Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Lovely Time at Alex & Ika Restaurant

I write a weekly restaurant feature on local restaurants in Oneonta and had such a fabulous lunch at Alex and Ika's Restaurant in Cooperstown that I had to blog about it, but haven't had the time until now.
Alex & Ika's is rare find on this side of the Catskills. Not that there aren't some wonderful restaurants in this area, but Alex excels at balancing the fine line between appealing to the gourmand and casual diner. How does he pull this off?
My husband and I sat down with executive chef and owner Alex Webster, his sons Oskar and Lukas, and PR extraordinaire, Elizabeth Huntington, to find out what has made Alex and Ika so successful over the years. He credits a reliable and happy staff, making everything from the
dressings to the soups from scratch, using key ingredients like coarse grain sea salt, and creating an establishment that is family friendly for customers and his own family.
Sure, these things do make a difference. But the food had an attention to detail that isn't common in this area. My eggplant was cooked to perfection, with exactly the right proportion of cheese/sauce/eggplant/breading. Usually I find cheesecake a little garishly rich, but theirs is creamy but not overwhelming. I love that the fingerling potato fries weren't anything you would expect. They were mashed, crispy bites of deliciousness accompanied by a chipolte aioli dip that made ketchup seem overwhelmingly ordinary. And I could rave about the wine and drink list- amazing- but don't have enough space.
The restaurant also has character. Alex is also an artist and it shows. The mirrors and artwork and bar (erected from the wood of an old bowling alley) become part of the visual ingredient necessary to "dining out". There is a reason why I let my husband, Joe, take over as interior decorator at home- he's an artist and knows how to create ambiance.
One last reason to go. Alex and the kids and Elizabeth are incredibly nice people. Oh, and it's vegetarian friendly.

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