Garden Oaks residents already know d'Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails has opened. They've been flocking to the new restaurant from the moment owner Daut Elshani began service on September 18.
Elshani, who brings experience opening concepts such as The Moonshiners and Beer Market Co. for the Salt N Pepper Group as well as Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company's brewery in Sawyer Yards, conceives of d'Alba (named for the street its on) as a neighborhood eatery built around dishes and cocktails made with fresh ingredients that are served at an affordable price.
In a lengthy statement, Elshani traces the process of creating d'Alba beginning with bicycle rides through the neighborhood and overcoming pandemic-related price spikes in construction materials and the tight labor market.
"We aimed to provide a casual setting with elevated cuisine and cocktail offerings with a goal of not following any trends or slapping an expiration date on the concept," Elshani writes. "With d’Alba we achieved just that and more, we were able to better utilize the patio and create different zones inside and outdoor dining suitable for neighbors visiting us with kids, a stroller and dog, or the local area redevelopment professionals, all the way to a date night or birthday celebration, we were able to capture them all, an all-occasion spot."
Chef Geoff Hundt (Local Foods Benjy's) created the menu, while former Brasserie 19 sous chef Mike Hartley will lead the kitchen day to day. Diners may begin their meal with an eclectic array of shareable items such as blue crab and shrimp campechana, spinach and artichoke dip, and oysters three ways: raw, chargrilled, and fried.
Pizzas, pastas, salads, and entrees round out the offerings. Choices include chef's cut steak with salsa verde, Gulf fish with roasted sunchokes, pasta Bolognese (made with locally-sourced beef), and a baby kale salad with goat cheese. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are sprinkled throughout the menu.
"Each section does have at least two hidden and completely vegetarian or vegan options albeit without annotating this designation. We have achieved our goal of having an avid Houston diner try fried tempeh sandwich or enjoy a non-dairy Caesar dressing to a dairy free vegan spinach and artichoke dip and absolutely be stunned by the flavors," Elshani adds.
Anvil veteran Kehlen Selph developed d'Alba's cocktail menu, which features 22 house cocktails along with a few more that will debut when brunch launches in the coming weeks. Choices include the restaurant's take on the uber-popular espresso martini, a cocktail that features beet-infused tequila, and an Old Fashioned made with bourbon that's infused with dates and pumpkin seeds.
Bringing d'Alba to life has been a true family affair for Elshani. He recruited his brother Filiz as well as his cousins Leon and Fatos Barileva to join him in the project. Together, they designed the restaurant's clean, modern interior and spacious patios.
While only approximately 70 percent of the menu is currently available due to staffing issues, Elshani estimates that d'Alba will be 100-percent operational by the end of October. Until then, he invites diners to sample what is available and enjoy this neighborhood newcomer that's open daily for lunch and dinner.