TASTY N ALDER opened in the West End earlier this year, and five visits over five months show another seemingly effortless home run by the Toro Bravo/Tasty n Sons team. The familiar John Gorham-brand touches are there: the little steel salt and pepper cellars; platings of cast-iron pans, cazuelas, and wooden planks; family-style service; and the chunky steakhouse knives that assure you big, sturdy fare is on the way. As with Tasty n Sons, it's year-round fall and winter food that suggests cabins, wood fires, and comfort. It's very much a son of Tasty, but like all sons, it's distinguished by some new DNA.
It seems that Mr. Tasty has lain with a steakhouse. Brunch dishes that would be right at home in the worldly lineup of Tasty n Sons, like salad niçoise ($13) and a chorizo verde omelet ($11), give way to a evening spread heavy on grilled meats: steaks ($13-28), lamb and pork chops ($10-$22), octopus, chicken, and duck. Every meat sampled was an excellent version of itself, so just be sure and order them with the intense and fragrant fries fried in wagyu tallow ($4).
For brunch, their version of the signature Tasty-family radicchio salad ($5/$9) is done with bacon, manchego, and chopped six-minute eggs—creamy and refreshing, it's an outstanding steakhouse salad. The Korean fried chicken bowl with short grain rice, house kimchee, and eggs two ways ($10) is two large chunks of boneless dark meat, fried hard, that have wonderfully crisp, tight skin with a sticky hot/sweet sauce that suggests how General Tso's would taste if done fresh and right. Duck... Duck... Steak! ($16) a small portion of Piedmontese beef, duck confit potatoes, and an egg, is... rather Spartan. One of the best deals on the early menu is the broiled, open-faced Monte Cristo in maple syrup ($7), which features generous thin-sliced ham and glistening cheese with crisped edges.
The limited mid-day menu (2-5:30 pm) is just shy of a dozen items. The steakhouse sandwich ($9) hits every all-American note: It's a generous, well-assembled tower of thin-sliced roast beef, roasted red pepper, crisp shoestring onions, and creamy chive dressing on a soft onion Kaiser roll. The Gibb's Bowl ($6) is beautifully cooked pinto beans, cabbage, a roasted chile salsa, grilled flour tortilla, and thick wedges of avocado on plain white rice—clean and light, a balanced and satisfying set. The 21-day aged grilled New York strip ($15) is juicy, respectably crusted Cascade Natural beef, served à la carte (only fries are available as a side, which isn't such a bad thing).
It's incredibly tempting to order the comfort food at a place where it's at its apotheosis, but the achievement of Tasty's menus is that the unique and unfamiliar dishes—hard to choose in the face of the perfect burger or steak—reward your gamble so thoroughly. Moqueca de Peixe ($19), a Brazilian fish stew, is a great example: a stunning broth, built on a pipérade-like nage, is thickened with coconut milk, studded with clams, and the melting peppers and onions hold a succulent filet of seared white fish. Cavatelli sugo ($14) are toothsome and smothered in a winter-spiced braise of rich, buttery, almost BBQ-sweet shredded beef. In contrast, the mouth-watering, but too-blackened, brick chicken ($17) was a mere boneless Frenched breast with a few fried lemon wheels, and felt overpriced. When done on a grill, the blackening makes up just a small percentage of the skin; here it is bricked on a flat surface, and the entire skin became acrid and overpowering.
Any other bumps in the road are few. A "smaller plate" of roasted strawberries was simply a couple spoonfuls of warm strawberry jam in a mini-cazuela, served with nothing but a little dollop of crème fraîche. The suggestion of a biscuit would have been welcome. Half a peeled apple with a piece of cheddar baked onto it, some bacon lardons, and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup ($5), also successfully answered the question, "How minimal is too minimal?"
Cocktails are expertly made. From the house list, the standouts were the Rum Daisy (Smith & Cross rum, Angostura, grenadine, mint, lime, and ginger, $10) and the Chinato Cup (Cana's Feast Chinato, Ransom Old Tom gin, lemon, demerara, and soda, $10), both balanced and refreshing summer quaffs. The Rumble in the Jungle (barrel-aged cachaça, Aperol, Dolin Rouge, and orange, $10), for all of its interesting banana esters, tasted a little dilute around the edges.
Are you going to have a good meal at Tasty n Alder? No, as more than likely it will be great. It's also not going to cost as much as the hype and the crowds would suggest. This team has perfected the local dining equation and, with this new outpost, improved upon an already rewarding restaurant concept.
Brunch, daily 9 am-2 pm. Midday, daily 2-5:30 pm. Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5:30-10 pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-11 pm. Expect waits at peak mealtimes. Reservations for parties of seven or more.