Alder brings molecular gastronomy to the bar scene. On the night we were there, Wylie Dufresne walked up and down the narrow, tightly packed dining room, gently cutting his eyes to see what tables were eating or leaving. These included the rye pasta (above), with shaved pastrami, and the fish and chips (below), with vinegar powder and tartar sauce made from sweet peas and ramps. We ate every morsel of the fish and chips, but left much of the pasta --- too dry, too much like eating chewy grain.
The duck prosciutto crostini (top) had duck as soft as jam, minus the curing that made the corned duck at wd-50 a dish we still talk about, so many years after we first tried it. The two-bite pigs in a blanket (below) stuffed Chinese sausage into a skin of pastry, as tight as Spanx, everything dolloped with Japanese mustard and sweet chili sauce. The grilled corn (way below) had popcorn butter, i.e., butter that tasted of corn.
Although Alder might be wd-50's little sibling, it shines in its own right, like Peyton and Eli Manning. Shared genes, different sensibilities. With this restaurant, Dufresne and co. wanted a place where people would return again and again. It's a bit too pricey for that, and the food didn't quite hit us in our souls in the way we want from our go-to spots. Generally speaking, it's not very craveable. It is, however, playful and exciting, making it more fun than many bars. And any / every bar would be better if it served Alder's pigs in a blanket.