As I shared with you all in my previous post, the closing of Alor Pasta was a surprising and difficult pill for Justin and I to swallow. But in hindsight, we really believe that it all happened for a reason.
Over the last few months, Justin and I have regularly visited Chef Alex Orman’s original restaurant, Alor (ALex ORman – cool right?) Cafe, on Richmond Road. My original stop at this place over a year ago left me utterly disappointed. However, I have been really happy to allow this restaurant and chef to change my mind for the better. Since that first off-meal I had at Alor Cafe, I have been progressively more and more impressed by the quality, inventiveness, and just utter tastiness of the dishes that Chef Alex sends out of his kitchen.
Since the close of Alor Pasta, Chef Alex has begun to implement some exciting changes at the Cafe: upgrading the decor, adding a few favorite pasta dishes and alternating a weekly ravioli special, to name a few. All of these changes have only improved the dining experience at Alor. In addition, it is apparent that Chef Alex has a renewed focus on his restaurant and is exceedingly passionate about the food he creates. You can taste it in each bite and you can hear it in his voice as he walks around greeting customers and sharing his excitement over what he is doing.
Some of our absolute favorites from the standard menu at Alor Cafe include the following:
- Flakey puffs: little ricotta and roasted tomato cream puffs – they seem so simple but are seriously outrageous
- Clams: the coconut sauce mmmmm
- Buratta: house made and stuffed with a red pepper filling – original and delicious
- Caesar salad: the dressing is reminicsent of our favorite salad at the Pasta place – so heavy on the anchovy, exactly how we love it
- Calamari salad: a lump of meaty delicious glazed calamari, so tender and so flavorful, not much of a salad but it’s a great appetizer
- Dumplings: stuffed with a goat cheese and beet filling and smoked to perfection
- Tagliatelle: a favorite from Alor Pasta that Chef Alex brought over – so, so good
- Ravioli of the week: he tends to use a simple and super light butter sauce and allows the accompanying ingredients to bring out the flavor of the filling – always something different and always yummy
- Seafood crepe: stuffed with escargot, shrimp, and calamari this is a must have if you’re adventurous enough to try it – the crepe itself is the perfect amount of sweet to balance the creamy salty sauce – love it
- Cheesecake or Nutella crepe for dessert: either of these are outstanding, I highly recommend trying both
So, a few weeks ago when we heard that Chef Alex was planning a five course wine dinner, we were probably too eager to RSVP that we’d be there, barking at the manager “OK!” before she could even finish describing the event. The opportunity to try some different experiments from this kitchen is not something anyone should pass up on. The meal was last night, but luckily for anyone reading this, it sounds like something the restaurant will be working on doing on a more regular basis. They offered their regular menu along with this five course option, but I think anyone who passed up on it made a big mistake.
Above is the menu: $80 per couple for five generous courses (each) and a bottle of any wine off of their menu was a huge steal. We believe the restaurant could either charge much more or give much smaller portions and still have customers leave completely happy and satisfied. We (and you know we can really eat) were totally stuffed and still brought leftovers home.
Justin and I made the following choices:
- First: Rosemary and olive focaccia bread (no choice here)
- Second: tomato and beet carpaccio and chicken liver mousse
- Third: cheese board and bacon steamed mussels
- Fourth: ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms and truffle oil and braised brisket
- Fifth: plum upside down cake and chocolate lava cake
Here are my photos from the meal:
All in all, this was a pretty epic meal. As you can see from my photos the portions are not the typical tiny tasting menu/price fixed menu sizes, they are full and generous.
The stand-outs of the meal, though it was so hard to choose:
- The chicken liver mousse: Rich mousses or pates or foies are things that I can – literally – never pass up on. So I have tasted quite of few versions of chicken liver mousse. This was one of the lightest ones I have ever had. And the cabernet glaze was the perfect sweet touch to cut the irony flavor. Loved this.
- The focaccia bread: Ok I know it’s just bread. But I really love bread. And this one was most definitely a stand out. The course salt on top was perfect and the freshness of the Rosemary gave it a nice rustic taste.
- The gnocchi: Pasta is definitely a strength of Chef Alex, as evidenced by my obsession with the old Pasta spin off restaurant. I am so happy to see him experimenting with new pasta dishes to incorporate into the Cafe’s menu. The gnocchi is somehow super fluffy and light, which should be impossible for gnocchi. Toasty and almost crisp on the outside and soft pillowy filling on the inside – he has his gnocchi perfected.
The other dishes were all great too. The cheese board was a nice break in the meal. The brisket was cooked and sauced excellently. The mussels were DELICIOUS (I mean, they were covered in bacon – you can’t go wrong there). The chocolate cake was spot on for fudginess. The plum upside down cake was delicious and unique: reminiscent of my mom’s homemade pineapple version, this just tasted like home to me.
Criticisms were hard to come by, but we did come up with some constructive feedback:
- I posted the picture of the mousse on my Instagram and someone compared it to poop. While this was one of my absolute favorite dishes of the meal, Justin and I both instantly agreed that the presentation needed to be changed for this dish, and the Instagram comment confirmed it. No one should think of poop before biting into something this delicious. While jarring mousses is pretty typical, it’s a much more visually appealing vessel. Or prepare the crostinis before they leave the kitchen: we Staten Islanders can be lazy anyways – save us the work.
- The beef brisket was delicious and tender and juicy, but it was an overwhelming hunk of meat. We thought a more appealing way of eating it would be shredding it over some polenta, mashed potatoes, or pasta (like the Gemelli at the pasta place). The bulky meat with the bulky roasted potatoes were just… bulky.
- The last criticism we had for Chef Alex was what I mentioned earlier: the portions are too generous and the price is too low. But in Staten Island, diners tend to demand delicious oversized portions at really low prices: we are a borough full of gluttons. So while this is my personal opinion, I do think he’s doing things right for the demographic he’s catering to.
Justin and I wanted to take a quick minute to thank Chef Alex and his staff for the wonderful dining experiences they never fail to provide us. Alor Cafe is really a gem on Staten Island. The service is friendly and warm, and the food is consistently perfect. Five stars, Alor Cafe – bravo. We will be back very soon (as usual).