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Lenski

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

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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.

I recently had a truly outstanding dinner at Alinea; I'll try to comment more on the food later, but I have to say I was not impressed by the bread. The bread-food pairings were thoughtful in terms of flavors, but almost every piece of bread had the same dense, uniform crumb: not my sort of thing.

Again, I mention this as a minor stumble in an otherwise virtuoso meal.


---

al wang

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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.

Agree except I wish they wouldn't slice their house made bread by machine....sliced like a loaf of white american bread. To me, the best bread in Chicago is served at L20 (also house made).

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I like the bread at Alinea, though I don't eat much of it. I don't go there for the bread.


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 would just as soon they not have bread, though I know others feel differently.


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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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.

Agree except I wish they wouldn't slice their house made bread by machine....sliced like a loaf of white american bread. To me, the best bread in Chicago is served at L20 (also house made).

They dont, they slice it by hand...but most of their bread are individual sized anyways....

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Any possible chance that any of you are dining at Alinea either Friday or Sunday evening (10th or 12th) and you have a extra seat at your table?

:-) I was a dolt and waited too long to call and inquire about a reservation for one. I might have to wait until Friday daytime and just call to nab a cancellation, if one comes up.

Take care,

Andrea


"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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I had dinner at Alinea tonight for the first time on the occasion of my girlfriend and best friend turning 30 in the same week. We went all out - the tour with every delicious drop of wine in the house. And some coffee. And champagne. And possibly some campari on the rocks.

I would say that 22 of the 26 courses were absolutely perfect in every way. 3 out of 26 were good, but not preferred by my palette (personal preferences are always an influence) and 1 of the 26 was just downright icky - bad texture, too briny and not indicative of the flavors presented therein. I will not divulge which course this was so as to not influence other diners.

Was it worth the $800+gratuity that i paid? ABSOLUTELY.

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For a change, I will give a foreigner's view of Alinea...

We visited Alinea on our Chicago trip as one of our two "fine dining" nights in Chicago (the other was Moto, write up follows...).

But actually I don't think that the old-fashioned term "fine dining" does justice to Alinea - Alinea is, as many here know, rather an overall "experience" than a mere "dinner". And I mean that in the best sense. To put it in one sentence: our evening at Alinea was, in my opinion, the best dinner of our 3 1/2 week tour through the US...(my fiancee liked LA's "Providence" better).

I won't give a dish by dish account of the menu, since many dishes have been discussed before - and because I don't really think that the Alinea experience is about individual dishes.

To me, it is about the overall experience -the mixture of a nearly flawless, ballet-like service, the reduced, Zen-like and atmospheric interieur design, a very "concentrated", yet surprisingly relaxed and funny staff and, of course, the unusual dishes.

Even though I really have a hard time remembering most of the dishes we had, I found the whole experience just wonderful - it was like we didn't want it to stop...which shows once again that you just cannot separate the food from all the other factors in a dining experience.

Sure, the servers might (to some) seem "intrusive" or "self important" at times, interrupting a conversation to explain the next course or talking endlessly about the wine. But if you know this in advance, it can be part of the fun – to us, it was!

We had the "Tasting", which amounted to 18 "bubbles" on the printed menu we were given at the end.

I had the upgraded wine pairing and the only irritation of the evening was that the sommelier was reluctant to split the pairing for my fiancee and me – he just offered to give her a "pour" of each wine. In he end this was okay since my fiancee doesn't drink much wine (and prefers red) and I ended up drinking her "pours" as well on many courses. Still, it was a bit strange service-wise. (But apart from that the sommelier is a really nice and cool guy!)

But to talk a bit more detailed about the food: Most of the dishes tasted really good, but only 5 were truly "outstanding":

"Celery, pork belly, shiso, sudachi"

"Wagyu, maitake, date, bliss elixir"

"Rhubarb, ginger, basil"

"Strawberry, violet, olive"

"Sorrel, honey, fennel, poppy seeds"

These dishes were original, innovative and – had a lot of taste. Really some of the best I ever had. But maybe it says something about Alinea's cuisine that 3 of the 5 are "one biters".

Many other dishes, especially the "bigger" courses, didn't leave such a lasting impression, taste-wise. They were all good to very good, of course, but not as memorable.

There was even one glitch, namely that the "Lamb, potato, sunflower, sweet spice" course was barely lukewarm – but this was the weakest course anyway, mostly because the potoato-chip-like-"sculpture", in which the lamb was wrapped, was totally trivial and distracted way too much from the rest.

The "Duck, foie gras, mole flavors" course, on the other hand, would have made my top-list, but it was so intense and rich that it would have been better as a 1- or 2-biter. The size that it was, so late in the menu, it lost impact.

Same with the "whole wheat, almond, apricot, chervil" dessert – very nice, but way to rich (and not so well balanced: the whole wheat was way too much in relation to the other ingredients)

The hot potato/cold potato was very good, as well, but maybe I expected too much after reading so much about it – it left me underwhelmed (but the "hot" potato was only lukewarm, so maybe the dish didn't work as well as it should/could.)

And after looking into Achatz' cookbook I think that with some dishes there is a discrepancy between the amount of work that goes into the preparation and the effect/taste of the final product (the "transparency" would be an example).

Anyway, what I want to say with those critical points is that even though not all dishes at Alinea are "great", I think that Alinea is a great restaurant, for the reasons given above.

Upon analyzing the menu afterwards, one could even come to the conclusion that Alinea's cuisine, especially given the price, is not as good as so many people say. But somehow these guys work magic – and it makes one (or me, at least) want to go back as soon as possible...

greetings

kai


Edited by kai-m (log)

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Does anyone know if Alinea is doing anything special for this New Year's Eve?

Any advice or knowledge would be greatly appreciated! :smile:

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Does anyone know if Alinea is doing anything special for this New Year's Eve?

Any advice or knowledge would be greatly appreciated!  :smile:

as far as i know they are closed for new years. sorry

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Siiiiiigh...my dreams of Alinea die, yet again... Now I need another special occasion lol!

Thanks for the info!


Edited by lhollers (log)

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My last 2008 dinner at Alinea

gallery_47955_6101_147764.jpg

It was another incredible experience. I had the Tour with the "truffles" supplement ($65), which was good but very traditional, and it cannot be compared to the regular Chef Achatz mind blowing menu.

I think the restaurant just keeps improving. You have to see it to believe it. It was also my most expensive meal there ($600 per person) but worth it.

l

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Heading to Alinea on Friday for the Tour. What do people recommend for wine? Are the pairings the way to go and does anyone have a 2009 price?

Many thanks!

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I would highly recommend the wine pairings. You can "upgrade" if you want, but I don't really think that's necessary (unless you are super into wine and want to go all out).

Also, the last couple of times I've been I've done "split" wine pairings (no full pours). I've really enjoyed doing this since it leaves more room for food and my head stays a bit clearer throughout the whole meal.


-Josh

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

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I would highly recommend the wine pairings.  You can "upgrade" if you want, but I don't really think that's necessary (unless you are super into wine and want to go all out). 

Also, the last couple of times I've been I've done "split" wine pairings (no full pours).  I've really enjoyed doing this since it leaves more room for food and my head stays a bit clearer throughout the whole meal.

I recommend the wine pairing too - it definitely enhanced the meal. I think splitting it is so smart. I was beyond full before the Tour was over and I attribute that somewhat to the wine. I'd take food over wine any day!

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Quick question: Does Alinea close for long over Christmas/New Year? I'll be in Chicago in late December 2009/early 2010, and I may have to plan my flights accordingly...

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They did this year. They closed on December 21st (Sunday) and opened, I believe, on January 5th.

I am not sure if they do it every year (I think I have been there closer to the NY, but I cannot tell for sure).

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Re: Splitting wine pairings - I have the impression that they don't do the splitting for everyone. With a friend of mine, who was there in late 2008, they were very reluctant to do it. And he even had the upgraded pairing.

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my wife and i had the same issue the last time we went (early 2007) and considered it the one and only flaw in either of our 2 experiences there. since reading that they may now allow it, we now plan to go back as soon as we can save enough money


Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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san: I don't think that this a question of "before they didn't do it and now they might". I think they always did it and always will - depending on who you are...

greetings

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I've only been there a couple of times, but it really didn't seem like that kind of place- it may have just been a simple miscommunication.


Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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san: I don't think that this a question of "before they didn't do it and now they might". I think they always did it and always will - depending on who you are...

With all due respect, I don't believe that for a minute. It's possible that their policy varies, depending on certain (unknown to us) factors. But since the Alinea people are known to read these forums and are likely well-aware that this issue is discussed here and elsewhere, it seems unlikely to me they would be selective in how they offer the pairings. That just doesn't add up, given how public nearly every aspect of this restaurant now is. I could be wrong and it wouldn't be the first time but I'm guessing there's a much more obvious explanation about the split pairings and how they are offered.

=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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san: I don't think that this a question of "before they didn't do it and now they might". I think they always did it and always will - depending on who you are...

With all due respect, I don't believe that for a minute. It's possible that their policy varies, depending on certain (unknown to us) factors. But since the Alinea people are known to read these forums and are likely well-aware that this issue is discussed here and elsewhere, it seems unlikely to me they would be selective in how they offer the pairings. That just doesn't add up, given how public nearly every aspect of this restaurant now is. I could be wrong and it wouldn't be the first time but I'm guessing there's a much more obvious explanation about the split pairings and how they are offered.

=R=

agreed. like i said it was likely a simple miscommunication.


Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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