It's farther than you think to traverse Queens. I guess that's why I do it so infrequently. On Friday night, after a hot yoga class, my friend and I sought sustenance on Vernon Boulevard, a tricky endeavor these days. We ended up at Alewife, a new breed of beer bar. You can take your draft beer to go, for one, making for a truly enlightening experience (my friend selected a draft with the not-so-subtle name Arrogant Bastard to bring back to her arrogant bastard of a boyfriend back home). For two, they serve delicate, local food. The service may have been off tempo--did all the small plates need to arrive at the same time?--but the food showed surprising depth and clarity.
A quartet of meatballs, billed as soup dumpling meatballs, indeed spilled forth with juice like the Chinese variety and tasted Asian enough, though they were quite surely made from meat and not dough. Littleneck clams were slathered in onion and a green pesto and came over an addictive grilled bread that was both crunchy and soft, owing to the broth beneath. Soft shell crab, tempura battered, hit all the right notes: salty from the batter, sweet from the pickles, creamy from the aioli, bitter from the roasted turnips. Grilled asparagus with brown butter may have had a little too little of the condiment (gasp!), but who can really complain about asparagus this time of year? Maitake mushrooms drowned in whole butter, anyway, and more than made up for it.
A thick cut salmon tartare with creme fraiche would have been perfect if only it had been better seasoned. Shisito peppers--three hot ones in our bunch!--made up for that egregious lack of salt. A final concession to spring came in the form of grilled ramps, a crispy hen egg, yuzu, and brown butter. Cravings satisfied, I still think I will miss them when they are gone.
5-14 51st Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101