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[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 2)


BryanZ
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[Moderator note: The original [CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: [CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 1)]

The tour was totally awesome and inspiring and unique. I'm joining the "Alinea is the best restaurant in the United States" camp for someone with tastes similar to my own. I will post more later, but for now let me say it was an inspiring and memorable eating journey that was nearly priceless.

Edited by Mjx
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Completely unbelievable NYE dinner at Alinea last night.  5 hours, 27 courses.  Yellow Truffle was in the house, and you all know what that means... :wink:

I'll post a full write up later, I'm having trouble moving at the moment.

I can't wait to see the pictures and live vicariously!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I had the opportunity to partake in the Tour at Alinea on December 30. I had been looking forward to this meal for months, ever since I sent my mother there with a client during a tradeshow this past summer. This fall I convinced her to fly me out to Chicago for a day to eat at Alinea for my Christmas present of sorts. Needless to say, my expectations for this meal were very high, especially given the added expense I would be incurring just to eat there. After braving high winds at Newark and freezing rain at O'Hare, the g/f and I finally made it to Alinea and would be blown away for the rest of the evening.

The menu was as follows:

gallery_28496_2247_525429.jpg

I don't like to take pictures in restaurants, so unfortunately I don't have a photo journal to capture the scope of the meal. It was, in a word, awesome.

At restaurants like Per Se and its other NYC Michelin 3-star brethren it's hard to deny the quality of the dishes being served, but sometimes these dishes don't move, provoke, or challenge me. At a restaurant like wd-50, everything I've ever tried there is a gastronomic intellectual exercise which mostly, but not always, succeed. Alinea seems to strike the ideal balance between the two. (Most of) the dishes are grounded in concepts and flavor profiles I can understand, but the way they are presented is completley out of this world and beyond my reach. For some reason, the sweetness of a frozen olive cookie was vaguely familiar to me, even if its preparation on the antigriddle is unlike anything I've ever tried before. If anything, I'm upset at myself for being unable to even attempt to recreate Chef Achatz's dishes.

As others have noted, the space is elegant and chic but still very comfortable and relaxed. Service is passionate, polished, and gracious but down-to-earth. All my numerous and detailed questions were respectfully answered. And Maitre d' Chris Gerber is the standard by which all others in that position should be measured. He seemed to take a genuine interest in my interest in food and, despite my relative youth, honestly wanted to make sure I was enjoying myself to the fullest. I spoke with him for a short while (about NYC restaurants, my dining best experiences, the wonders of Frank aka "Edward" Bruni, JJ Redick and Duke basketball) after the meal and also got to meet Chef Achatz in the kitchen.

I can see how some might not appreciate Alinea, but I simply cannot level with them. Alinea is a uniquely American restaurant and also happens to be the best restaurant in America. I do not claim to have eaten everywhere of merit in this country, but I have a hard time believing that anywhere else has the ability to affect a person with my tastes to the same extent. Alinea is a special place, and I can't wait to go back.

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I can see how some might not appreciate Alinea, but I simply cannot level with them.  Alinea is a uniquely American restaurant and also happens to be the best restaurant in America.  I do not claim to have eaten everywhere of merit in this country, but I have a hard time believing that anywhere else has the ability to affect a person with my tastes to the same extent.  Alinea is a special place, and I can't wait to go back.

Very well said.

Any dishes particularly appealing?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The first course, "Hot Potato" was a great and assertive start to the evening. A well thought out exercise in textures, temperatures, and aromas. The dish was served with a slice of white truffle, rather than black as the menu states, and this truffle essence lingered on the palate until the moment the next course arrived.

I was enthralled with anything created on the antigriddle, ie the "Mango," "Nicoise Olive," "Peanut"--it's like taking the concept of the sorbet or chilled soup and taking it to the extreme. I want to buy one and play with it. If only I could come up with a about a grand.

The butter listed in the "Gingerbread" course was also so cool. They do something like: make a beurre monte with some sort of calcified solution (I think), then immerse it into another chemical that makes it into the butter orb (at first I thought it was an egg yolk). The outside is gel, the inside is totally liquid, when you pop the thing it pretty much explodes hot butter into the warm gingerbread. Such an awesome way to present something as simple and melted butter.

I thought the air pillow with the "Duck" was a little bit gimmicky, but I'm a gimmicky kind of guy. Was it necessary? No. Was it cool and unique and did it add to the experience of the dish? Yes. An inspirational course in the same way that the "Bison" was inspirational in its use of juniper aroma (read: smells like my house after we burn our Christmas tree). The scents of both the mace and the juniper were simple in the themselves but their applications in the context of the already complex dishes are what made them so special.

I could talk about this meal for hours. But those courses were probably my favorite.

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Bryan - Looks like you got pretty much the menu we had on NYE. The only difference was the addition of a black truffle pasta course on ours.

I too thought this menu was outstanding, and the best of the 3 meals I've had at Alinea so far. The only course that didn't really work for me was the black cod. I thought it was a bit "fishy" and all of the powders gave it a strange mouth feel.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Ha, the g/f actually said the same thing about the black cod. I thought flavor-wise that one could've been the "worst" but I thought the texture was fine, evocative of a sous vide cooking process that some find objectionable in flaky fish.

I wish I had the black truffle pasta. I wish I had everything. I honestly feel like I could've eaten every dish that came out of that kitchen. Sigh.

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On December 29th, my parents, fiancee and myself experienced Alinea for the first time. It will not be my last. I have read everything on this thread and elsewhere on the web over the past several, months, numerous times, waiting for the opportunity to go and experience the amazing creations of Achatz and his kitchen. I will mostly make a few general comments and then list the menu, with minimal discussion as most of the dishes have been listed previously and I can't possibly do the experience justice.

At times I had wondered if reading all these threads and seeing the pictures would somehow ruin or lessen my experience. It didn't. There were many subtleties and differences that I did not expect. First, I did not think the restaurant would be as noisy as it was. The kitchen was silent, but many tables were obviously having a good time. At first I was thrown off guard, but then realized this would be a more relaxed, less formal affair. The dining areas were also lit far more than I imagined from the pictures. This is probably the most attractive restaurant I have been in to date.

My fiancee is a vegetarian and they did a great job meeting her special requirements including her dislikes of celery, avocado, and fennel. It was nice that her dishes were designed to match the rest of ours in appearance even though the ingredients differed.

We ordered the 12 course, but wound up getting 17! I would have loved to do the tour, butthe rest of my family was not up to it. I'm glad I got the extra courses.

I'll list the dishes:

Hot Potato - very cool and a great start

Pear - I loved how the curry shell broke, but was disappointed that the celery flavors overwhelmed the pear.

Bison - I loved every time these dishes went through the room spreading the wonderful juniper aroma. I just wish this was more than a single bite as it was deserving of a plate in itself.

Chestnut - Cool. Very fun to mix and match. I'm amazed at how all the flavors are so distinct, both seperately and when mixed. Normally, when told what goes into a dish I can only recognize 1-2 flavors. Awesome. The marsala gelee was my least favorite however

salsify - this was like a new take on french fries. I loved how the roe was used instead of salt. very cool

king crab - I didn't know that I loved crab w/ passion fruit, but its a good thing the chef did.

pork - one of my favorite dishes. THe cornbread pudding was great. I lloved the fresh honey.

kumquat - THis was a unique and originial palatee cleanser. Not so much tasty, but effective.

Sweet Potato - :laugh:

Duck - yummy

Kobe Beef - not sure what to say about this. Very original. very good

Idiazabal - I was hoping I got to try this. ChefG should sell the recipe to Cheeto's

Applewood - I'm glad I got to try the antenna. THe flavors in this little bite were, like everything else, awesome

Gingerbread - I really liked this dish, the butter sphere-thing was cool, but I thought there was almost too much butter after it exploded, lessening the other flavors in the dish.

Plantain - Yummy!

Chocolate - I loved the thickened chocolate. I was really curious to try avocado with chocolate and very pleased to find it was very, very delightful. I wonder why you don't see chocolate avocado ice cream?

caramel - good stuff.

We also did the basic wine pairings which I really enjoyed. I felt that here the wines acted more as a canvas to the food as being an accompaniment. I may be wrong, my palatte is still young.

At the end of the mal, we were given a tour of the kitchen which was very cool, got to meet chef Achatz, given copies of the menu, and 4 jars of the extra honey.

In summary, I am very jealous of all of you who live in Chicago and thus have the ability to dine at Alinea more often. I will be back.

Edited by babern38 (log)
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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

Doubt I'd ever have a problem leaving hungry. I don't like to eat massive (or even somewhat large) amounts of food at a single seating. I can't even make it through a 10 course "tiny bites" tasting menu.

I've never been to Alinea - and probably won't be there soon (Chicago simply isn't on my radar travel screen right now). And even if I get to Chicago next year (2007) - don't know that I'd go. There are a lot of different food philosophies and sensibilities these days. And I am much more on the Chez Panisse side of things these days than the Alinea side. Food that speaks for itself - without "gimmicks" Like Bryan Z said - "thought the air pillow with the "Duck" was a little bit gimmicky, but I'm a gimmicky kind of guy". I am not a gimmicky kind of guy.

I don't think I'd use the phrase that Mariana used - hocus pocus - ever in the context of a restaurant - but I kind of cringe when I read about dishes in various restaurants that are supposed to be puns - as opposed to delicious food. Fat lot of good it does for a foreign traveler when a chef is trying to make puns - especially in a different language (we are going to Japan in a few months and I just hope my husband and I will wind up ordering something other than the tax and tip :wink:).

BTW - I don't mean to imply that one POV is right and the other wrong. There are simply people with different preferences - even when they don't have bad colds. It's not a big deal. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes - and hopefully there will be restaurants to satisfy all of them. I am not fond of cultural relativism - but I reserve big deal judgment calls for big deal things (which in my opinion doesn't include restaurants). Robyn

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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

This has already been discussed exhaustively . . . here.

Thanks,

=R=

Thanks for the thread reference. Doesn't surprise me at all considering the reciprocal snipes in Esquire. It really is a bit tedious when the people who write about food act like they're more important than the food. Robyn

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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

Doubt I'd ever have a problem leaving hungry. I don't like to eat massive (or even somewhat large) amounts of food at a single seating. I can't even make it through a 10 course "tiny bites" tasting menu.

I've never been to Alinea - and probably won't be there soon (Chicago simply isn't on my radar travel screen right now). And even if I get to Chicago next year (2007) - don't know that I'd go. There are a lot of different food philosophies and sensibilities these days. And I am much more on the Chez Panisse side of things these days than the Alinea side. Food that speaks for itself - without "gimmicks" Like Bryan Z said - "thought the air pillow with the "Duck" was a little bit gimmicky, but I'm a gimmicky kind of guy". I am not a gimmicky kind of guy.

I don't think I'd use the phrase that Mariana used - hocus pocus - ever in the context of a restaurant - but I kind of cringe when I read about dishes in various restaurants that are supposed to be puns - as opposed to delicious food. Fat lot of good it does for a foreign traveler when a chef is trying to make puns - especially in a different language (we are going to Japan in a few months and I just hope my husband and I will wind up ordering something other than the tax and tip :wink:).

BTW - I don't mean to imply that one POV is right and the other wrong. There are simply people with different preferences - even when they don't have bad colds. It's not a big deal. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes - and hopefully there will be restaurants to satisfy all of them. I am not fond of cultural relativism - but I reserve big deal judgment calls for big deal things (which in my opinion doesn't include restaurants). Robyn

Robyn, I do not disagree with you at all that "there are all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes" nor do I expect everyone to flip out over Alinea. You may or may not like it. The reason I asked the question that I did is that most of the people who appear to be heavily criticizing this restaurant haven't been themselves and don't really have a clue as to what it is all about. The food is undoubtedly novel and fun and yes there are some cute gimmicks and puns. The important point, though is that while all those things, the food is also delicious and provocative. Some people don't like to be provoked when it comes to food and would rather have things the way they are used to. There is nothing wrong with that and this is simply not the restaurant for those people. But for those that do enjoy the intellectual and artistic aspects of food in addition to the gustatory pleasures of taste and texture and wish to do so in an elegant but comfortable environment, there is IMO no place better in the US and perhaps the world.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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...there is IMO no place better in the US and perhaps the world...

Oh?

You know - I've been pretty reserved about this. I travel more than a fair amount. And eat a fair amount. And I could not even presume to name the best restaurant in the state where I live and travel a lot (Florida) - much less the US - much less the world.

Let's see - in the last couple of years - I've been to and eaten in New York - Texas - California - Illinois - Georgia - Washington - Oregon - Louisiana - Arizona - several provinces in Canada - London. We generally travel a lot more but we took care of my father-in-law in a nursing home here for 3 years before he died a while ago. So we didn't travel as much as usual - and stuck pretty close to home. Have never been to the far east - but we are going this spring. We've had high brow meals - low brow meals - some bad - some good - some fabulous. But it would be silly on my part to name any of the places I've eaten the best - because eating at dozens out of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of best restaurants in the world over the course of several decades doesn't qualify me to make those judgments. Perhaps your experience is more comprehensive than mine (although I seriously doubt that 19 year old Bryan Z's is).

So let's see. I've never been to Alinea. Have you ever been to the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead when Menard was in the Dining Room (he's now the chef at L'Osier in Tokyo) - or Chez Panisse? Just off the top of my head - those are the 2 best meals I've had in the US lately. Although I thought our meals at Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens in London were better. Ever been to those places? Note that I've been to Per Se - and I didn't think it was as good as the other places I mentioned. And I'm sure that if I listed all the places I've eaten at - I could get into some spirited arguments about my opinions of them with other people who've dined at those places. And - quite frankly - I think that nothing can hold a candle to 3 star French cooking in France in its heyday (which has since passed).

I'm not saying that Alinea isn't perhaps a very good or excellent restaurant. I just think that most people here who are singing its praises are more than a bit over the top (especially when it comes to comparing it with other places that are out there - most of which they've never been to). Robyn

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I'm not saying that Alinea isn't perhaps a very good or excellent restaurant.  I just think that most people here who are singing its praises are more than a bit over the top (especially when it comes to comparing it with other places that are out there - most of which they've never been to).  Robyn

while i certainly respect everyone's right to express and hold their opinion(s), i'd have to agree with robyn on this one. alinea was very good on my one visit this summer - and unique, but i personally could not say that it is the best restaurant in any one category - not even in chicago... that's just my opinion.

ulterior epicure.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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...there is IMO no place better in the US and perhaps the world...

Oh?

You know - I've been pretty reserved about this. I travel more than a fair amount. And eat a fair amount. And I could not even presume to name the best restaurant in the state where I live and travel a lot (Florida) - much less the US - much less the world.

Let's see - in the last couple of years - I've been to and eaten in New York - Texas - California - Illinois - Georgia - Washington - Oregon - Louisiana - Arizona - several provinces in Canada - London. We generally travel a lot more but we took care of my father-in-law in a nursing home here for 3 years before he died a while ago. So we didn't travel as much as usual - and stuck pretty close to home. Have never been to the far east - but we are going this spring. We've had high brow meals - low brow meals - some bad - some good - some fabulous. But it would be silly on my part to name any of the places I've eaten the best - because eating at dozens out of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of best restaurants in the world over the course of several decades doesn't qualify me to make those judgments. Perhaps your experience is more comprehensive than mine (although I seriously doubt that 19 year old Bryan Z's is).

So let's see. I've never been to Alinea. Have you ever been to the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead when Menard was in the Dining Room (he's now the chef at L'Osier in Tokyo) - or Chez Panisse? Just off the top of my head - those are the 2 best meals I've had in the US lately. Although I thought our meals at Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens in London were better. Ever been to those places? Note that I've been to Per Se - and I didn't think it was as good as the other places I mentioned. And I'm sure that if I listed all the places I've eaten at - I could get into some spirited arguments about my opinions of them with other people who've dined at those places. And - quite frankly - I think that nothing can hold a candle to 3 star French cooking in France in its heyday (which has since passed).

I'm not saying that Alinea isn't perhaps a very good or excellent restaurant. I just think that most people here who are singing its praises are more than a bit over the top (especially when it comes to comparing it with other places that are out there - most of which they've never been to). Robyn

Robyn, if you read my post, I did not call Alinea the best restaurant in the US or the world. You took a portion of my statement and quoted it out of context. The full statement is this:

for those that do enjoy the intellectual and artistic aspects of food in addition to the gustatory pleasures of taste and texture and wish to do so in an elegant but comfortable environment, there is IMO no place better in the US and perhaps the world.
I have not been to every great restaurant, although I have been to many. There are others in the US and the world to match it and there may be others in the world that exceed it, but the only one that I have experienced to this effect is El Bulli. While my experience is not totally comprehensive I have dined at many if not most of the top haute cuisine restaurants in the US and quite a few in Europe and elsewhere - enough to have a reasonable sample to base my assertion on. If you noticed my statement was not absolute, simply a strong opinion. Please do not portray it for more than it is. :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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sorry docsconz...

didn't fully read the context from your previous posting... thanks for clarifying... although i still stand by my previous comment.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I'm not saying that Alinea isn't perhaps a very good or excellent restaurant.  I just think that most people here who are singing its praises are more than a bit over the top (especially when it comes to comparing it with other places that are out there - most of which they've never been to).  Robyn

while i certainly respect everyone's right to express and hold their opinion(s), i'd have to agree with robyn on this one. alinea was very good on my one visit this summer - and unique, but i personally could not say that it is the best restaurant in any one category - not even in chicago... that's just my opinion.

ulterior epicure.

UE - I would urge you to give Alinea another shot. I went in May shortly after the opening. I really liked it, but certainly did not think it was the top restaurant in Chicago (and since we apparently need to trot out credentials I've been to all of the top places in Chicago: Tru, Trotters, Everest, Avenues, Spiaggia, etc). I returned in July to find that the restaurant had evolved exponentially both in terms of food and service. My dinner on New Year's Eve was possibly one of the best restaurant meals I've ever had. It keeps getting better and better, which is a pretty scary thought when you consider that they've only been open since May.

To others - I think that it was Doc who said that most detractors have never been to Alinea and I would tend to agree. To rule out visiting a potentially important restaurant (I only say potentially because, again, the place hasn't even been open a year yet) due to a preconceived notion or bias seems silly to me. I'm certainly no fan of vegetarian cuisine, but I was more than willing to give Green Zebra a run. I'm not sure I have a point here. I guess all I'm saying is don't knock it till you tried it.

Edited by jesteinf (log)

-Josh

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While my experience is not totally comprehensive I have dined at many if not most of the top haute cuisine restaurants in the US and quite a few in Europe and elsewhere - enough to have a reasonable sample to base my assertion on. If you noticed my statement was not absolute, simply a strong opinion. Please do not portray it for more than it is.  :smile:

Ditto.

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UE - I would urge you to give Alinea another shot.  I went in May shortly after the opening.  I really liked it, but certainly did not think it was the top restaurant in Chicago (and since we apparently need to trot out credentials I've been to all of the top places in Chicago: Tru, Trotters, Everest, Avenues, Spiaggia, etc).  I returned in July to find that the restaurant had evolved exponentially both in terms of food and service.  My dinner on New Year's Eve was possibly one of the best restaurant meals I've ever had.  It keeps getting better and better, which is a pretty scary thought when you consider that they've only been open since May.

make no mistake - alinea is among my top "must re-visits" in chicago. i won't belabour you all with my "credentials." suffice it to say, i hesitate to judge any restaurant (or anything) based on one experience - and same with alinea. i guess all i meant to say by my previous comment is that, there have been many restaurants that, whether by chance or by true quality, have managed to impress me more on one/a first visit... that's all.

jesteinf - if you are right, that alinea's quality and innovation has only improved since its opening (my visit was in late july), then i am eager to get back and compare experiences.

cheers.

ulterior epicure.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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Completely unbelievable NYE dinner at Alinea last night.  5 hours, 27 courses.  Yellow Truffle was in the house, and you all know what that means... :wink:

I'm on it. But for now, here is a little teaser.

Toast at midnight was done via the Jeroboam (or is it the even larger Mathusalem) sized bottle of Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne. It was Champalicious.

gallery_15603_2329_34926.jpg

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Completely unbelievable NYE dinner at Alinea last night.  5 hours, 27 courses.  Yellow Truffle was in the house, and you all know what that means... :wink:

I'm on it. But for now, here is a little teaser.

Toast at midnight was done via the Jeroboam (or is it the even larger Mathusalem) sized bottle of Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne. It was Champalicious.

gallery_15603_2329_34926.jpg

Damn! Just seeing a pic of Joe holding that big bottle put me in a great mood (and I wasn't even there on NYE)! :smile:

=R=

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New Year's Eve at Alinea

Every year my girlfriend and I do something different for New Year's Eve. Casual party with friends, dressy party with friends, casual dinner with another couple, etc. This year we continued the trend and decided to do a crazy, over the top blow out dinner. After thinking about the location for about 1.4 seconds I was on the phone to Alinea. 9pm, December 31, it was on.

We arrived about 15 minutes early for our reservation since cabs were a bit more plentiful than I was anticipating. So we were brought into the kitchen to say our hellos to ChefG. I think I freaked out Joe C. a bit when I told him a had a message for ChefG from New York (no, not a Sicilian message, just a regular message). He felt a little better when I passed along best wishes from Thomas Keller whom we had met after dinner at Per Se last month. With sighs of relief all around we said our goodbyes and went back to the front waiting area. Our table still not ready, Chris was kind enough to pour a couple of glasses of Lillet for us to enjoy while we waited. This was when YT made his grand entrance.

Our table was ready a few minutes later and we were seated at a lovely 2-top upstairs. Our waiter welcomed us, gave us menus, and then uttered the words that strike fear into the hearts of men, "The Chef was wondering if he could just cook for you?". Hmmm, let me think about that? Oh, fine, twist my arm. We'll take the wine pairings. Thank you very much.

Here began the extravaganza. As I said earlier we had the same Tour menu that BryanZ had on 12/30 (Doc - it looks like you also had several of the dishes we had), and it left me completely speechless several times throughout the meal. I won't go into details on each dish since YT's pictures will tell more than I could ever hope to describe, but some of the highlights (as I remember them) were:

Hot Potato, Cold Potato - This was our first course. Fantastic combinations of texture and temperature. And the big old slice of white truffle on top doesn't hurt either. This just screams, "Welcome. You're in for a hell of ride".

Mango - I screwed this one up and spilled the soy off the top of the "lozenge". I managed to get it back on, but not before I wondered, "How the heck does he come up with this stuff?", which I thought to myself many more times over the course of the night.

Pear - Another exploding ChefG creation. The ball was about twice as big as I thought it would be so I had a little trouble getting it in my mouth. Everyone please remove your minds from the gutter.

Lamb - The combination of the lamb and the pistachios (especially the braised pistachios) was perfect, just perfect.

Idiazabal - The best cheese doodle you've ever had.

Nicoise olive - The frozen olive cookie. The olive flavor wasn't as pronounced as I thought it would be, but it still worked especially as a 13th course.

Yuzu and Yuba - 2 great transitional courses. The yuzu was a nice cold, slightly sour palate cleanser. The yuba was a nice way to start to re-excite the palate and prepare for the second half of the meal. Our version had shrimp, but it looks like Doc had tuna. The shrimp was very nice, but I would have liked to have tried this with Tuna.

Pork - I'm a sucker for pork. This course which also had cornbread on honey was another dish that can only be described as perfect.

It was about at this point that my girlfriend announced she was full. Full? We're just starting the second half of the meal. I told her to rest for a bit. We had a little bit of a break while some flamenco dancers performed, but she was still stuffed. She got up to use the restroom and our waiter asked if everything is ok (since my girlfriend had left an untouched plate, while mine was clean). I told him everything was wonderful, but my tiny girlfriend was getting full. So, she came back and Chris came to our table. He had heard the problem so we had a meeting to decide the strategy for the rest of the meal. He let us know the types of courses that were coming and based on his descriptions my girlfriend decided to opt out of the remaining "substantial" courses and only have the "one bite" courses. However, Chris was not about to let her skip the next course:

Black Truffle, in the center of your table - The centerpiece that night was a black truffle, about the size of 1.5-2 golf balls. The course was a simple, house made tagliatelle in a butter sauce. Chris then took our black truffle and shaved it down to nothing over our two plates. Wow was this good. A bit challenging to eat as the 19th course, but still.

Highlights from the back end of the meal:

Kobe Beef - Not so much for the food, but the wine. A 2000 Domaine de la Solitude "Reserve Secrete" Chateauneuf du Pape. Outstanding wine. Joe, seeing my glass was empty, asked me how I liked it. I told him it was outstanding, at which point he poured me a second glass. Good lord, I don't think we're making it out of here alive.

Gingerbread - The exploding butter was the key to this dish.

Peanut - Nice surprise (and a bit jarring) with the frozen wine under the peanut.

At about 2am we stumbled downstairs to profusely thank ChefG for an unbelievable night. The whole team really went above and beyond to make this a very special evening.

Some final thoughts...

I don't think I've ever laughed so much during a meal while talking to waiters, runners, Chris, Joe, and everyone. Anyone who thinks this restaurant is stuffy just doesn't get it.

Is Alinea the best restaurant in the US? I'm not even going to try to answer that, but

you could make the case.

I know I've said it before, but this place has been open for 8 months. Just think about that.

If a restaurant offers to get you a cab at 2am on New Year's, take them up on it. Walking a few blocks will turn in to more than a few (like 9 or 10).

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Being able to envision and virtually taste what you had is almost as good (but not quite) as having been there that night. The tagliatelle and truffles sound like a fantastic accent and counterpoint to the rest of the evening.

There certainly is no shortage of food on the Alinea Tour. My wife's one complaint is that she is too full on completion of the meal.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The joviality that seems to permeate through everything at Alinea, from the food to the service, really makes this place special. I think jesteinf does a great job of encompassing that throughout his entire post.

I have to give a shoutout to my 93lb g/f who made it all the way through the tour, only faltering on about the last 1/3 of the chocolate (26th) course. She eats with the best of them.

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yt: 5 hours and 27 courses later of a NYE dinner and all we get is one picture of Joe? you've put up some great photos before...are you trying to build anticipation? (no disrespect to Joe...he's got a great 18ft jumper and he's a hell of a rebounder).

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