Published by Angie. Last Updated on April 13, 2023.
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Alchemy Bar + Kitchen brings fine dining and craft cocktails to an intimate space in downtown Pittsburgh's Market Square. We're always excited when new businesses open downtown, so we knew we had to make it in shortly after Alchemy opened to check out their offerings.
While this one brands itself as a molecular gastronomy-themed fine dining restaurant, we left a bit unsure of the molecular gastronomy element but big fans of the food at large all the same
Alchemy Takes a Twist on Modern Fine Dining
The multi-level space at Alchemy houses a downstairs bar and an upstairs dining room that is small and upscale without feeling stuffy. On our visit, since it was just a week or so after opening, the cocktail menu was still developing and growing, but there were several signature cocktail options and classics thrown in the mix.
On the classic cocktail menu were offerings such as an Old Fashioned, Mai Tai, Negroni, and a Manhattan- the latter was a solid iteration for those who like this spirit-forward creation. We also tried several signature cocktails like the You Deserve It, described on the menu as a tequila-based drink that “you might be convinced is good for you”. It was light and citrus forward with a cucumber garnish. We also tried the Sleight of Hand, billed as rye whiskey based, smoky, earthy, and sweet.
While the cocktails were drinkable and went down quickly, we have to note we were not made aware of any molecular gastronomy techniques that went into any of them. As the menu here only discussed the spirit base and a fanciful one-sentence descriptor, any molecular techniques that may have been used were lost in the shuffle.
Brandied Pork Belly, Koji Steak, and More
Alchemy describes its culinary approach as using molecular gastronomy, and the menu reads as such with lots of technical elements in each dish, like foams, emulsions, bubbles, and “caviar.” Basically, based on menu descriptions it seems very ambitious, so we were curious how the execution and flavors would be. Fortunately, we had nothing to worry about on that front, as the flavors in the dishes surprised and satisfied.
We started with the brandied pork belly that was fall-apart tender, with delightful sauces, including a caramelized apple puree and a brandy shallot demi-glace. The sauces provided a nice contrasting sweetness and acidity to the unctuous pork. Purple potatoes were nestled in the plate and the fondant style preparation meant they literally melted in our mouths with a rich, savory, comforting texture that was delicious.
The monkfish was served in slices wrapped in prosciutto and swiss chard. The prosciutto was crispy and salty in contrast to the meaty, juicy fish. We'd never had monkfish before but it had an almost scallop-like texture. The fish rested on top of a cauliflower puree flavored with saffron that was luxuriously smooth and floral, and a vanilla bean beurre blanc was layered at the base of the plate that provided even more creamy floral notes.
Mustard seeds dotted the plate in small mounds, giving the look of caviar if not necessarily the taste. The flavor combinations in this dish seemed so out there when reading the menu, but they all really came together to create an intriguing and delicious plate even if the mustard was perhaps the only visible molecular technique used on the plate.
We haven't seen koji (a cool little fungus used in fermented foods like miso, soy sauce, and sake) used on too many menus in Pittsburgh, but it's a concept we are total geeks for and champions of. On steaks, it gives a haunting and irresistible mushroom flavor, and in the case of the steak here, that enhanced the actual mushrooms and white truffle powder also used in the dish.
Also on the plate were burnt orange and bone marrow compound butter, baby carrots, whipped potatoes, and a surprisingly delicious smoked avocado puree. This was honestly one of the best steaks we've had in Pittsburgh in recent memory, and we really hope it helps usher in an era of koji use throughout the city.
On our visit shortly after open, there was only one dessert option- a tableside s'mores with house-made marshmallows, graham crackers, and rich dark chocolate. It was fun roasting the marshmallows at our table and assembling the s'mores ourselves even if the presentation was simplistic. The marshmallows were definitely the star of the dish with their rich, creamy, intense vanilla flavor- we'd buy a large pack to go, if we could!
It could just have been the dishes we ordered, but we have to admit that the molecular gastronomy influence wasn't super overt. That may be a pro or con for you depending on your interests and preferences, but we'd love to see the restaurant lean into the concept even more, especially in the cocktail realm. We will gladly return to see how things evolve, especially if it means we can devour another delicious koji steak!
So if you want a delicious fine dining experience in Market Square with a twist, you now know where to look- Alchemy!
Alchemy Bar + Kitchen is located at 5 Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh.
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