I’ve been scoping AL’s Place for awhile, but wasn’t able to go until now. Named for Chef Aaron London, it’s a casual neighborhood-ish restaurant that’s got a star and has shown up on the city’s best restaurants list multiple times.
The food is hard to describe since it pulls flavors from across the globe, but to take a stab at it, it’s chef-y, ingredient driven, and just damn good.
As a first timer, I was lucky enough that the rest of my party (aka the fam) was down to do the “Family Style” ordering option—letting chef just send out dishes as they like. Of course you can make some requests and let them know about allergies so they can angle the menu to your tastes, but after going through all the food it’s definitely the best QPR option.
All the portions are served for either 2 or 4 people in the family style ordering situation. The chawanmushi for instance was served to our table of 4 in two cups for us to split, and some of the condiments for other dishes like the trout came out in two separate dishes so we weren’t reaching across the table for them.
Butternut Squash Chicharrones
First up with a little snack and some banger sauces. The dipping sauces were bursting with flavor, giving us a hit of what we were in for with the rest of the meal.
Asian Pears, Peanut Sauce, Shiso
The pears were vinegared and firm, but holy shit the peanut sauce was crazy. My mom saved the dish until the very end of the meal so she could scrape as much of it up as she could.
Marcona Almonds, Vadouvan Spice
A good, salty sweet snack.
Brine Pickled French Fries, Smoked Apple Sauce
The French Fries were fine—decently cooked and we could pick up a hint of the brine—but again the knock out was the sauce. It had the consistency of ketchup, but with a tangy apple flavor that was quite addictive.
Mushroom Broth Chawanmushi, Fuji Apple, Pistachio
Our final item from the snack section was also a banger. It was a bit hard to split the portion between two fairly because it was so good. I really liked the sweet, crunchy apple and pistachio topping.
Baby Lettuces, Herbed Avocado, Pistachio Crumble
This is definitely not what I expected reading it on the menu because it’s literally a giant plate piled with hunks of lettuce they tell you to eat with you hands. Once we got the hang of it tearing pieces and putting bites together that we could swipe through the creamy avocado sauce at the bottom of the plate it was as good as it was messy
Raw Kanpachi, Asian Pear, B-Nut Bagna Cauda, Smoked Anchovy
This came together really well, with big chunks of roasted potato and cucumber adding some heft and crunch to the thick cuts of fish. Again, the bagna cauda was something we were scrapping the potato through to get as much as possible.
Artichoke Dip, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Yeasted Apples, Flax Seed Crunch
Everything had been fantastic so far, but everyone in the family is a brussels sprouts fan, so this was a real winner.
Grits, Goat’s Milk Curds, Crisp Peas, Mandarin, Chanterelles, Herb Blaster
Certainly the heaviest and richest dish of the night, but so damn satisfying. The mandarins gave this an incredibly interesting acidic sweetness to balance out all the fat, and there was an addictively warm spiciness beneath it all.
Red Bow Trout, Spiced Yogurt Broth, Burnt Garlic Oil, Persimmon
Expertly cooked fish, but one of the less adventurous dishes in our progressive meal. We all still liked it though and were grateful it was on the lighter side because we were pretty stuffed at this point.
AL’s Brownie, Budderfinger Crumble, PB Marshmallow
The family style menu of course ends with dessert, and this was a pretty damn good one. It was a bit s’mores like, with a layer of marshmallow on top of a dense brownie, with a layer of chocolate ganache between. A super sweet way to end the meal.
If you’ve never been to AL’s Place before, the family style menu is definitely the move since it’s the best QPR and will give you a good starting point to try as much as possible since all the dishes are a bit vague as listed on the menu.
1499 Valencia St.
RIYL: Adele but if she made a mixtape