On a recent Thursday evening both my wife and I were in the mood for a good meal, but neither of us felt like preparing it. So we took a trip down the road to check out one of Hampden’s new additions, Alchemy Modern American Eatery. The word of mouth reviews we had received up to that point were mostly – but not entirely – positive, so we went in with an open mind and an empty stomach.
We arrived around 6:30 in the evening, and were seated almost immediately. The interior of the small rowhouse restaurant looked like a cross between a swanky contemporary restaurant and a small European café, with the downstairs containing a few tables and a nice sitting area, and the upstairs containing a very small bar and a bunch of tables squeezed in. We were seated upstairs, next to the stair well. The dining room, as you could probably tell, was a little bit cramped, but I think the restaurateurs did the best they could given the small size of the building.
In addition to the regular menu, that evening the chef was offering a special of roasted duck with chocolate chili sauce, served with coconut rice and ginger carrot puree. While our instincts as restaurant reviewers were telling us to select 2 different entrees off of the menu, to allow us to prepare a more thorough review, we both couldn’t resist ordering the aforementioned duck special. We also ordered an artisan grilled baby pear salad and a Caesar salad.
The salads came out after a few minutes of ordering. The pears in the baby pear salad were ripe and sweet, but managed not to overpower the rest of the flavors in the salad. The Caesar salad was good, especially the baked cheese wafer served on the side. However, the pieces of anchovy were a little bigger than I am used to (there was nearly a whole anchovy in my salad), which wasn’t a deal breaker for me but could be for someone who wouldn’t like the look of that.
Not too much later, our duck entrees were served. The duck was sliced and served around the edge of the plate, while the coconut rice was served as a cake in the middle of the plate, with the carrot puree next to it. The entire plate was drizzled with the chocolate chili sauce. The chocolate flavor was stronger than the chili flavor, and was very sweet and flavorful. We found it to be a great complement to the duck’s flavor; however, I thought that the carrot puree complemented the duck even better. So for those that don’t care for excessive sweetness, I would recommend rubbing the duck in the carrot, and not into more of the chocolate sauce.
The duck dishes were served with a side of steamed vegetables. We aren’t sure what they were seasoned with, but the seasoning was a bit strong, giving the veggies more of a “kick” than the chocolate chili sauce.
While we recognize that this option isn’t on the regular menu, our research shows that this is a pretty common special, so there is a good chance that Alchemy will be serving it next time you are there.
The service – which was one of the common complaints we had heard from friends when the restaurant first opened – was pretty good that particular night. I suppose they have had a chance to work out all the kinks, as our drinks remained full and our meals were served in a reasonable amount of time.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable evening at Alchemy. As mentioned previously, the restaurant is very small, so reservations are definitely recommended, especially for parties for more than four.
So make a visit to Alchemy and let them work their magic for you!
Alchemy: Modern American Eatery
1011 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
Price: $$$ ($25-30)