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[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 4)

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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 3)]

Just booked for April, looking forward to it biggrin.gif Just need Next El Bulli to come through now...


Edited by Mjx Moderator note added. (log)

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Alinea is switching from phone reservations to an on-line ticketing system:

Alinea's Reservation System To Be Replaced With Next-Style E-Tickets, Grant Achatz Says

I wonder if it will be more flexible than the one at Next, which requires the purchase of tables in fixed sizes. Will it still be possible to reserve tables for odd-sized parties? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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I understand Next's and, it looks like, Alinea's position that a restaurant chair has a monetary value, especially at a restaurant that sells out nightly. An odd numbered party means a chair sits empty for one turn, costing the restaurant the profit it would earn if the chair were occupied. From a purely money oriented point of view it makes fiscal sense to only accept even numbered parties that match up to dining room seating. This is especially true for a restaurant that has far more prospective diners wanting reservations than tables available.

But the reservation policy is exclusionary. A solo diner passing through Chicago can not get a reservation. The same for a couple taking a widowed parent out to dinner. No hope, either, for an odd number of friends getting together for a special meal. Simply put, greed trumps hospitality.

There is also the coldness of the web site based reservation system. When I call a restaurant for a reservation, if my desired day or time is not available, we can discuss what is open. The next week or month? An hour earlier or later? Perhaps a waiting list? This is the level service a great restaurant should offer - especially a Michelon three star restaurant such as Alinea. Next's and Alinea's approach seems more like what could be expected from an Appleby's than restaurants of their caliber.

I also mildly object to advancing a restaurant its operating funds. Prepaying for meals is nothing more than a short term, interest free loan. Good if you can get it, I guess.

I hate the arrogance of their system, both the tickets and the requirement for even numbered parties - the we-can-get-away-with-it-so-we-will, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Same as fine dining restaurants that do not accept reservations. A year or two later, the same restaurants are begging for guests to make reservations - a proper comeuppance, for sure.

This wasn't the case at Trio, where Grant was before Alinea. I dined there twice, both times solo as I was on my own - in Chicago on business. Welcomed for both dinners. I phoned for a solo reservation. I paid at the end of the meal. I could suggest that a Grant Achatz conceived menu is best experienced solo - no distractions of conversation and such - total plate by plate focus on the progressive flair, drama and whimsey of Grant's choreographed tour de force.

From a bean counter's point of view there may be everything right with Next's and Alinea's computer based reservation system. For a customer, nothing.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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It isn't clear how similar the Alinea system will be to the one employed by Next.

At the latter it isn't possible to get odd-numbered seating arrangements. All of the tables in the dining room are two-tops or four-tops. The Kitchen Table seats six. In all cases you have to purchase the entire table.

The demand for tickets at Next has been crazy, especially for the El Bulli menu they're currently serving. I'm sure there's still ample demand for seats at Alinea. They've been a destination restaurant from day one, and now that they have three Michelin stars, demand certainly isn't going down.

It would be nice if Alinea could allow odd-numbered seating arrangements. Solo diners or odd-numbered groups would still be pre-paying for their meals - it would just mean one fewer seat filled at that table. We'll see what they decide to do when the new system debuts.

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I'll wait and see what the exact system is like before commenting, but I'll be disappointed if it excludes solo diners, as I think that's the best way to experience the place.


James.

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The Alinea menu has finally been updated on the restaurant's website. It now includes this dish:

LAMB ........?????............!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really want to know what that dish is like.


Edited by Derek J (log)

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Somewhere I saw somebody tweeting about lamb with 60 garnishes, I bet that's it. They seemed awestruck if I remember right.

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The Alinea menu has finally been updated on the restaurant's website. It now includes this dish:

LAMB ........?????............!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really want to know what that dish is like.

They just put up a new video here:

I had an opportunity to have it last month. It's ridiculous. As in good. :)

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Thanks for posting that video! That course is ridiculous. Gloriously ridiculous. I would love to play with all of the components of that dish.

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It's a really unusual course!

A pic here might explain it better:

DSCF1143.jpg

You are told to pick 2-3 things at a time, and you're not supposed to work your way through all of it. The two of us made a good dent into that plate though (Sadly i don't have an after pic!)

It's an interesting concept and good fun :)

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This is going to drive me mad!

I'm going to Chicago next month and I'm trying to get in. I keep checking the website and they still haven't opened up August bookings and it's already the 20th? They mention an online system that will be up shortly but man I would love to go while I'm in Chicago for a couple days.


Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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Does anyone know if they are ever going to release another cookbook? Looking back at this thread and remembering the wonderful meals I have had at the restaurant, there are a lot of dishes (early ones) that didn't make it into the cookbook. I would love to try to recreate some of those early favorite dishes that never made it into print form.

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I'm so disappointed in Alinea's change to the ticketing reservation system. I've had the wonderful opportunity to dine at Alinea maybe 4-5times since its opening and have never had an issue with a reservation in the past, but I've been planning a trip to Chicago at the end of september and I find the lack of info on when September ticket sales will go on sale disappointing. Its much harder to be by a computer to purchase tickets at a specific time compared to a simple phone call.

I completely understand from a business model and the need to cut down on people making reservations to "hold" them for potential clients and such, but it makes it more difficult for loyal, repeat customers to enjoy this fabulous experience.

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I was astounded that I got the call when I was in Chicago to come and have dinner last Sunday. I waited for months for August to open up and I guess they sold out in 17 minutes... I got on the waiting list and they called me at 3 for a 9 o'clock reservation. Of course I jumped on it but 3 different servers mentioned that I would be the last 1 top that they would have because of the new ticket system. Too bad for us solo diners...

Right when you walk in the door, fresh growing grass on the floor and some lemonade glasses floating in the bucket to the right. Setting the mood for the summer menu.

391275_10151357210094908_12081267_n.jpg

This block of ice was set on the table when I sat down. Later the server came and explained that it was a St. Germain cocktail in the ice block, trout roe, kinome and long pepper are in the straw to slurp up.

311856_10151357214864908_209757489_n.jpg

First course was 4 different seafood shellfish preparations. I missed taking a picture of the crab but it was awesome.

A leaf that grows off the coast of Scotland that tastes like oysters just dipped in some mignonette

309206_10151357212909908_1449960418_n.jpg

Lobster claw with carrot and chamomile.

384719_10151357211379908_1270303086_n.jpg

Razor clam, tapioca pearls, soy, mirin, sake, diakon

484023_10151357208639908_198841487_n.jpg

Charred squid, wooly pig, fennel and dried orange.

386982_10151357214279908_622220331_n.jpg

Sun golds, sweet 100's, watermelon, melon ice, bell pepper, basil

423380_10151357214574908_1617172368_n.jpg

Every part of a corn cob, pureed kernels and huitlacoche, charred and dehydrated husk, fried silk.

304852_10151357208864908_1411185478_n.jpg

Otoro tuna, thai banana puree, kaffir lime froth

309247_10151357213424908_1534555177_n.jpg

Charred slab of oak and warm stones with stuffed morels, ramps, asparagus and dates.

312090_10151357212489908_592542502_n.jpg

Forgot to take a picture of the "Hot potato, cold potato" since I knew the dish and always wanted it. Amazing!

So...braised shoulder, roasted belly and loin. Put 3 of the 60 elements in the back on your fork with a bite of lamb to make a combination of flavors.

480091_10151357211094908_542343805_n.jpg

Madness...I couldn't help but think "was it like this before Rome fell?

402028_10151357210834908_906247339_n.jpgLiquid black truffle ravioli, lettuce and parmesan.

I am still tasting this, I swear...so good.

386832_10151357215179908_1728539730_n.jpg

Smoky cinnamon stick with a tempura fried bite of pear and brie.

394495_10151357213199908_1252289505_n.jpg

Different gingers for a palette cleanser.

480020_10151357209429908_1691304404_n.jpg

Blueberries all different ways with Buttermilk sauce and genoise cake. Sorrel tea to be sipped on in the pot below.

394495_10151357208084908_58608215_n.jpg

Edible balloon filled with green apple flavored helium. Hilarious in such a fancy place to hear people talking like chipmunks.

215578_10151357207829908_2003285461_n.jpg

I didn't think they were going to do this for just me a single diner but. Strawberry crumble, sweet frozen peas and dust, chantilly cream, meringues, doughnuts, cotton candy frozen with nitrogen in a white chocolate ball and shattered on the table. I put a good dent in it.

395841_10151357209179908_1578652861_n.jpgBest fine dining meal I've had, amazing.

Thank you Chicago, what a great town.


Edited by ScottyBoy (log)

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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Amazing! Thanks for reporting back!


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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I understand Next's and, it looks like, Alinea's position that a restaurant chair has a monetary value, especially at a restaurant that sells out nightly. An odd numbered party means a chair sits empty for one turn, costing the restaurant the profit it would earn if the chair were occupied. From a purely money oriented point of view it makes fiscal sense to only accept even numbered parties that match up to dining room seating. This is especially true for a restaurant that has far more prospective diners wanting reservations than tables available.

But the reservation policy is exclusionary. A solo diner passing through Chicago can not get a reservation. The same for a couple taking a widowed parent out to dinner. No hope, either, for an odd number of friends getting together for a special meal. Simply put, greed trumps hospitality.

There is also the coldness of the web site based reservation system. When I call a restaurant for a reservation, if my desired day or time is not available, we can discuss what is open. The next week or month? An hour earlier or later? Perhaps a waiting list? This is the level service a great restaurant should offer - especially a Michelon three star restaurant such as Alinea. Next's and Alinea's approach seems more like what could be expected from an Appleby's than restaurants of their caliber.

I also mildly object to advancing a restaurant its operating funds. Prepaying for meals is nothing more than a short term, interest free loan. Good if you can get it, I guess.

I hate the arrogance of their system, both the tickets and the requirement for even numbered parties - the we-can-get-away-with-it-so-we-will, take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Same as fine dining restaurants that do not accept reservations. A year or two later, the same restaurants are begging for guests to make reservations - a proper comeuppance, for sure.

This wasn't the case at Trio, where Grant was before Alinea. I dined there twice, both times solo as I was on my own - in Chicago on business. Welcomed for both dinners. I phoned for a solo reservation. I paid at the end of the meal. I could suggest that a Grant Achatz conceived menu is best experienced solo - no distractions of conversation and such - total plate by plate focus on the progressive flair, drama and whimsey of Grant's choreographed tour de force.

From a bean counter's point of view there may be everything right with Next's and Alinea's computer based reservation system. For a customer, nothing.

BRAVO!!! Well said.

I subjected myself to that ridiculous computer scramble in the early days of Next. Personally I thought there were defects in the food and unexpected glitches in the service. I dined as a solo diner on separate occasions, paying for a two-top each time with the kitchen adjusting the servings for me so I cut them some slack but at $250 - $330 for those solo dinners I thought it was not good value for money.

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