Tonight Ari Taymor opens a more stable footed iteration of Alma, the pop-up restaurant he launched in Venice after his short stint at Salute Wine Bar ended when it transformed into Brick + Mortar. Alma is now set up for at least the next year in a generous space of high ceilings and natural light, not without its understated charms despite being pinned between a significantly less romantic weed spot and thumping hostess bar. Taymor, a Bay Area native who helped open the city's Flour + Water and counts its chef, Thomas McNaughton (along with market monopolizing minds like Jeremy Fox and Kim Altar), among his mentors, has a surfeit of imagination in commanding crops to lead the charge at Alma.
Clever and colorful vegetarian dishes rule much of his menu, in which chicharones are forged from onions and a regal gathering of maitake mushrooms surpass the flavors in a suckling pig porchetta.
We ducked into Alma's soft-opening last night and were struck at the potential we glimpsed in the chef's splendidly plated dishes and promises of an ever morphing, market-shepherded menu. Given that it was still shy of opening day, apps like the onion chicharrónes and Taymor's seaweed beignets have a window to become much lighter and the suckling's skin much crisper, but as Alma takes shape in its new Downtown home, it portends to be a brave, rousing restaurant with the chance that there's always something novel, and visibly bewitching, to behold at each visit.
Take a look at the new Alma space and some of Taymor's dishes in our slideshow.
Alma, 952 S. Broadway Ave. Downtown.