Had my birthday dinner with my sister at Alley & Vine. We’d gone here last year because at the time it was one of the few nicer, nearby places we found that had outdoor seating, tucked away in a picturesque little alleyway.
We started out with a glass of bubbles each, i had a very good Boulevardier, she had their It’s a Jungle Out There, (rum, kiwi, aloe liqueur, vanilla, lime - we both found the aloe flavor a bit odd).
For dinner: white sturgeon caviar in an herb tart, with lemon crème fraîche and basil. The tart was a little dense and not very flavorful, and actually took away from the delicacy of the caviar a bit. But the caviar itself is luscious, buttery, and house-made.
Next, we split a shrimp cocktail - superbly fresh and perfectly cooked, it had been ages since I’d had one, and i also loved that they’d salted the frisee so it was actually like a little salad instead of just a garnish. Cocktail sauce was on point - bright, tart, with a hint of horseradish.
Next, PEI mussels in a tomato-white wine broth with toasted garlic sourdough. The broth made this dish - deeply, richly tomato flavored, lick-the-plate drinkable (though I resisted actually tipping the plate to my mouth because i’m 61 now after all, but it took all my will power.) good thing for that garlicky bread.
We split the whole branzino for our main, with cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and calabrian chile aïoli - the fish was lightly dredged and fried, fantastic texture and flavor, though it needed a bit of salt and we asked for more of the aioli. The potatoes were a stand-out - good and earthy.
The Locarno brie came after our main though we’d ordered it before, so it was more like a cheese course/dessert (it does also appear on the dessert menu) - puff pastry, peach, honey, roasted cashews - the cheese in pastry was super buttery and delicious, went great with the peach preserves - a good balance of tart/sweet, and i loved the fresh nuttiness of the cashews.
A yummy little finish with the complimentary birthday truffles. Wonderful service, fantastic meal, maybe not quite as refined as last year’s - but we’ll come back again and again.