- 524 E. Sixth St., Des Moines, IA, 50309
- Overall User Rating:
- (1333 ratings)
- Lunch Tuesday-Friday11a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner Monday-Thursday 5 p.m.-close (10-ish) Friday&Saturday 5p.m.-11p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Whenever I spot complex menu items at trendy New American restaurants, my "uh-oh" radar flares. Will the combinations mesh together sublimely, like the Beatles' final suite on Abbey Road, or have the cacophonic effect of a middle-school band tuning up?
I was delighted to find that Alba's detailed and precise cooking struck most all the right chords.
Atmosphere: The clean, modern furnishings might feel a bit cold if not for the dreamlike effects of vintage doors floating impossibly overhead, just below the ceiling.
Alba's popular bar, however, doesn't quite fit the scene. With the dining room and lounge separated by a wall, diners don't quite feel included in the good-time buzz; all we get is the noise.
Menu: Chef/owner Jason Simon's inventive menu showcases seasonal touches (e.g., duck breast with blueberries, spinach and goat cheese). Be sure to buddy-up with the servers; you will need them to help decode the brief menu descriptions, and they do that with grace.
First Rate: Most dishes dazzled. Best of show was a moist, gleaming-white halibut, detailed with aromatic saffron, fresh-picked zucchini and (the clincher ) bits of fried duck skin - a touch that was both down-home and refined.
New York Strip starred a bright chimichurri sauce and sweet-corn succotash - fresh, vivid strokes that sparked the beefy-rich cut.
It's nice to know you can go low here. The panko-encrusted salmon burger, with avocado mayo and jicama slaw, costs $10, while giving a generous taste of the kitchen's head-turning ambitions. Or, try the expertly rich and tender Chive-Potato Gnocchi for $15, or $8 for an appetizer portion.
Less so: A tough cut of meat impaired the fabulously flavored Pork Loin Duo with chorizo, pickled cherries and corn. Next time, I'll skip any starters that star the cheeky yet unsatisfying whipped goat cheese. I also didn't adore the curiously un-beefy-tasting burger.
Stay for dessert? This may be the only place to get a molten chocolate cake. The graceful version here makes most others seem about as artful as a melted candy bar. Also, try the peerless homemade ice creams.
Bottom line: A lot of chefs think they can do this kind of food. This chef actually pulls it off.