Back when the Lower East Side was in the nascent stages of gentrification, Alias Restaurant was one of a family of eateries along Clinton Street serving up classy eats in a then-rough neighborhood. Flagship 71 Clinton Fresh Foods and the more casual AKA Cafe have long since shuttered, leaving Alias the sole survivor of the onetime empire. I stopped by last week with a couple friends to see how the joint was holding up, and how they'd do when put to the Apps Only test.
To begin with, the bread basket was definitely better than average: a hunk of crusty white bread cut into slices and served with a garlicky chickpea and white bean puree. After the bread came our first dish, a bowl of Corn Chowder with Lump Crabmeat ($9). Served chilled, it was a refreshing burst of corn, flavored with tarragon and a drizzle of chili oil.
Next up was the Baked Goat Cheese ($10), warm balls of soft, mild goat cheese served in a bowl of red pepper sauce flavored with smoked paprika and accompanied with toasted bread. The sauce, spicy with lots of black pepper, cut the creaminess of the cheese beautifully.
The Lamb Meatballs ($10) were the highlight of the meal, served in a pool of spicy yogurt flecked with cucumber slices. The meatballs were tender and well seasoned, and the spicy yogurt was a revelation—it turns out that yogurt can be cooling even when it's got bite.
We also dipped into Alias' sides menu, with an order of the Fried Okra ($7) and an order of the Crisp English Cucumbers ($7). The fried okra was good, coated in cornmeal batter and not at all slimy. I'm pretty sure that the spicy aioli served with the okra was just mayonnaise and Crystal hot sauce, but that's not a complaint—if anything, the dish could've used more of it, maybe as a dip rather than drizzled on top. The cucumbers, meanwhile, were not as crisp as advertised. The mint was a refreshing touch, but ricotta was the wrong cheese to use here, as it ended up dissolving into a watery mess when it touched the dressing, pooled in the bottom of the plate.
Overall, Alias' appetizers and sides left us full for not too much cash. We spent $43 between the three of us, coming in just under budget. While none of the dishes were mindblowing, the service and the scene were relaxed, a nice break from the neighborhood's too-cool-for-school norm. If you're looking for a low-key bite to eat on or around Clinton Street, look no further.
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