I discovered an American bistro that's buzzing on most nights.
Judith and Roxanne had been out late the night before and didn't feel like drinking, so they both opted for passionfruit spritzers once we'd settled in at a kind of tight table (that happened to be the same one I'd squeezed into on my last visit with Daniel and Richard in March). My week had consisted mostly of chicken stirfry leftovers and late nights in front of a computer thanks to the Food Writing Boot Camp class I'm currently taking, so I went with a glass of crisp Gruner Veltliner.
We started our meal with watercress, peach and goat cheese salads, a really nice combination that I'd like to try making at home some time. I guess the rest of our food was taking a long time to come, because while we were wrapped up in conversation, a server surprised us with a plate of shredded kale spiked with currants and parmesan cheese, apologizing for the delay. I might have to say it was my favorite dish the entire night (and no, not just because it was free), the cheese and dried fruit adding a nice punch to the strands of green.
For entrees, Judith was very happy with the roasted Jersey tomato with zucchini-goat cheese risotto, summer beans, parsley and pinenuts she ordered, as was Roxanne with her VT mac n' cheese.
Both of them are very good at sharing food (an area where I could use some improvement), but after one bite of the mac n' cheese which was sharp, buttery, and completely addicting, I have to admit I kind of forgot to try the tomato. Unfortunately, my entree was the least exciting, a taco plate with three different types (steak with an avocado sauce, fish with a mango salsa and mushrooms with sour cream).
For dessert, we split the autumn berry crumble which was served warm but tasted a bit too sweet, and ice cream sandwiches made with cookies that I'm pretty sure were Tollhouse slice and bake. The mint gelato from Il Laboratorio sandwiched in between each one was absolutely delicious, but considering the detail paid to other dishes, I would have expected stronger sweets.
Non-homemade cookies and so-so tacos aside, Alias is still one of my favorite neighborhood spots. Prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is lively and the menu promises to use local ingredients whenever possible. Next time I'll remember to stick to the American comfort food classics, such as the fried chicken I almost ordered, or if I'm trying to have a meatless meal, maybe the stuffed tomato. I think I'll just skip dessert and go to nearby Sugar Sweet Sunshine where it's easy to find more satisfying, homemade sweets.
76 Clinton Street, on the corner of Rivington