Eating Out

Alora, San Francisco – California Mediterranean Waterfront Dining

Alora is the newest California Mediterranean restaurant from ROOH owners Vikram and Anu Bhambri. Located on the Embarcadero waterfront at Pier 3, the modern, well-designed space features a stunning bar, elegant finishes, and a patio with a view of the bay. It was quite rainy when I visited, and the patio was fully enclosed and heated so diners were comfortably shielded.

The kitchen is led by Chef Ryan McIlwraith (Bellota, Bottega Napa Valley, Coqueta) and features numerous coastal Mediterranean shareable dishes. I thought the mezze was strong, and I especially enjoyed the fluffy pita with muhammara (savory sweet red pepper) and eggplant dips. If you are feeling fancy, you can splurge on the salt cod buñelos, which were elevated with jamón ibérico and hackleback caviar. I also liked the broiled Kusshi oysters with bright lemon-prosecco sabayon and pancetta bits. 

For mains, the tender oven roasted confit octopus was great with tangy tzatziki and cauliflower escabeche. I thought the steak shish kebab on a bed of maitake mushroom, brussels sprouts, and hummus was delicious, but I’m not convinced that the cut (hanger steak) or portion was worth the $70 price tag.

The escarole-ricotta filled ravioli was the last to come out, and the timing was off but worth the wait. The al dente pasta was lovely with the butter sunchoke puree and contrasting pecans and black trumpet garnish.

I couldn’t resist ordering all three of the desserts – basque cheesecake, winter citrus pavlova, and chocolate cake for two. The chocolate cake was a generous portion and pure decadence with cardamon heavy baharat spice, accompanied by cream cheese ice cream. The pavlova was my favorite – lighter, tangy from the citrus and kiwi, and paired with refreshing ginger ice cream. The basque cheesecake was a bit sweet and dense for my liking, especially compared to the original in San Sebastián, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

The drinks menu features cocktails with dreamy names and diverse ingredients. I enjoyed a bourbon cocktail, the “Ruby and the Phoenix”, which was similar to a smoky old-fashioned. Note that the cocktails are pre-mixed.

I dined during the second week of opening, and I thought the service was not bad for being so new. There were a few courses where the server forgot to introduce the dish, and the timing was noticeably slow on the last savory course. But overall, I thought the staff was warm, enthusiastic, and I quite enjoyed my dinner experience. I look forward to trying them again on a warm, sunny day.

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