Alkemē brings elevated Asian cuisine to Santa Fe!
Alkemē, a new restaurant from special event provisioner Open Kitchen LLC, is nestled snugly in the Santa Fe Village Mall. Guided by Chef-Owner Hue-Chan Karels and Executive Chef Erica Tai, Alkemē dives into the culinary traditions of Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and the Pacific Rim of Hawaii. Their menu is a balance between innovation and reverence for tradition, all within a beautifully renovated space.
Fortunately, I snagged an invitation to Alkemē’s soft opening, a dress rehearsal for eager food enthusiasts. Now open, dinner reservations can be made here.
Thoughtful Culinary Compositions
I sit at the communal table, surrounded by warmth and camaraderie, a lovely carryover from Karels’ Open Kitchen. Every plate from the bustling kitchen is a thoughtful composition, with ingredients harmoniously blending and paying homage to their diverse origins.
The “Amuse” selection opens the senses with its vibrant offerings. Housemade Vietnamese pickles burst with tanginess, and five-spice cracker popcorn delivers a delightful crunch. The roasted olives, infused with lemongrass and preserved lemon, linger on the palate. Moving on to the “Playful Bites,” the Taiwanese Gua Bao (steamed bao buns) steal the show with their Kahlua pork belly burnt ends. The crispy turmeric cod (Cha Ca) is a delight, while the Banh Nam (steamed rice flour tamale) showcases the restaurant’s finesse and playfulness.
Captivating “Big Impressions”
It is the “Big Impressions” selections, however, that truly captivate me. The Asian Sea Bass, infused with coconut milk and lemongrass, showcases a nuanced balance of flavors. Every ingredient works harmoniously to create an elegant and comforting dish. Then there is the Kong Rou Fan, a Taiwanese braised pork belly dish that is a revelation. The succulent pork belly melts in the mouth, releasing familiar and new flavors.
As our journey nears the end, the miso brown butter sesame brownies take center stage. The luscious miso orange whipped cream further elevates this decadent umami bookend. The accompanying Sai Gon cinnamon chocolate bark adds a crunchy, indulgent finale.
Above all, Alkemē isn’t simply a restaurant; it’s an experience that awakens the senses. Hue-Chan Karels and Erica Tai capture the essence of Asian cuisine, infusing it with their creative vision and presenting it to eager diners in an exhilarating way. It’s a breath of fresh air in Santa Fe’s culinary landscape.
Story by Gabe Gomez
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