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


Lenski
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I had another great dinning experience at "Alinea" last week. I took some pics but I cannot upload them, sorry.

Second time this year for me and, again, an embarrassment of riches. Many new favorites, the tomato dish, with a big block of frozen mozzarella and different variations on tomatoes and a basil sorbet was incredible as was the "dorade."

Among the surprises for me was the tiny chicken liver with vin santo, their take on chinese food ("short rib"), the lobster with mint vapor. Their main dessert "Whole wheat" was spectacular in its simplicity.

Only one dish did not totally convince me--but I was in the minority, so--and that was the duck concoction with chocolate and blueberry. I did not care much for it.

It is mind boggling to witness Chef Achatz dazzling and novel take on different foods. I think this time was my 10th time at Alinea and it just keeps getting better. I honestly do think that this is the number one restaurant in the country by far. (I had another so-so at "Per Se" and I will be at "FLaundry" in December).

On previous occasions I have complained about the service, very competent but never completely satisfying for me. Not last week. Thanks to a very engaging team lead by Jaren, my experience was perfect on all counts.

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Two questions regarding the wine pairing: Is it possible to "split" the wine pairing between 2 people? Or is it rather useless to split because you have barely any wine in your glass then? (I don't know how much they usually pour). Or do they also split in the way that you get half the number of wines each, but the full pour. (And do they charge more for any splitting than for one full pairing?).

And how is it at aliena: are you taken to a bar area first, for an aperetif? If so, do they offer interesting american sparkling wines, as well? (I always like to try regional stuff - Chamapgner is something I can get over here all the time; besides, I heard something about 50$-a-glass-champgne at alinea, which is something I certainly don't need...)

Or is an aperetif-like drink part of the pairing, anyway?

thanks

best

kai

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And how is it at aliena: are you taken to a bar area first, for an aperetif?

If there's a "bar area" at alinea, it's news to me.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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There is no bar area at "Alinea." There are only two banquettes where people sit waiting for their table to be ready.

I think they do wine splitting, but it would be a very, very small tasting. The selection of wines was incredible (expensive, as you can expect there, but worth it).

They offered, I think it was part of their wine pairing, a champagne cocktail-like drink to start off the evening.

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Okay, thank you, UE and Lenski.

Since neither me nor my girflfriend drink very much alcohol (we get distracted too easily from the food with alcohol... :rolleyes: ), we should maybe ask for the other kind of splitting - that is: just half the selection but a regular pairing-pour each.

We'll see

kai

By the way: reading user-reviews of american restaurants Iam more and more surprised how many people stay with water or soft drinks in fine dining restaurants...(something I already noticed on our last trip to L.A. - at Providence, for example, we seemed to be the only ones going for an aperetif and some wine...)

Edited by kai-m (log)
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I think they do wine splitting, but it would be a very, very small tasting.  The selection of wines was incredible (expensive, as you can expect there, but worth it).

They offered, I think it was part of their wine pairing, a champagne cocktail-like drink to start off the evening.

My standard operating procedure at Alinea is to split a wine pairing with my wife, so yes, they do offer it -- for both the standard and the premium pairings. My experience has been that the pours are generous and more than adequate. But that's just me :wink:

=R=

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

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Regarding the duck concoction with chocolate and blueberry, our server remarked to us that it was a hit or miss dish, and people with less Westernized palates seemed more receptive to it. (I'm Asian-American, my fiance is Caucasian, we both enjoyed the dish.)

If you are afraid of having too much to drink, friends of mine have reported that you can ask for them to choose 2-3 glasses of wine for you. And they'll choose ones that go with a few courses in succession.

Have fun, kai-m! We liked it so much, we are already planning our next trip to Chicago. :)

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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By the way: reading user-reviews of american restaurants Iam more and more surprised how many people stay with water or soft drinks in fine dining restaurants...(something I already noticed on our last trip to L.A. - at Providence, for example, we seemed to be the only ones going for an aperetif and some wine...)

That may be true compared to Europe, but that is certainly not my experience. It may be more common at more creative restaurants where people can be more intimidated ordering wine by fear of not ordering the "right" wines. I have always left my fate in the hands of the superb sommeliers at Alinea and have never been disappointed.

One other point - this is not meant to disrespect L.A., but that city should never be used as a model for anything anywhere else in The US. The city is unique in many ways as are its inhabitants. Again, that is not meant as a criticism. Chicago is totally different.

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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Regarding the duck concoction with chocolate and blueberry, our server remarked to us that it was a hit or miss dish, and people with less Westernized palates seemed more receptive to it. (I'm Asian-American, my fiance is Caucasian, we both enjoyed the dish.)

If you are afraid of having too much to drink, friends of mine have reported that you can ask for them to choose 2-3 glasses of wine for you. And they'll choose ones that go with a few courses in succession.

Have fun, kai-m! We liked it so much, we are already planning our next trip to Chicago. :)

Kathryn and Lenski, when you had it, are you sure the meat was duck? When we were served the dish, it was squab. If duck, it would appear that the dish has evolved, which would certainly not be a surprise at the ever-evolving Alinea. I would imagine that it would work equally well, though I don't understand the potential east-west palate dichotomy for this dish.

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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It was definitely duck, a "candy bar" of duck confit, topped by duck tenderloin and duck gizzard, paired with three sauces: onion, hazelnut, and onion top. Some freeze-dried blueberries, as well as pickled blueberries, micro chives, cereal bits, and duck skin.

Our menu:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3276/264858...83a7a6e12_b.jpg

I wasn't too clear on the East-West thing either but he was referring the use of the gizzard, etc. maybe?

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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One other point - this is not meant to disrespect L.A., but that city should never be used as a model for anything anywhere else in The US. The city is unique in many ways as are its inhabitants.

I couldn't help but smile, no: lol at this remark - sounds like a quote from woody allen... :laugh:

Nevertheless I would be thankful if you could elaborate what you mean by that, especially in regards to fine dining...(per PM, if you like...)

By the way: as opposed to many other european tourists, I love L.A.! (And I love NYC, too!)

regards

kai

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One other point - this is not meant to disrespect L.A., but that city should never be used as a model for anything anywhere else in The US. The city is unique in many ways as are its inhabitants.

I couldn't help but smile, no: lol at this remark - sounds like a quote from woody allen... :laugh:

Nevertheless I would be thankful if you could elaborate what you mean by that, especially in regards to fine dining...(per PM, if you like...)

By the way: as opposed to many other european tourists, I love L.A.! (And I love NYC, too!)

regards

kai

I love LA, too, but as a whole it is very different than anywhere else in the US. It has its own vibe as does NYC. NYC's, however, is more easily found in other large metropolitan US cities. As for comments relating to fine dining, I would suggest that there is perhaps a higher proportion of the population into the guise of "healthy living" - at least in public :laugh: than elsewhere in the US. That may be a reason why you sensed a high proportion of fine diners avoiding aperiitifs or wine since alcohol may be associated with an unhealthy lifestyle - rightly or wrongly. Of course, that is not to say that all or even a majority of Angelenos fit that bill. There may, however, be sufficient numbers to leave that impression.

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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It was definitely duck, a "candy bar" of duck confit, topped by duck tenderloin and duck gizzard, paired with three sauces: onion, hazelnut, and onion top. Some freeze-dried blueberries, as well as pickled blueberries, micro chives, cereal bits, and duck skin.

Our menu:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3276/264858...83a7a6e12_b.jpg

I wasn't too clear on the East-West thing either but he was referring the use of the gizzard, etc. maybe?

This was clearly a different dish than the one I was alluding to and one I didn't have.

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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  • 4 weeks later...
Wow. 

Last night, I had my first alinea experience.  I don't really have a lot to add verbally, other than "wow," but I do have pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29434392@N05/...57606676195583/

I think the Black Truffle Explosion changed my life.

Do you have any details on the alaskan king crab dish?

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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Mike: Interesting to read that you found some of the dishes in the large "tour" too "rich" - it looks rich, indeed, and they should work on this. (Confirms my decision to go for the tasting - I hate it when I can't really enjoy some courses anymore and leave a restaurant feeling too full...)

Can't wait... :smile:

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Wow. 

Last night, I had my first alinea experience.  I don't really have a lot to add verbally, other than "wow," but I do have pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29434392@N05/...57606676195583/

I think the Black Truffle Explosion changed my life.

Do you have any details on the alaskan king crab dish?

It was delicious... basically fairly large chunks of crab, with a "sheet" of what I'm sure was more than just plain butter, small pieces of popcorn, and baby corn. Our server presented it as "things that go with butter." The cube in the middle was some sort of citrus gelee, possibly meyer lemon? Oh, and there were also mushrooms, and certainly some things I'm forgetting. It was absolutely delicious though, even though it was super rich.

Edited by MikeHartnett (log)
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Wow. 

Last night, I had my first alinea experience.  I don't really have a lot to add verbally, other than "wow," but I do have pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29434392@N05/...57606676195583/

I think the Black Truffle Explosion changed my life.

Do you have any details on the alaskan king crab dish?

It was delicious... basically fairly large chunks of crab, with a "sheet" of what I'm sure was more than just plain butter, small pieces of popcorn, and baby corn. Our server presented it as "things that go with butter." The cube in the middle was some sort of citrus gelee, possibly meyer lemon? Oh, and there were also mushrooms, and certainly some things I'm forgetting. It was absolutely delicious though, even though it was super rich.

Thank You. That dish looked awesome and I wanted to know what all the tiny components were.

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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I felt very full, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

And "very rich" is quite different from "too rich." Very rich means it was delicious, and richly so. Too rich means they pushed it too far and I didn't enjoy it, which I most certainly did.

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Wow. 

Last night, I had my first alinea experience.  I don't really have a lot to add verbally, other than "wow," but I do have pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29434392@N05/...57606676195583/

I think the Black Truffle Explosion changed my life.

Do you have any details on the alaskan king crab dish?

It was delicious... basically fairly large chunks of crab, with a "sheet" of what I'm sure was more than just plain butter, small pieces of popcorn, and baby corn. Our server presented it as "things that go with butter." The cube in the middle was some sort of citrus gelee, possibly meyer lemon? Oh, and there were also mushrooms, and certainly some things I'm forgetting. It was absolutely delicious though, even though it was super rich.

Thank You. That dish looked awesome and I wanted to know what all the tiny components were.

Ndy, it was awesome. Let me know if you'd like details on anything else.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We went to Alinea last night for our first anniversary. They are obviously still clicking on all cylinders. Food and service are still unmatched in Chicago.

What I think bears mentioning is the bread program. I haven't been to Alinea in about a year and a half. The last time I was there I think they were just starting to do their own breads in house. That program is now fully mature and a number of our courses last night had bread pairings. The breads really stand up to the creativity of the dishes they are paired with (for example, an oolong tea bagel paired with a short rib/Guiness dish). One of the more inspired pairings was with a dish built around "things that go well with butter". The dish had lobster, corn, popcorn and a few other elements. The bread pairing? Toast. Fantastic.

We also got a peak at the Alinea cookbook. It is absolutely stunning. I'll be ordering a copy, and I have absolutely no plans to even attempt to cook anything out of it.

-Josh

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

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