The most interesting thing about Alkymists isn’t its eclectic world fusion menu, the unusual spelling of its name, or its prime location on the bustling University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto; rather, it’s the restaurant’s unique mission, which it calls “foodanthropy,” a combination of food and philanthropy, or as it says on its menus and website, “when a nutritious substance meets the love of humankind.” In addition to providing a wide variety of food to regular customers, Alkymists says it will host a free brunch event once or twice a month for low-income residents, with an emphasis on the community of abused women and children, and low-income mothers.
“Cook with the chef, watch movies, learn about food and people from around the world. From that group of families, those who show a passion and deeper interest in food and the industry can take an internship program at Alkymists,” says restaurateur Theirry Fassiotti, who responded to questions via email.
Fassiotti says the restaurant will also provide cooking classes and nutrition lessons at the restaurant. His hope is that the new skills provide them with an opportunity to get jobs in restaurants and kitchens around the Bay Area.
“Alkymists is the coming together of many things to form something better.”
The restaurant is currently working with shelters in San Jose and San Mateo to host these brunches and classes. Fassiotti says it will be a couple of months before the first foodanthropy event is announced.
Before he managed restaurants in Paris, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley, Fassiotti was living on the streets of Paris. After getting himself out of the situation, he says his mission has been to help others who aren’t as well-off. In Paris, Fassiotti worked at Restaurants du Coeur, a charity that distributes hot meals and food packages to the needy.
When Alkymists opened on September 24, it quickly replaced the Palo Alto Grill, which had lasted in that location on the corner of University and High Street for only a year. The name, which can be a bit confusing when you’re trying to search for it online or asking for directions, isn’t actually a play on the word alchemy, which brings to mind images of magical elixirs and tinctures. Fassiotti says the name comes from the Esperanto way of writing and saying “al ci mi,” which means “she near me.”
The strong theme of empowering women at Alkymists is evident in more than just its mission and its name. Sepia-toned photographs of women wrap around the walls of the restaurant’s three dining areas, as well as its rentable private dining room. Sculptures and pictures of dragonflies adorn the walls, and are present on the menus: Dragonfly was the name of Fassiotti’s first philanthropy project.
“Not only do we offer Palo Alto an exceptionally great atmosphere to order a tasty bite from our world fusion cuisine and cocktails from our house blended herbal infusions, we also offer a sense of community. The love, passion, and family feel when you walk through our doors is what stands out to us,” Fassiotti says.
The restaurant seats up to 100, and has a comfortable lounge area next to the bar, which serves six types of local beer from Schubros Brewery in San Ramon. There’s also a selection of cocktails that are stored in big glass jars behind the bar.
The menu is extremely diverse and features a mix of cuisines from places like Latin America, North Africa and Asia, prepared by chef Jared Combs. Fassiotti calls it global street food -- things you would eat if you were traveling around the world.
Appetizers range from a plate of pork belly tacos with curry glazed corn and tangy cabbage slaw ($6), to truffle burrata on house made crostini with glazed cherry tomatoes ($8.50). The braised lamb and smoked gouda dumplings were especially tasty ($11). I also enjoyed the charred Brussels sprout salad with kale, bacon and mustard vinaigrette ($11).
There’s also section on the menu devoted to sandwiches and pizza from around the world -- harissa meatballs in bosnian bread with thai basil and curried cabbage ($14), lamb burgers stuffed in pita bread with serrano ham and sundried tomato ($14), and chorizo applewood bacon pizza on a veggie stuffed crust ($15).
The main courses are very red meat heavy and just as internationally diverse. You can choose from items like the bourbon lime spiced lamb belly with butter braised carrots, and mandarin orange and manchego risotto ($24), or the pho with oxtail beef brisket and ginger. I tried a plate of tender and flavorful braised short ribs with cauliflower parsnip puree and a smokey poached egg on top ($26).
Desserts like the lavender panna cotta ($10), and the goji berry crème brûlée ($10) also follow the menu’s world fusion theme. Alkymists is open for dinner nightly, and weekend brunch will begin on October 11.