Too often, “simple” is just a code word for “boring.” That Craigslist posting for a simple apartment with an ocean view? Basically a white box with a slot-sized window where technically, on a smog-free day, you can see a sliver of water. A simple life where you retire to the country? After two weeks, you’re probably out of your mind with boredom.
Or the very simple menu at Alameda Supper Club, which features salad, pasta, charcuterie, big pieces of meat, and all the other things you’ve seen at a million other restaurants. In short, it seems like a snooze - but it turns out that simple isn’t always a euphemism. Once you start eating the food, you’ll realize simple can actually be pretty damn interesting.
Alameda is part of the huge Tartine Manufactory complex at the Row, and getting there is a bit like an elementary school field trip involving a big parking lot and much confusion about which way to walk. But once you do make it to the restaurant, you’ll find a minimal, warm (and yes, simple-but-not-boring) space that probably doubles as the set for a very tasteful dinner party scene on Big Little Lies. Still, on first glance, there’s not much here that will surprise you. Just like every bar with an unemployed comedy writer behind it, there’s a cocktail list full of puns (Biscotti Pippen, Celine Dijon), but the drinks are so good that you’ll end up taking back the eye roll you made while ordering them.
The real fun, though, is on the food menu. Because while “Cheddar & Smoked Ham Toast” sounds pretty humdrum, once the little fingers of buttery toast, cheddar mornay, and grated ham arrive, you’ll realize that nothing at Alameda is as simple as it sounds. The oysters come with a fantastic celtuce mignonette and chive oil, the black cod is poached in a magic sauce that tastes like butter (but, in fact, contains no butter), and the spaghetti with Dungeness crab is spicy, sweet, garlicky, and rich all at once. This is food that could easily fade into the background of a night of wine and fighting about where exactly the Eastside starts and ends - but every so often, you’ll end up taking a bite and noticing how good it really is.
It can get expensive here - the entrees are just protein on a plate, so once you add vegetables you’re looking at a $50 dish. But there are also some bargains to be found on the wine list, meaning you could come here for some bowls of pasta and a bottle of wine, and not end up handing over too much money. And that’s the beauty of Alameda’s simplicity - it can be as complicated as you want it to be.
These are really only two bites (one, if you can unlock your jaw like Steven Tyler), but they might just be the greatest bites you’ll have all night.
If you’re new to oysters, these could very well be the ones to convince you that oysters aren’t gross. If you’re an oyster expert, you’ll love them even more.
This salad is like those women you see in magazines who make shapeless black shirtdresses look like high fashion. Seems boring, tastes impeccable.
We’d be lying if we said we haven’t come to Alameda, ordered the cheddar toast, a bottle of wine, and all four bowls of pasta. They’re all fantastic, but the spaghetti is our favorite. It’s buttery, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and they don’t skimp on the crab.
And the award for most photogenic goes to: Ravioli, English Peas, Ricotta. She tastes as good as she looks.
If you told us there was a pound of butter in the sauce over this perfectly cooked fish, we’d believe you. Except there’s no butter, just Italian fish sauce, thyme, and magic, probably.
If you’re looking for meat, this is a better (and cheaper bet) than the underwhelming $94 bone-in rib eye. The lamb belly is fatty, charred, rich, topped with salsa verde, and will make you feel like a caveman in a way a full Paleo diet never will.
Normally, fancy cannoli seem like a waste of time. But these come with sour cherries, so they absolutely are not.