The opening of Alchemy has caused a lot of buzz around Memphis. I got to see the space before it opened & it truly was stunning. I was shocked by how much space there was! When Au Fond & Grace were in that space it was so cramped. Seeing this space made it even more evident of how poorly that space had been used. But I digress. I was incredibly excited about Alchemy for a number of different reasons but specifically because of the cocktail program. I mean "cocktails" are in the name on the awning so they are going to be serious right? I also heard that they had hired a "mixologist" from New York so it was obvious they were going the extra mile & the cocktail program was going to be serious. Or so I thought. Kelly & I went with some friends this past Monday on one of the first nights they were open. The restaurant has a distinctive lounge vibe that was very alive & filled with people. Its always exciting to see a restaurant full on a Monday. That energetic, electric vibe ended when I took a look at the drinks list. I was very disappointed to see only 4 cocktails. Just 4?? Where was the focus on specialty "New York" style unique drinks. I was told that they hadn't nailed down that part of the program & they weren't comfortable putting out a full list yet. I sampled 2 of them that friends had ordered. They seemed a bit simple & didn't have anything hand crafted or house made in them. For $11 I was expecting quite a bit more. I understand there are always kinks to be worked out when a restaurant is opened so perhaps that is something that will get worked out as well. Hopefully. One thing that I couldn't get passed was the service. From beginning to end it seemed harried, disjointed & just plain clueless. After waiting for quite sometime at the bar I finally was asked if I needed help.
Well sort of:
Bartender: Have you been helped?
Bartender: So do you need help?
Me: I was wondering if you could make me a Negroni.
Bartender: I don't know what that is
Nearby Bartender: I don't know what's in that
They both walked away.
Seriously. Just walked away without getting me another drink or asking me if they could get me anything at all.
That is not an opening kink that is a service issue. Service issues, if not nipped in the bud, will fester & grow & will cause serious problems. They could easily cause diners to never return.
We were seated in a booth in the back & after another seriously long wait we finally got a server, got a bottle of wine & settled in.
The food was another story. Aside from the very long ticket times that caused us to wait for a very long time for our food...it was delicious.
The food was very good, except for the fish tacos which were too heavy with mayonnaise & fairly bland. The food really saved the day. I tasted the camembert fritters, beef, & lamb ribs. All were absolutely wonderful. Especially the lamb ribs. Lamb ribs, yep I said lamb ribs. My friend Jaime said they were like the best part of a gyro. That outside crusty part of the gyro that is filled with spice is what every bite of that rib tasted like.
I want this place to succeed not only for the good of Cooper-Young but for the good of the Memphis food scene in general. But the service has to improve in a serious way. I can't wait to go back & see an extensive, unique & handcrafted cocktail list & significantly elevated, knowledgeable & friendly service. I hope.