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San Diego Uptown News | Mar. 18–31, 2011 By David Nelson

1503 30th St., 92102, (619)255-0616;

Starters and tapas, $5 to $12, Entrees $12 to $21



Fresh local fare with international zest

lchemy is the art of transforming one sub- stance into something altogether different, but although alche- mists have traditionally devoted themselves to changing lead into gold, history does not record

any of them becoming billionaires. The resident wizard at Alche-

my, in South Park, has consider- ably better luck. Chef Ricardo Heredia trans-

forms local organic produce and natural meats into flavorful dishes with considerable finesse. Heredia got hooked on gastron- omy at the age of nine, when he set forth to conquer eggs. Later, after bussing tables at an Italian eatery in his Ohio hometown, Heredia transferred to a Florida kitchen where he learned how to cook at some of the many Cuban, Domini- can and Puerto Rican restaurants. Subsequently, Heredia gravitated to San Diego and Alchemy, which publishes a brief manifesto on its menu: “Our goal is to fill your belly with creative, fresh and sustainable ingredients without sending you into bankruptcy.” The restaurant delivers, serving high-quality meals at reasonable prices. The food is well-prepared, intelligently creative fare (not at all gimmicky) based on produce from Suzie’s Farm, beef from Estancia Farms, Jidori chicken and similar top-grade purveyors. Alchemy also offers vegetarian tasting dinners, on Wednesday evenings, and the monthly “Dinner with Six Strangers,” which features three-course, family-style meals (guests bring the unfettered, lively conversation themselves). Proprietors Ron Troyano and Matt Thomas designed Alchemy to be a casual, hip neighborhood restaurant, just like South Park. It opens for business before 6 p.m., but don’t arrive this early if you hope to preserve your cool quotient. One lovely San Diego afternoon, I took my own prema- turely hungry friends, and the restaurant was empty save for a solo diner seated at the bar. We took the opportunity to enjoy the local, contemporary artworks Alchemy displays and sells. These change periodically, but while we were there, a stainless-steel tree sculpture gave the room a marvel- ous focus. The music was similarly ambient—recorded jazz reminis- cent of 3 a.m. in the Big Apple, even though it was only sundown here in the Medium Avocado. Heredia organizes his menu to

reflect his culinary interests, and there is a quintet of categories, commencing with an array of international “street food” special- ties, and continuing with entrees (which Alchemy calls “Standards,” although there is nothing standard about them), including vegetar- ian dishes, tapas and house-made

desserts. “Street Food” items are small plates that in some instances don’t share very well; tapas are small plates that virtually insist upon being tasted by everyone at the table.

“The food is well-prepared, intelligently creative fare.”

Anybody who wants a snack with a beer likely will target the “Johanne’s Brat” listed at the bot- tom of the street-food section. A traditional, artisan-made German sausage that arrives grilled, with

crisp, tart house-made sauerkraut and bold brown mustard on the side, the bratwurst is juicy, plump, succulent and bursting with flavor. Sauerkraut is one of the increasing number of foods that a decreasing number of Americans manage to encounter, and this is a fine op- portunity to taste it without facing a giant portion (Americans used to eat sweetbreads, liver, kidneys and other delicious innards, but for most of us today, if it ain’t steak or hamburger, we don’t want to know about it). All the street-foods have plenty of flavor, including lemon-doused grilled lamb kabobs, Mexican huaraches (thick masa dough patties that Alchemy stuffs with black beans, beef, cactus and cascabel chilies), and black garlic pad thai, a particularly good take on Thailand’s national noodles. The garlic that distinguishes this dish is aged in much the same way as

see Alchemy, page 19 Hip yet casual ambience at Alchemy.

A San Diego Landmark Since 1944 Quality Home Cooking

As Seen on TV!

Restaurant & Bakery Breakfast • Lunch • Dinner

$2.00 OFF Any Menu Entree

Up to 2 people minimum $8 Entree. Not valid with other offers, weekends, or holidays. Expires 03/31/11

dessert . drink . dine HAPPY

HOUR 7 Days

3 to 6pm


With the purchase of two entrees. Does not include drinks. Not valid with any other offers or on holidays. Exp: 03-31-11

Authentic Old World Mexican Cusine 3693 Fifth Avenue

• 619.546.5934 • Pennsylvania and Fifth Ave Open Daily: 7am-9pm

2271 First Avenue (Corner of 1st & Juniper) • (619) 239-8176

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