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[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 3)


Lenski
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Nishla, great post and pics. Oh man, it has been too long. I really need to go back soon.

FYI, May 5th is the restaurant's third anniversary. Being that it is a Monday, they will probably be closed. I am really curious to see what they up their sleeve around this time.

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Nishla, great post and pics. Oh man, it has been too long. I really need to go back soon.

FYI, May 5th is the restaurant's third anniversary. Being that it is a Monday, they will probably be closed. I am really curious to see what they up their sleeve around this time.

Actually, their anniversary is May 4th. :wink:

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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Nishla, great post and pics. Oh man, it has been too long. I really need to go back soon.

FYI, May 5th is the restaurant's third anniversary. Being that it is a Monday, they will probably be closed. I am really curious to see what they up their sleeve around this time.

Actually, their anniversary is May 4th. :wink:

Of course it is. My mistake. I think that you would know John, since it is your birthday. Have fun with your xx (enter age here) courses. :biggrin:

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Nishla, great post and pics. Oh man, it has been too long. I really need to go back soon.

FYI, May 5th is the restaurant's third anniversary. Being that it is a Monday, they will probably be closed. I am really curious to see what they up their sleeve around this time.

Actually, their anniversary is May 4th. :wink:

Of course it is. My mistake. I think that you would know John, since it is your birthday. Have fun with your xx (enter age here) courses. :biggrin:

It has been waaaay too long since I have been back! I'm looking forward to it and these recent reports have only whet my appetite the more.

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 have been following all those great reports about Alinea and if all works out I will make it there this coming september.

There is just one thing I would like to say and which I hope does not seem "heretical":

The "Tour" consists of, like, 24 courses. Sounds amazing - thus the price.

But as it seems to me, many of those "courses" are just one small bite or one tiny praline or something like that. Isn't it a bit, well, how shall I say - silly to count that a "course"?

It's as if a "classic" restaurant would count every single element of the numerous amuses bouches & the sorbet between fish and meat & the pré-dessert & every single piece of the petits fours as a "course" - which would quickly turn every regular 7-course-tasting-menu into a 20-course-tour-de-force...

Or do I get something wrong here?

Edited by kai-m (log)
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Kai-m, the tour at Alinea does not necessarily provide more food or more food elements than other 3 star restaurants, though there is plenty of food. It is like elBulli in that by presenting each element separately, it allows one to focus on that particular element, heightening the experience, by reducing the clutter and the confusion. Some courses are little bites, while others are more substantial. No course is as large as an a la carte course at a traditional three star, but the accumulation works beautifully, especially over the time allotted. It also allows for more focused and better wine pairings.

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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Of course, docsonz.

I just wanted to express that in fact, when it comes to the seemingly incredible number of courses, Alinea is not as different from "regular" *-restaurants, as it seems.

On the one hand I find it really appropriate that they grant a tiny bite as much "attention" as a larger plate.

On the other hand, I don't know, it feels a bit...pretentious (?).

But maybe I have to experience it to fully understand it. (Can't wait...)

Edited by kai-m (log)
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Of course, docsonz.

I just wanted to express that in fact, when it comes to the seemingly incredible number of courses, Alinea is not as different from "regular" *-restaurants, as it seems.

On the one hand I find it really appropriate that they grant a tiny bite as much "attention" as a larger plate.

On the other hand, I don't know, it feels a bit...pretentious (?).

But maybe I have to experience it to fully understand it. (Can't wait...)

While it certainly could be done in a pretentious manner, Alinea, like elBulli, manages to avoid that. There is simply too much humor and real creativity to be pretentious. It comes off not so much as a temple, but a magic show for the senses.

Edited by docsconz (log)

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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While it certainly could be done in a pretentious manner, Alinea, like elBulli, manages to avoid that. There is simply too much humor and real creativity to be pretentious. It comes off not so much as a temple, but a magic show for the senses.

Perfectly put. The Tour at Alinea is really not "regular" in any sense. The smaller courses are as mind-blowing and full of remarkable detail as the larger plates (and in fact were some of my favorites of the night). I only wished I had seen the construction of some of the dishes, because I know that a lot of technique was not obvious in just seeing the end result. Really, a phenomenal experience.

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I'm the sort of diner who finds the slabs of duck, bacon, and foie gras plopped down on your table at Au Pied de Cochon to be miraculous food, and steamed clam juice dripping off my elbows is a sign that I am in bliss. Thus I had my own worries about pretension before my meal at Alinea: the full tour plus wine pairings.

As Doc wrote, I needn't have worried. One of the remarkable things about Alinea is the manner in which such thoughtfully refined food becomes part of a wonderful meal. It isn't pretentious theatre at all. Quite the opposite: all of the folks with whom we interacted found a terrific balance between doing their jobs and talking with us about our experience. Finally, if you do the pairings, your first sip will wipe away any concerns that this is about anything other than a lot of talented people trying to make your mouth as happy as it can possibly be.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, everyone. I also wrote a profile on Grant for Men’s Vogue, which was just published online. (It was supposed to run in the August issue.) The New Yorker profile is awesome, of course, but here’s what I came up with, in case you’re interested. I think it adds some interesting details, especially about Grant’s reaction to his sickness and how he copes in the kitchen.

http://jjgoode.com/writings/profile-grant-achatz

Also, here's another long, interesting profile in Chicago Magazine:

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/June-2008/Burned

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Nice, JJ! Here's another good article on Chef Achatz and Alinea from Chicago magazine.

I had another outstanding dinner there this past Saturday night. I will write it up when I get a chance.

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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Nice, JJ! Here's another good article on Chef Achatz and Alinea from Chicago magazine.

I had another outstanding dinner there this past Saturday night. I will write it up when I get a chance.

Thanks for the article, it was very interesting and well-written.

At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since. ‐ Salvador Dali

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Nice, JJ! Here's another good article on Chef Achatz and Alinea from Chicago magazine.

I had another outstanding dinner there this past Saturday night. I will write it up when I get a chance.

Thanks for the article, it was very interesting and well-written.

It is a very good article, but the one from Chicago Magazine that JJ linked to, "Burned", is outstanding. Chef Achatz was one of my heroes before his ordeal. He is an unbelievable human being in so many ways.

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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My wife and I and some good friends flew out to Chicago for a weekend of fun and food. The principle objective of the trip was to dine at Alinea for my birthday, which happens to coincide with the anniversary of the restaurant's opening. Unfortunately to start the meal on my birthday this year was impractical since that day fell on a Sunday and I had to work on Monday. Besides, I wanted to spend my actual birthday with my family. The next best thing was to start dinner on the 3rd and have the Tour, which would extend into the fourth.

We came to Alinea from The Violet Hour, where we had some fantastic cocktails. On our way into the restaurant, we ran in to Nick Kokonas, the man who along with Grant Achatz, was primarily responsible for making Alinea a reality. I hadn't met him in person previously, so I was particularly pleased to meet him then.

As we entered the restaurant, all but one of us had been to Alinea previously. We let our friend who hadn't been there before go in first. I still find that to be the coolest entrance to any restaurant that I know.

Waiting for us at the table at Alinea were Ronnie Suburban and his lovely wife. They were to have joined us at TVH, but couldn't make it there in time. For the rest of the evening, Ronnie and I engaged in dueling cameras as we each photographed every course put in front of us. :laugh: Our table was in the far corner of the front room on the second level.

The meal started with a bang. Along with a cocktail of Louis Roederer Brut with Roussanne, spiced mead and Curacao we had:

gallery_8158_5964_112832.jpg

Steelhead Roe, coconut, lime, vanilla fragrance

This dish was attached to the largest and most fragrant vanilla beans that I have ever come across. I thought I had experienced sensational vanilla beans in Kerala, India during a visit to a spice plantation (and I did), but these were simply perfect. The fragrance is one that I can't really get enough of. The overall balance was wonderful, providing an outstanding beginning to the meal.

Alinea is know for its unusual serving utensils. The next one continued the theme of the vanilla pod:

gallery_8158_5964_7685.jpggallery_8158_5964_40620.jpg

Lemongrass, oyster, sesame, yuzu

Like the vanilla pod preceding it, the lemongrass was present to provide aroma and flavor by close association. It was not eaten. The Asian flavors enhanced the oyster nicely. The cocktail kept us for this as well as the next course.

Chef Achatz not only is a master of using and combining non-intuitive ingredients into a cohesive whole, his visual aesthetic is extraordinary.

gallery_8158_5964_56641.jpg

Yuba, shrimp, miso togarashi

This dish continued the thread Asian influence, particularly Japanese, that is so clearly integral to much of what Chef Achatz does - beautiful and delicious.

The next dish was one of my favorites of the evening. It was paired with Alois Lageder Moscato Giallo "Vogelmair," Alto Adige 2006.

gallery_8158_5964_42138.jpg

gallery_8158_5964_56865.jpg

White Asparagus, licorice vinegar, honey, meyer lemon

Though the plate was not particularly colorful, flavor danced on the palate. The texture of the asparagus was perfect as was the balance of acid and sweet.

gallery_8158_5964_59877.jpg

Spring Garlic, parsley, lemon, chicken

This was a lovely bite.

to be continued...

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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...more...

All wines from Australia and New Zealand come from grapes that originated elsewhere. One I wasn't previously aware of being grown in Australia is the verdelho grape (verdejo in Spanish). The next couple of courses were served with Fonthill "Sea Air" Verdelho, McLaren Vale, S. Australia 2006..

gallery_8158_5964_55439.jpg

gallery_8158_5964_45730.jpg

Ice Fish, shellfish, horseradish, parsley

To be honest, I did not find this dish to be particularly memorable.

gallery_8158_5964_24142.jpg

Green Almond, sweet, hot, sour, salty

I guess I am simply not a big fan of green almonds as this was perhaps my least favorite dish of the evening. I also did not particularly enjoy the green almond dish I had last year on my birthday at elBulli. I wouldn't say that either dish was bad, but then again, I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about them either.

gallery_8158_5964_36574.jpg

Short Rib, Guiness, peanut, fried broccoli

Back on track.

The last dish and the next were served with Paolo Bea Montefalco Riserva "Pipparello", Umbria 2003.

gallery_8158_5964_19206.jpg

Though Alinea was designed and generally is everchanging, Grant Achatz has developed and maintains a few signature dishes. This is one:

gallery_8158_5964_73027.jpg

Hot Potato, cold potato, black truffle, butter

What can I say? This has always been and probably always will be awesome.

gallery_8158_5964_22947.jpg

Carrot, smoked paprika, orange

Excellent balance and flavor.

The next wine:

gallery_8158_5964_28055.jpg

Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spätlese, Herrmann Donnhoff, Nahe 2006

The next dish:

gallery_8158_5964_37055.jpg

Pork Belly, smoked paprika, polenta, pickled vegetables

One of our party noted that our pedestals were empty and informed our waiter. He corrected the "mistake" by bringing full pedestals for our dining pleasure. :wink: These were gooood!

This was a large meal, so I will take another hiatus before continuing at a later time...

Edited by docsconz (log)

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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Doc:

Can't wait to see more of the menu, which, of course, has changed since I ate there with Chris, Dave, and Janet late last fall. (You were of course blessed with your own dining companions, Ron and Julie. The smartest and the nicest.)

That meal was the greatest in my life, and my way more experienced companions agreed. I look forward to the rest of your dinner.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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This was a large meal, so I will take another hiatus before continuing at a later time...

John. Thanx for sharing. Can't wait for more. Interested in the centerpiece item. Was there one? Interesting that you mentioned signature dish. I don't think that ever changed since it was first introduced. Solid.

Edited by yellow truffle (log)
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Doc, sorry, a couple more things. What made the 'Green Almond'  "sweet, hot, sour, salty?" As for the Lemongrass, how was it presented to you? Looks like a wood pedestal. And ooh, another chicken on the menu.

I don't really recall the details of the almond dish besides the fact that it didn't particularly register in a positive fashion with me - at least not compared to the other dishes. Sorry.

As for the lemongrass, it was pinned to a wooden pedestal with a very thin, barely visible pin.

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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Also, was there bread service? I understand they are able to do their own bread in house.

There was indeed bread service with specific breads paired with particular courses or sets of courses. Being that there was so much food, I really didn't concentrate on the bread, though. I believe Ronnie took photos of the bread and he may have a better handle on that. While the bread service was very good, in my mind it doesn't really add enough to the Alinea experience and takes gastric room away from all the other amazing dishes.

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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