If WD-50 is Chef Wylie Dufresne's elite laboratory of modern American cooking, Alder is his new off-campus lounge, where molecular gastronomes can kick back with a drink and a bite—"stuff you can ... graze and nibble," as Dufresne told the New York Times.
Stuff like rye pasta over shaved pastrami (pictured)—it's "the best pastrami sandwich I've ever eaten," jrnlmkr declares on Chowhound, as well as Alder's nod to the landmark 2nd Ave Deli, now resettled uptown after slinging sandwiches for five decades across the street. Pub cheese, as reimagined by Dufresne and Executive Chef Jon Bignelli, is a creamy smear of aged cheddar, purple from red wine, served with chips made from Martin's potato rolls, smashed and baked to a crisp, and a sprinkling of pistachio-fig brittle that mrbitterpants found "good when you got a crispy bit, not so much when you got a chewy bit." But the early winners—fried cauliflower with lemon-almond purée and cocoa; foie gras terrine with Chartreuse yogurt and crisp apple; spritzy root beer pudding with crushed smoked cashew—far outnumber misfires like smoked pork rib with saffron spätzle and apple–celery root hash, which mrbitterpants sums up as "baby food spiked with Spam."
Although a few lucky Chowhounds have been seated promptly during off-hours, month-old Alder is a food-nerd hot spot where you should expect a wait and, once seated, a crowded, noisy room. It seems worth it, though, for inventive cooking that even jrnlmkr, a skeptic of the "food-as-science thing," describes as "playful and fun and not at all annoying. Just delicious."
Alder [East Village]
157 Second Avenue (between E. Ninth and 10th streets), Manhattan
Photo from Alder