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Globe South Dining Out

High style with substance

The new Alba lends a sense of big-city style to downtown Quincy. The new Alba lends a sense of big-city style to downtown Quincy. (Joan Wilder for The Boston Globe)
January 24, 2010

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Handsome Alba, with its dark wood and leather, white tablecloths, high multi-level ceilings, and weighty stone presence lends a big-city sense to downtown Quincy’s Hancock Street strip.

Situated among less substantial physical spaces - a variety store, a nail salon, a tiny stringed-instrument dealership - the new Alba (relocated from across the street in 2008) is an oasis of style. The menu of this Mediterranean steakhouse includes appetizers, salads and sandwiches, full entrees, late-night dishes for $4.50 each, and big-time a la carte steak entrees. (A 30-ounce grilled bone-in rib-eye for $35.50 tops it out.)

Some menu changes will debut next week, reflecting the new chef, Stephen Coy, who arrived early this month. And like many restaurants today, Alba is offering a special three-course menu Sunday through Thursday for $25 and a 10 p.m.-to-midnight special menu of small dishes.

The restaurant was lively and half-full during dinner on the Wednesday after Christmas. The space is large with 110 seats downstairs, function rooms upstairs, and a (currently unimaginable) rooftop patio. A dinner party of 18, seated at a long table, slid easily into place in the spacious dining room.

When I went back for brunch during a Saturday snowstorm early this month, the restaurant was understandably empty except for a very buff guy enjoying his omelet at the bar while glancing between his Blackberry and a television sound-off. I was totally comfortable sitting alone at a leather banquet corner table in the bar.

The best dish I had in two visits was a fantastically delicious sirloin (6 or 8 ounces - too much for me to finish) that came with the weekend brunch steak and eggs ($11.50). The eggs were good, too - cooked a perfect over-medium, which isn’t that easy to get: whites solid, yokes runny.

Alba serves the Creekstone Farms natural line of beef, which comes from animals given vegetarian feed on farms certified to use humane husbandry standards and no antibiotics or hormones.

On our dinner visit, we started with a great white-bean and escarole soup ($6.50), part of the three-course special that night.

We enjoyed the black sesame seared ahi tuna ($10.50) appetizer. The slices of fish were generous and edged with toasted sesame seeds.

Sometimes it’s hard to beat fries and a hamburger - and the one in the Alba sliders ($10.50) was great (bacon crisscrossed on top) in its shiny brioche bun. So were its mates: a good lobster salad and a barbecued chicken (that looked like pulled pork) with an apple slaw on top. This filling plate of sandwiches comes with great french fries.

The evening’s special salmon (part of the three-course $25 menu) was a large, grilled fillet sitting atop some round, nicely al dente spinach ravioli and a layer of fresh wilted spinach. The dish was healthy - with some baby veggies, too - but lacked seasoning.

Next was another favorite dish of mine: a half-chicken cooked under a brick ($18). This one was crispy and delicious. The mushroom risotto, though, was undercooked: It needed more time on the stove to get creamier and let the flavors meld.

Next was the chocolate molten cake I adore: a dark, warm cupcake-sized confection that transitions from moist cake into a near-pudding consistency in the center. And the crème brulee (one of the special menu dessert options) had a delicate vanilla smoothness.

I’m interested in eating at Alba again under chef Coy, who was the sous-chef at Newton’s Bokx 109 American Prime.

Before Coy, Keka was without a chef for a while, making do with a little help from some friends, including chef Paul Wahlberg (who had a bit of free time after leaving Bridgeman’s in Hull last year to start work on his own restaurant).

I very much like Alba’s atmosphere and its diverse menu: It’s a solid, upscale venue that adds a lovely sense of Old World warmth to a small city center.

JOAN WILDER

Alba
1486 Hancock St., Quincy
617-376-2522; www.alba1486.com
Open Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped

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