Alchemy was a pseudoscience bordering on magic and sorcery practiced in the dark ages throughout Europe, Egypt and Asia. Proponents claimed to purify, mature, and perfect certain objects. For most, the dream was to turn base metals into gold. The West Seattle version is a little less mystic, but more successful. "Alchemy is a 21+ craft bar and seasonally inspired small bites restaurant nestled in the heart of West Seattle's Junction neighborhood. Our Alchemists are obsessed with the perfect fusion of science and nature with just a hint of the intangible. Their hand-crafted cocktails and farm to table shareable plates will have you experiencing a wide variety of tastes and sensations- and yes, just a few aspects you just might not be able to put your finger on. We look forward to serving you soon!"
We visited Alchemy on a beautiful June afternoon. We did not have reservations, but we arrived shortly after they opened for the day. Soon we were enjoying ourselves. You can park on California and take a short-cut in mid-block.
I think there was magic in the air because our deviled eggs disappeared before I remembered to take a photograph. At $4 for two-halves it seemed a little pricey, but I was on the cusp of ordering more, so evidently it was worth it. The eggs have cured and smoked yolks, bacon, and are mixed with "creme fraiche." We also had the spiced nuts, but they needed a whole bunch more magic. The almonds were salty, but somehow I missed the sweet and spicy elements they were supposed to have. We took most of them home.
For our salad course we had panzanella. Peg and I first had this traditional Tuscan dish while in Tuscany with friends. When I was growing up we just called it breaded tomatoes. My mom would cook up some canned tomatoes, add some Wonder Bread, salt and pepper to taste and a bunch of sugar.
Actually, when we had fresh tomatoes, I would sometimes sprinkle sugar on the fresh tomatoes. I learned this from Grandpa Cummins, but then he would also sprinkle sugar on sauerkraut.
Both my mom and dad were from Missouri and my mom originally from Oklahoma. My dad put himself through high school during the depression eating bread in a glass, with sugar and milk for breakfast each morning . . . when he could afford it.
Basically, we're Okies.
A good panzanella combines fresh tomatoes, stale bread, and vinegar. Actually, originally tomatoes almost past their prime were probably used and the age of the bread didn't matter too much as it soaks up the juices. Today we use balsamic vinegar, with olive oil, salt, pepper and perhaps some crushed garlic.
At Alchemy they use fresh tomatoes, basil seeds, and balsamic vinaigrette with cubed bread. If you make your own at home, you use whatever else you have: sliced olives, zucchini, or sweet red bell peppers. In addition to bread you could add Panko, or even oyster crackers.
In Italy, the cooks stick to the basic recipe and have a fit if you make changes. At Alchemy their recipe was an excellent one to use. The tomatoes were absolutely full of flavor and just needed a little coaxing to deliver a full punch of taste.
Each Alchemy table has a container of black rocks and an epiphyte, which resembles a squid. An epiphyte is a plant that derives its moisture and nutrients from the air. It was a nice touch.
The bar is well-stocked. The Alchemy alchemists take pride in their cocktails and mixed drinks. The tiny rectangles above the bar and at the sides of the bar are little drawers. Do they contain potions? Some drawers have miniature tags of identification.
The two sliders we had were excellent. I think they were veal. We asked for rare and that was exactly what we ordered. They come with bacon jam, Tillamook white cheddar, and a Macrina potato bun.
Peg only ate half of one. Alchemy offers small plates, which give you a chance to try different foods. I think Alchemy is more of a bar than a restaurant, but the food was excellent. Management certainly took care of us. Peg had a glass of Merlot, which she enjoyed, while I had the "Home Safe" with no alcohol, which is supposed to have pineapple juice and other flavors. The alchemist came out and apologized for having no pineapple juice. And asked what I would like in my drink. I said, "Just surprise me." It had lime and a slice of cucumber, which I really enjoyed. If I had not been driving to the Seattle Center for a play at Book-It Theater, I might have had one or two mixed drinks over a couple of hours. My favorite drink is a Planter's Punch (rum).
By trying appetizers, a salad, and several small plates, we were able to feel full, without eating too much. We noticed that other people in the restaurant we happy with their drinks.
The Gebbers Farm Sirloin with horseradish potato puree, and Pacific Northwest chimichurri was the top of the food chain. The colorful chimichurri sauce doubles as a marinade and an accompaniment to all cuts of beef with it's cilantro, parsley, and oregano. The meat just melted it was so tender. The only drawback was that the horseradish did not come through in the potato puree. I should have been able to detect it.
Peg and I both had the Strawberry-Rhubarb Trifle for dessert. It has Chantilly Cream, which is sweetened whipped cream that's flavored with vanilla or brandy. The Chantilly and strawberries sit upon a thin slice of lemon cake. The cake is very dry and sits upon small pieces of rhubarb. I moved those pieces out of the way, so the cake would soak up the juices, sauces and basil oil. With each bite of the lemon cake and it's soaked up liquids, my mouth would purse and pucker. That tartness was such a great close to the dessert.
I would hope that the longer Alchemy operates in West Seattle, that the menu will continue to grow.
If you have a favorite restaurant you usually have your favorite foods as well, but you should always have that option of adding to your favorites, and a limited menu doesn't offer that opportunity.
The small things. 1. I nearly tripped over the curved leg on my table. Someone chose style over function. All it takes is for one person to be hurt and everything is over. 2. The bathroom is weird. There is only one, but there are two doors in the little alcove where the bathroom is located. One door opens to the bathroom, so you better lock it when you go in unless you really like surprizes. The other door opens to a storage room. Peg startled someone in there. The walls of the restaurant are black. The facilities in the bathroom are black . . . very stylish . . . if you can see them. Also, there are no paper towels for drying your hands. Instead there are cloth hand towels. You are supposed to dispose of them into a laundry hamper, but no one tells you that. I washed my hands and there was someone's drying cloth wadded up by the sink. Again, style over function. Someone's grand idea reduced to confusion and misplaced dirty laundry and who wants that? I do like the towel idea, however.
I did also enjoy the 3-D appearing apothecary art on one wall, which helped light up the bathroom a bit . . . with white AND humor.
All in all, we really liked the food and the service. We will gladly return to dine again . . . if we don't trip over a table leg, or embarrass someone by walking in on them in the bathroom . . .