Alora Invites Diners on a Coastal Culinary Journey

Having enjoyed Anu and Vikram Bhambri’s ROOH Progressive Indian in Palo Alto and their newer Pippal in Emeryville, I imagined Alora to be a “sure thing.” And I was right. The newest in the duo’s growing restaurant empire, Alora, located at San Francisco’s Pier 3, is a great addition to the vibrant Embarcadero waterfront. A welcoming handful of al fresco tables out front and a lovely back terrace that on warmer and non-windy days opens to the Bay are sandwiched between a gorgeous interior, the industrial ceiling of which is veiled in delicate metal lighting fixtures. The vibe, aided by soft illumination and a soundtrack of international pop, jazz, and R&B tunes, is sultry, evoking Ibizan summer nights. Alora’s menu veers a bit from the Indian-centric menus of ROOH and Pippal, yet employs those restaurants’ same creativity in interpreting regional classics. Dishes meld the vibrant flavor profiles, ingredients, and dishes of the Mediterranean coastline with market-driven California cuisine.

Alora’s dining room features gold-brushed hanging chandeliers, mirrored surfaces, and an elegant pink marble tiled bar
Alora’s back patio features Bay views

Chef Ryan McIlwraith of Bellota leads the Alora kitchen, drawing inspiration from Greek, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences. His seasonal, market-driven menu is guided by a focus on sustainability and “old world” cooking methods, from an extensive handmade pasta program to grilling over embers, and preserving ingredients through curing and fermentation. Mains include Octopus featuring oven-roasted confit octopus served with tzatziki, potato pave, and cauliflower escabeche, and his Spicy Kofta Kebab featuring ground beef + lamb, sumac-onion, toum, fermented harissa, and za’atar flatbread. Shareable small plates include Black-Eyed Pea Salad and Hummus featuring red kuri squash and grape leaf dressing, and Tomato Braised Beef + Pork Keftedes served with whipped feta, red bulgur, and olive crumble. “Breads and Dips” are definitely the way to begin your Alora journey, and the Hummus Tahini is a revelation. In McIlwraith’s deft hands, the chickpea base is whipped with herbed tahini, green zhug, urfa, aleppo, and olive oil and served with warm sourdough einkorn pita. Equally enthralling is the ribbon-piped, fluffy Duck Liver Mousse with pickled mustard seed and fresh berries. Served with a square of sourdough focaccia, this rich and delicious dish could well be listed on the dessert menu. (A menu notation states that the naturally leavened sourdough pita and focaccia can be subbed for market vegetables, but unless gluten is an issue, to miss these items is to miss something special.)

Humuus Tahini. Photo by Fran Miller
Duck Liver Mousse is served with sourdough focaccia. Photo by Fran Miller

The curated beverage program features an extensive wine list and Mediterranean-inspired cocktails created in collaboration with Manhattan Zodiac, a women-owned and operated company based in San Francisco. Each cocktail on Alora’s menu represents a symbolic mythical attribute, whether it’s a Greek god or goddess or a significant ingredient relished throughout time. The Fruit of Desire is created around the strawberry’s symbolic meaning of love and fertility in mythology, featuring rye whiskey, Brucato chaparral, creme de mure, lemon, strawberry Metaxa, egg white, and bitters; Neptune’s Journey is a play on the sea inspired elements of Alora, featuring bourbon, rum, brandy, Nonino Aperitivo, pear liqueur, coffee liqueur; and Love and Romance, draws from the affiliation of chocolate and love, the passion of spicy ancho chilies, and amontillado which is a staple in the Spanish culture, featuring sherry, creme de cacao, Averna, Brucato chaparral, chile, bitters. And the Alora Spritz is a unique version of this classic European aperitif, featuring Cappeletti, Amaro Nonino, tangerine, lemon, prosecco and bitters.

The Ruby and the Phoenix cocktail, featuring charred, wood chip infused bourbon, Cocchi Americano, and raspberry Chambord reduction. Photo by Fran Miller

“Through intentional exploration along the captivating Mediterranean coast and engaging in various culinary courses led by the region’s most celebrated chefs, we felt compelled to embark on something innovative for our Bay Area community,” said Anu Bhambri. “Our goal with Alora (which translates to “beautiful dreamer”) is to introduce San Francisco locals and visitors to a new coastal dining experience—one that evokes curiosity with innovative takes on Mediterranean cuisine and a playful, unique bar program unlike any other in the city.”

This writer considers their goal achieved.

Photos by Neetu Laddha Photography unless otherwise noted

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.