Alba: From Milk Braised Pork Cheeks to Chocolate Lava Cake

Alba opened its doors in 2008 in the eclectic East Village of Des Moines and has been one of my favorite restaurants in Des Moines ever since. There are three main reasons I enjoy dining at Alba:

1) The attentive and knowledgeable staff – The staff is polite and very knowledgeable of the menu and wine selection. Use your server as a guide through the menu and drink selection, as I have found their recommendations to be spot on and quite helpful! 

2) The atmosphere and colorful decor – I appreciate the atmosphere at Alba and I absolutely adore the vibrant artwork and the colorful mix of doors that hang from the ceiling.

3) The food is superb, fresh and constantly changing. (Check out our recent meal below!)

Levi (my fiancé) and I decided to dine at Alba as a part of the 2012 Des Moines Restaurant WeekThe weather was gorgeous, so we sat on the patio, which is a great spot for couples or small groups looking to enjoy a relaxing meal outdoors. Here’s the “She Ate / He Ate” scoop on our meal at Alba.

She Ate: (My Meal)

First Course – Maxwell Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad made with basil caramel, house made ricotta, and topped with a zucchini crouton. This salad was refreshing with a mix of textures and tastes. The tomatoes were the star in this dish, but the basil caramel really added a burst of flavor to the salad.

Second Course – Chive Potato Gnocchi with chicken, crème fraîche and white truffle oil. I only dream of being able to make a sauce as tasty as the sauce that covered this dish! The chicken was tender, the veggies were fresh and the gnocchi was soft and pillowy. It’s easy to get carried away with white truffle oil (and it can quickly overpower a dish), but this dish had the perfect amount.

Third Course – Chocolate Lave Cake served with buttermilk ice cream and topped with a pinch of Cyprus flake sea salt. When I think of Alba, I think of their rich Chocolate Lava Cake. It’s just one of those menu items that I can’t pass up and this trip to Alba was no different. The dessert came out freshly prepared, warm and oozing with chocolatety goodness. It’s worth the wait (and the calories!)

He Ate: (Levi’s Meal)

First Course – Iowa Sweet Corn Soup, which included puffed bacon, chive oil and a bit a tomato jam. The soup tasted exactly like a cob of Iowa Sweet Corn. It was creamy, fresh and packed with flavor. The bacon added a welcomed bit of salt to the dish.

Second Course – Milk Braised Pork Cheeks, sweet corn veloute (a type of sauce), potato rosti (grated potato made into a cake) and a shaved zucchini salad. I’m not a huge fan of pork, but this was melt-in-your-mouth good, and it probably was the most tender pork I’ve ever eaten. If you’re planning on eating at Alba, make sure you try this dish!

Third Course – Summer Blueberry Clafouti topped with vanilla ice cream. The crust on the dessert was crisp and the blueberries were plump. I would have added a bit more ice cream to the dish to balance out the dryness of the clafouti base, but overall a solid choice to complete the meal.

Location: 524 East 6th Street, Des Moines, IA 50309
Hours: Lunch – Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Dinner – Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. until close.
Phone: (515) 244-0261 – I’d recommend making a reservation to ensure a spot.

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