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


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I thought that the beef was one of those dishes where the whole was significantly greater than the sum of its parts. I thought that all components of the dish (the taste/texture of the beef, the melon, the sauce) all needed to be taken together to fully appreciate the dish. I'd like to give more detail, but it's been a couple of months since I at the dish. I think it's important to view a lot of Achatz's dishes this way. If you focus on any one component, you may miss the point. If you take the dish as a whole, you then start to see the whole story.

This runs parallel to Ron's point about the menu. Evaluating a meal at Alinea dish by dish almost misses the point. You really need to take a step back and evaluate the meal as a whole.

-Josh

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

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Ronnie, This was our first visit. A friend was in town for a conference for just a couple of days and wanted to go to Alinea, so we had no choice but to go during anniversary week.

I'm very glad the occasion "forced" itself upon us!

Edited by Midwesterner (log)
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I have a question for Nick Kokonas. I don't mean to disrespect or get personal. If I correctly understand you are the financier for Alinea? I am curious when you knew that you wanted to finance a chef and his concept. This question may have been asked and answered in the past; excuse me if the case. With the success of Alinea, are you looking for any other chef/restaurant business oppurtunities? The reason why I ask is that I think Alinea in the short time of its operation, you have put together an amazing business. From the people, the product, the service, the location, the timing, and the planning. It is truley one of the most amazing restaurant I think anywhere! Especially a restaurant of this level, and all of its demands. So have you noticed this success present in any other up & coming chef/s?

Edited by gaya (log)
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I have a question for Nick Kokonas.  I don't mean to disrespect or get personal.  If I correctly understand you are the financier for Alinea?  I am curious when you knew that you wanted to finance a chef and his concept.  This question may have been asked and answered in the past; excuse me if the case.  With the success of Alinea, are you looking for any other chef/restaurant business oppurtunities?  The reason why I ask is that I think Alinea in the short time of its operation, you have put together an amazing business. From the people, the product, the service, the location, the timing, and the planning.  It is truley one of the most amazing restaurant I think anywhere! Especially a restaurant of this level, and all of its demands. So have you noticed this success present in any other up & coming chef/s?

I don't want to speak for Mr. Kokonas and he may want to elaborate but there is a tremendous amount of information about Alinea and how it came to be here.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Thanks for the kind words Gaya... and Ronnie has pointed you in the right direction.

Chef Achatz and I continually discuss ideas for a number of projects, some of which might actually materialize. I can't imagine working with another chef... in addition to his being a unique and prodigious talent, we also work together very well and have at this point become friends. Were we to embark on another restaurant in the future, I doubt we would need to look too far past Alinea's kitchen for talent.

But who knows... maybe we will someday run across a unique talent that we simply can't ignore.... anything is possible.

Edited by nick.kokonas (log)
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does anyone know how service is set up at alinea? are there servers that have "sections" of a few tables with everyone running food when guests are ready for their next course? it seems to me that with a restaurant full of people enjoying 15-25 courses, many with wine pairings for most of those courses, providing service as flawless as what we received would be a daunting task.... i remember thinking that every FOH person that worked there had probably visited our table. it makes me wonder how many people alinea must employ both in FOH and BOH to execute such a difficult task so well. i was there a little over 4 hours and it seemed to fly by- there didn't seem to be any noticeable delay between any of the courses. i have very little experience with restaurants that feature exclusively multicourse tastings and the execution of this style is fascinating to me!

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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Finally I'm going to Alinea tomorrow night for my one year anniversary and I wondered, is it worth it to arrive there early? Is there a bar? Do they make any interesting house cocktaills or bar snacks? I know the cocktails at WD-50 both complement and rival the quality and uniqueness of the food. (Not so successful at Moto.)

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Finally I'm going to Alinea tomorrow night for my one year anniversary and I wondered, is it worth it to arrive there early? Is there a bar? Do they make any interesting house cocktaills or bar snacks? I know the cocktails at WD-50 both complement and rival the quality and uniqueness of the food. (Not so successful at Moto.)

There is no bar at Alinea

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Finally I'm going to Alinea tomorrow night for my one year anniversary and I wondered, is it worth it to arrive there early? Is there a bar? Do they make any interesting house cocktaills or bar snacks? I know the cocktails at WD-50 both complement and rival the quality and uniqueness of the food. (Not so successful at Moto.)

There is no bar at Alinea

True, but there is a bar next door at Boka. Great meeting place before your meal at Alinea. Although, I would suggest a little temperance in your beverage selection - especially if you are having wine pairings with your meal.

Even though there is no bar, they do serve some house cocktails - Alto Adige Moscato Rosa with Crème de Cassis and Champagne with Quady Vya Vermouth are a couple that I have had, but as part of the wine pairings. They have some hard liquors, but I think mostly digestifs. I think their apertif selection might be light compared to next door.

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does anyone know how service is set up at alinea?  are there servers that have "sections" of a few tables with everyone running food when guests are ready for their next course?  it seems to me that with a restaurant full of people enjoying 15-25 courses, many with wine pairings for most of those courses, providing service as flawless as what we received would be a daunting task.... i remember thinking that every FOH person that worked there had probably visited our table.  it makes me wonder how many people alinea must employ both in FOH and BOH to execute such a difficult task so well.  i was there a little over 4 hours and it seemed to fly by- there didn't seem to be any noticeable delay between any of the courses.  i have very little experience with restaurants that feature exclusively multicourse tastings and the execution of this style is fascinating to me!

San,

Thanks for your nice comments, we are glad you had such a great experience at Alinea!

Chef Achatz felt it appropriate for one of the servers to answer your questions, so I'll share some thoughts on the service questions you brought up.

You're absolutely right – orchestrating the experience on the service side is complex. Organization and foresight are key, as is the structure of the service team.

The restaurant is divided up into three sections that range from 5 to 8 tables each, and there are several servers in each section with different roles, including a captain, front waiter, back waiter and sommelier. In addition to these servers, there is a group of 4-6 food runners who are responsible for transporting all food from the kitchen to the floor of the restaurant. The runners (some of whom are trained chefs) are well-versed in other aspects of service; they will often describe your dishes for you. Because the food runners are not assigned to specific sections of the restaurant, they make appearances at many if not all tables. So it's probably true that you saw a high percentage of the servers on the staff at your table during your meal. It's certainly a team effort – considering the porters serving your coffee, the half-dozen food runners, two hostesses, 10 floor servers, GM Joe Catterson supervising service and frequent appearances on the floor by Nick Kokonas, the front of the house numbers about 20 people. There are about 18 chefs in the kitchen, including Chef Achatz, Sous-chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy, pastry chef Alex Stupak about 10 chefs de partie, and several externs.

One final subject you brought up was the pacing of the meal. This is something that is very important to us – providing a seamless flow through the meal. Again, this is a very tough task, given that th kitchen is sending food out to up to 20 tables at a time, all at different points in their meal. To organize this, we have a front-of-house expeditor acting as an air traffic controller for the approximately 1000 dishes that leave the kitchen each night. There is no POS (our system is too complicated for most applications), so we communicate verbally with the expeditor to let him/her know when a table is cleared and to fire their next course. Chef Achatz supervises this flow on the kitchen side while plating up dishes, and the servers on the floor – primarily the front waiter, captain and sommelier – add a backup by checking on any table experiencing a wait of more than a few minutes. Essentially, it's a question of everyone being aware of every table at every moment. Difficult, but challenging and enjoyable as well.

Joe Ziomek

Asst. Sommelier, Alinea Restaurant

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To add another note on timing... My experiences at Alinea have been long. The last time (anniversary dinner) was five minutes shy of seven hours. I say experience because that is the total time inside the restaurant. The actual time it took to serve (and eat) the 22 courses was five and a quarter hours. This may seem long to most, but I was fine with it, especially since I am usually the last person to finish a dish at our table (read: I eat really slow). I have seen other diners come and leave in under 4 hours, and that's for the standard 26+ courses.

The staff is extremely attentive to diners and once your are done, clean-up occurs and they inform the FOH expeditor, who calls out the next item to prepare. Things that extend your experience at the restaurant are guests with small bladders and those needing a nicotine fix every 30 minutes. Once someone leaves the table, someone has to inform the expeditor, who in turn informs the kitchen which dish needs to stop (or slow down) being prepared. I believe this is known as the "up" calls.

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Please help: I will soon (in about a week) have a chance to dine at Alinea OR Moto. I'm seeking the most sublime experience. The closest I've had to either restaurant is WD-50. Please advise! I particularly appreciate the advice of EGers who have been to both! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

Only 1 reason . . . it isn't in NYC.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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To add another note on timing... My experiences at Alinea have been long. The last time (anniversary dinner) was five minutes shy of seven hours.

Hi yt.

1. If I'm not mistaken, the anniversary menu was around 17 courses? So, that's around 7 or 8 courses less than the usual Tour... so, given that pacing, would you say that a full tour would normally take around 6 1/2 hours, give or take a few? That has been my experience at both of my (full) Tour seatings.

2. Did you take pictures? I did on both of my visits. However, somehow, I don't think that it made that much of a difference in terms of pacing... honestly.

u.e.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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The anniversary menu ended up being 22 courses, not 17 as disseminated in the press.

Overall, the tour has been averaging 3 hours and 40 minutes per table over the last month. Larger groups of 6 or 7 certainly bump that average up, as it is more likely for individuals within the group to take breaks during their meal, either for an outdoor smoke or WC break.

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The anniversary menu ended up being 22 courses, not 17 as disseminated in the press.

Overall, the tour has been averaging 3 hours and 40 minutes per table over the last month.  Larger groups of 6 or 7 certainly bump that average up, as it is more likely for individuals within the group to take breaks during their meal, either for an outdoor smoke or WC break.

And if you go to Alinea with yellow truffle, all bets are off. As was suggested last weekend, if you take him out of the mix, that average probably drops to about 2 hours and 40 minutes :biggrin::raz:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

Only 1 reason . . . it isn't in NYC.

=R=

I know this might not be in the right area,(please direct me to the correct thread if wrong) but imho it is relevant to my earlier query...I was also suprised about the winner for Rising Star Chef-even though he's the chef de cuisine at French Laundry, it's not really his restaurant, it's Keller's, right? Meaning Keller would be the one who determines what the menu is, etc. Am I off base? One thinks of French Laundry as Keller's restaurant, not Corey Yee. Seemed odd to me, that's all, especially with someone like Graham Elliot Bowles in charge of the kitchen, making the menu and cooking full time.

Edited by Elrushbo (log)
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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

Only 1 reason . . . it isn't in NYC.

=R=

I know this might not be in the right area,(please direct me to the correct thread if wrong) but imho it is relevant to my earlier query...I was also suprised about the winner for Rising Star Chef-even though he's the chef de cuisine at French Laundry, it's not really his restaurant, it's Keller's, right? Meaning Keller would be the one who determines what the menu is, etc. Am I off base? One thinks of French Laundry as Keller's restaurant, not Corey Yee. Seemed odd to me, that's all, especially with someone like Graham Elliot Bowles in charge of the kitchen, making the menu and cooking full time.

I understand traditionally the Chef De Cuisine is in charge of the kitchen and usually has a lot of input with the menu if not all of it. Also, If memory serves me right..Bowles is a Chef De Cuisine as well? With the Laundry, Keller isn't there everyday because of his other 4 locations (bouchons and per se). Also, Benno of Per Se was awarded a Best New Chef of Food & Wine. Benno and Lee run there respective locations as an extension of Chef Keller. This is only my guess but Keller probably lets them run the kitchen themselves because he knows they will be running it the way he wants to be ran. I hope that makes sense. :wink:

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

Only 1 reason . . . it isn't in NYC.

=R=

I know this might not be in the right area,(please direct me to the correct thread if wrong) but imho it is relevant to my earlier query...I was also suprised about the winner for Rising Star Chef-even though he's the chef de cuisine at French Laundry, it's not really his restaurant, it's Keller's, right? Meaning Keller would be the one who determines what the menu is, etc. Am I off base? One thinks of French Laundry as Keller's restaurant, not Corey Yee. Seemed odd to me, that's all, especially with someone like Graham Elliot Bowles in charge of the kitchen, making the menu and cooking full time.

I understand traditionally the Chef De Cuisine is in charge of the kitchen and usually has a lot of input with the menu if not all of it. Also, If memory serves me right..Bowles is a Chef De Cuisine as well? With the Laundry, Keller isn't there everyday because of his other 4 locations (bouchons and per se). Also, Benno of Per Se was awarded a Best New Chef of Food & Wine. Benno and Lee run there respective locations as an extension of Chef Keller. This is only my guess but Keller probably lets them run the kitchen themselves because he knows they will be running it the way he wants to be ran. I hope that makes sense. :wink:

If Lee is the one who makes the decisions and is cooking his own distinctive food and not Kellers, then I understand. I wondered because the French Laundry cookbook is by Keller, it's thought of as Keller's place, but if Lee is the one cooking the food every day and Keller is like the one running the business side, I guess it makes sense.

Edited by Elrushbo (log)
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If Yee is the one who makes the decisions and is cooking his own distinctive food and not Kellers, then I understand. I wondered because the French Laundry cookbook is by Keller, it's thought of as Keller's place, but if Yee is the one cooking the food every day and Keller is like the one running the business side, I guess it makes sense.

Elrushbo... it's Cory Lee, not Yee. :wink:

u.e.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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If Yee is the one who makes the decisions and is cooking his own distinctive food and not Kellers, then I understand. I wondered because the French Laundry cookbook is by Keller, it's thought of as Keller's place, but if Yee is the one cooking the food every day and Keller is like the one running the business side, I guess it makes sense.

Elrushbo... it's Cory Lee, not Yee. :wink:

u.e.

Oops, my apologies...

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To add another note on timing... My experiences at Alinea have been long. The last time (anniversary dinner) was five minutes shy of seven hours.

1. If I'm not mistaken, the anniversary menu was around 17 courses? So, that's around 7 or 8 courses less than the usual Tour... so, given that pacing, would you say that a full tour would normally take around 6 1/2 hours, give or take a few? That has been my experience at both of my (full) Tour seatings.

2. Did you take pictures? I did on both of my visits. However, somehow, I don't think that it made that much of a difference in terms of pacing... honestly.

1. As seen in anniversary menu listed up-thread, there were 22 courses for the anniversary week dinners. Shy of average 26, the FOH and kitchen were spot on when it came to getting plates onto our table. At no point in our dinner did we ever wonder when we getting the next course. The lag time was negligible.

22 vs 26: If you look at what has been left out, it is the small bites, intermezzos, palate cleansers, etc., all of which should not take that long to prepare or consume - even by the slowest of diners (me), but your mileage will vary.

2. Of course pictures were taken.

Edited by yellow truffle (log)
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I wonder why Alinea didn't win the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? With all the mega-hype and so many here saying it's already one of the best restaurants in the country despite being in its' infancy, one would think it would have been a lock. I'd like to know what people here think about this.

Only 1 reason . . . it isn't in NYC.

=R=

I know this might not be in the right area,(please direct me to the correct thread if wrong) but imho it is relevant to my earlier query...I was also suprised about the winner for Rising Star Chef-even though he's the chef de cuisine at French Laundry, it's not really his restaurant, it's Keller's, right? Meaning Keller would be the one who determines what the menu is, etc. Am I off base? One thinks of French Laundry as Keller's restaurant, not Corey Yee. Seemed odd to me, that's all, especially with someone like Graham Elliot Bowles in charge of the kitchen, making the menu and cooking full time.

I understand traditionally the Chef De Cuisine is in charge of the kitchen and usually has a lot of input with the menu if not all of it. Also, If memory serves me right..Bowles is a Chef De Cuisine as well? With the Laundry, Keller isn't there everyday because of his other 4 locations (bouchons and per se). Also, Benno of Per Se was awarded a Best New Chef of Food & Wine. Benno and Lee run there respective locations as an extension of Chef Keller. This is only my guess but Keller probably lets them run the kitchen themselves because he knows they will be running it the way he wants to be ran. I hope that makes sense. :wink:

If Lee is the one who makes the decisions and is cooking his own distinctive food and not Kellers, then I understand. I wondered because the French Laundry cookbook is by Keller, it's thought of as Keller's place, but if Lee is the one cooking the food every day and Keller is like the one running the business side, I guess it makes sense.

Corey pretty much decides on the menu every night and so does Devin Knell (Exec Sous). They are still under Keller, but you can differentiate subtle differences between the two chefs who run the pass.

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