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inventolux

Moto Restaurant - Chicago

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Thanks, Rob. Much appreciated. For whatever reason, my search at Tribune on "Cantu" returned no results.

It doesn't take a rising-star chef, a foodie wife who loves to entertain, a set decorator and a $100 budget to create a deliciously romantic dinner tableaux -- but it doesn't hurt

"My kitchen at the restaurant is like Legos," says Homaro Cantu, the executive chef at Moto. "Everything is mobile to accommodate any ideas we have. You always have to be willing to change things up."

=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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One of my best friends called me today to tell me that there has just been a HUGE article in one of the UK broadsheets about Moto.

She called and said "There's an article about edible menus and some restaurant in Chicago. It looks totally fantastic and I'm sure it's one of those places you've been telling me about"

We're just doing a search to find out where it was. I'll post a link as soon as I can.

Moto goes global...:-)


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Going to chicago on april 4th for business.. I am extending my trip till the end of the weekend almost entirely to try this place.. Firday the 9th i have moto and then tru on the 10th.. I will bring back some photos.

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Going to chicago on april 4th for business..  I am extending my trip till the end of the weekend almost entirely to try this place.. Firday the 9th i have moto and then tru on the 10th.. I will bring back some photos.

I had one of the greatest meals of my life at Tru last night. You will not be disappointed. As for moto, I am eager to try it but my attempts to go there keep misfiring :sad:

And yes, pictures are always appreciated :smile:

=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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moto receives a very nice mention in the April 4, on-line version of Time Magazine:

Cantu, 28, rarely lets any item linger on the menu for long, preferring to try new ideas like soy paper disks that look and taste like sushi and whole carbonated grapes that fizz when you pop them into your mouth (he calls them "champagne"). Lately he has been experimenting with food levitation. By injecting helium into froths and zapping smaller substances with an ion-particle gun, he hopes someday to float plate-free meals above the dining-room table.

The Tech Chef

=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 just read through this entire thread--then promptly made reservations for next month when we'll be in Chicago for a wedding. I don't know if my meat-and-potatoes husband will be able to handle food levitation, but it will be fun to watch him try. :raz:

As a side note, I see a cocktail list for their lounge on their website...is the lounge completely separate from the restaurant? No one has mentioned whether it follows the same philosophy with its cocktails...

Has anyone tried it?


Challah back!

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nice write up in art culinaire this month!


"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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Some more nice "ink" for moto from the mainstream media; NBC's Chicago affiliate, WMAQ television:

"I just like to do new things," Cantu said. "If I had it my way, we'd have a lot more lab equipment and a couple of NASA scientists working in there. but that all takes time and money."

Special Report: Scientific Chef

=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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An interesting story about moto appears in the Business section of today's Chicago Tribune:

Homaro Cantu's reading list, peppered with titles like Popular Mechanics and New Scientist, strays far from the culinary texts preferred by most chefs.

But Cantu isn't most chefs.

He's using Moto, his elegant River West restaurant, as a high-tech lab that may produce spinoff products in areas ranging from print advertising to battlefield dining.

Spinoffs from the kitchen? Chef's offbeat dishes spark product ideas

=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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Just made my reservations for July 29th. I am sooo excited!!


Patti Davis

www.anatomyofadinnerparty.com

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Todays LA Times (May 11, 2005) in a "Column One" article entitled "Tonight's Special Is Paper" does a great description of Chef Cantu's art in the kitchen. It seems that Chef Grant may be the most creative, but not the only exceptional artist in the Heartland. Read it. it's fun. (sub required)

Da Captain


Captain Hongo

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Thanks, Captain.

For those who are interested, here is the link to the article mentioned above:

Tonight's Special Is Paper (free subscription required)

Deep in the basement of Moto restaurant, owner and executive chef Homaro Cantu is methodically filling medical syringes with 50 cc of chocolate sauce and shooting the mixture into colorful balloons.

Across the way, a sous-chef grabs a plastic foam box filled with liquid nitrogen, the white smoke billowing out. Nearby, another chef carefully feeds sheets of soybean paper into a Canon i560 inkjet printer, printing out pictures of maki rolls . . .

=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 had dinner at Moto this week: the 16-course Grand Tour Moto (GTM). It was grand fun.

I'll try to post a full report later, but I want to mention two surprises based on this thread:

1. There were no clunkers. Reading this thread, I expected a few courses that simply didn't work. While some courses were better than others, everything was good.

2. The wine pairing was excellent. Someone in this thread commented that the wine pairing wasn't that good. And I generally expect wine pairings to be only okay. This was one of the better wine pairings that I have had. (My wife and I shared a pour, which is really the way to do a wine pairing with a 16-course meal.)

More later.

Bruce

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I took my wife and two eldest sons to Chicago this weekend for a culinary blowout. The two restaurants I chose for this were Moto and Alinea (more on that later)

Getting to Moto on Friday night was an adventure. Our flight was supposed to arrive in Chicago by 6:20 PM Chicago time to allow for an 8:30 reservation. When we got to the airport we discovered that our flight wouldn't leave until after 7PM EST - about two hours late! :angry: . When I discovered this I immediately called the restaurant to let them know. They couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. We pushed back the reservation to the vicinity of 9:30 PM CST. We were fortunate that after we arrived at O'Hare the traffic into the city wasn't too bad. We actually were able to get to our hotel, check in, briefly freshen up and hightail it in a taxi to Moto by 9:45! :smile: It was nice to finally be able to sit down and relax.

Due to the lateness of the hour and our level of exhaustion we opted for the ten course progression.

The Sushi cartoon was a juxtoposition of the familiar and the novel. The flavors werre familiar and good while the presentation was completely novel and fun.

Champagne and Opah was a delicious invention and nicely matched with Jurtschitsch Sonnhof "Gruve" Gruner Veltliner 2003 from Kampal, Austria..

In a discussion with Chef Cantu we discovered that the French Onion soup with "frozen-hot" crouton did not work quite as intended. I couldn't figure out what he meant by "frozen-hot" after having eaten the dish, although once again the presentation was quite dramatic and as always fun. Apparently we shuld have eaten the crouton straight away to experience the sensation of the nitrogen. We hadn't and thereby missed this ephemeral effect. This was probably the one flaw in the service that we encountered as this aspect could have and should have been better instructed. Without that the course was probably my least favorite of the progression, although the wine pairing with the Terre Firme 2003 Albarino was simply sensational and for me salvaged the course.

A brief side-note: I wholeheartedly agree with Schneier's comments on the wine pairings. They were uniformly superb and in most cases outstanding. I would also agree that there were no clunkers at our dinner.

The lobster with freshly squeezed orange soda was unique and quite delicious. The rare Hollywood & Vine "2480" 2003 Chardonnay from Napa was a superb compliment.

Artichoke, balsamic and macadamia served on a spoon was one of the highlights of the evening - simply delicious. The balsamico was a 100 y/o obtained from The Rare Wine Company, although the server couldn't tell me which Acetaia it wasfrom. I suspect that it was from Acetaia del Cristo. No matter, it was a sensational dish, although, ironically, one of the least dramatic presentations. It was served with a delicious Vouvray reserve 2003 from Yves Breussin.

Talking about dramatic presentations, the french fry potato chain links with sweet potato pie was particularly so. It worked as did the 2003 Gewurtztraminer Spatlese from Fitz-Ritter of Pfalz, Germany.

The highlight of the evening for me was the bass with a grilled tomatillo broth cooked tableside in Chef Cantu's justly famous box. This was an amazing dish with perfectly cooked fish and delicious broth. 2003 Petalos de Bierzo from J. Palacios of castilla y Leon was a nice match. The smoked paprika on the outside of the box lent complex olfactory notes to both the fish and the wine.

Because it is getting late and I am getting tired I will mention a few quick comments about the rest of the meal. The lamb with braised pizza was a fine course. The doughnut soup was better than its model and the white and dark chocolate with yuzu very refreshing. my kids, however, got a particular kick out of the styrofoam with caramel dipping sauce.

The bottom line of this restaurant is that it is all about fun and magic. Chef Cantu is a true magician in the kitchen.


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 had dinner at Moto a couple of weeks ago. We ordered the Grand Tour Moto, and had a truly excellent meal. Interesting, fun, and -- most surprising -- no clunkers.

Here are the courses (wines follow the courses they were served with):

Amuse. Caesar Salad. This was a single spoonful of romaine ice cream pellets, with a crouton and some Caesar dressing.

Wine: Henri Mandois "Premier Cru," Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France, 1999.

1. Maki in the 4th Dimension. Delicious. A complicated-tasting sushi roll served in printed edible paper, with a spicy mayo-like sauce underneath. This was served without utensils, which made it harder to eat every bit of the sauce.

Wine: Jurtschitsch Snoohof "GruVe," Gruner Veltliner, Kamptak, Austria, 2003.

2. Champagne & King Crab. Another good dish. Poached king crab served with caviar, creme fraiche, and caviar. It came with three carbonated grapes. (No really; he has a machine in the back that carbonates fruit.)

Wine: Terre Firme, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2003.

3. Onion...Crouton...Nitrogenation. The waiters brought out bowls with sauteed onions and a crouton in them. Then they brought out a smoking pitcher of soup, and poured it into our bowls. The liquid nitrogen foamed nicely all over our table. The soup was delicious, but it was cool. French onion soup is supposed to be piping hot, so that wasn't as good as it could have been. My suggestion is to use this liquid nitrogen preparation -- which is way cool -- with a gazpacho or a fruit soup that is supposed to be cool.

Wine: Hollywood & Vine "2480," Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA, 2003.

4. Lobster & Orange. Lobster meat served with celeriac puree, brown butter ice cream, and a carbonated half orange. We were to squeeze the orange on top of the other ingredients. This was one of the best dishes of the night.

Wine: Yves Breussin, Vouvray Reserve, Loire Valley, France, 2003.

5. McSweetbreads. Three pieces of otherwise cooked and then flash fried sweetbreads. Each was on a plastic pipette of sauce: sweet and sour, barbecue, and honey mustard. We all wish McDonald's served something this good.

Wine: Alpha Estate, Xinomavro, Amyndeon, Florina, Greece, 2003.

6. Artichoke & Macadamia. Artichoke ice cream and macadamia nuts, with a hint of balsamic vinegar. A nice palate cleanser.

7. Sweet Potato Pie with Savoy Cabbage. This was one of those "more clever than tasty" dishes. Someone in the kitchen carved a sweet potato into a single unbroken chain. This was lightly fried and served with a sauce that tasted for all the world like sweet potato pie. And a very tasty kraut.

Wine: Fitz-Ritten, Gewurtzraiminer Spatlses, Pfalz, Germany, 2003. We also got to taste two other Gewurtzs: one from Alcase and the other from New Zealand.

8. Bass Prepared Tableside. The raw bass came out in boxes after course 5, and it cooked in front of us. It was hard to see in the box, unfortunately. The waiters brought plates, opened the boxes, and put the bass on them. Then they poured out of the box an absolutely fantastic sauce made from tomatilllos, bacon, garlic, onion, and Thai peppercorns. Another great dish.

Wine: J. Palacios, Petalos del Bierzo, Galecia, Spain, 2003.

9. Quail Pull Apart. Dish of the night. Quail and rutabaga slices. It came with a tube-like won ton filled with sauce, which we were to break open and pour over everything. Interesting, fun, and delicious. Perfect.

Wine: Vision Cellars, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA, 2002.

10. Margarita with Chips and Salsa. Another palate cleanser: Margarita sorbet with a chip paste and salsa gelatin. The salsa was too mild, and was lost in the rest of the flavors.

11. Lamb with Braised Pizza & Garlic. Lamb and a small piece of Kobe beef tongue, served over a Swiss-chard mixture that was supposed to taste like pepperoni pizza. It tasted more like ratatouille to me, but it was a great dish nonetheless.

Wine: The Magnificent Wine Co., Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, 2003.

12. Edible Literature of Morbier. In the lower left corner of the plate: a slice of Morbier with edible instructions printed on a something on top of the slice. In the upper right corner: a non-edible flaming pile of ash. Neat.

Wine: Warwick Estate "Old Bush Vines" Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2003.

13. Green Curry, Hearts of Palm, and Salted Sugar. Green curry ice cream. Hearts of palm puree.

14. Freeze Dried Pina Colada. Exactly what it says. Surprisingly tasty.

15. Beet, Carrot, and Ajowan. Ajowan is kind of like caraway, but not as intense. This was just a spoonful: bits of beet, carrot puree, cream cheese, and ajowan.

16. Doughnut Soup. Soup that tasted like a donut. I loved this dish.

This was the cell phone course. A waiter came to our table, and set a covered dish in front of me. He removed the cover, and there was a cell phone on the plate. Something like "Answer me" was written on the phone, and it was vibrating. I answered it; chef Homao Cantu was calling. He told me a bit about the next dish and the waiters, and asked me how I liked the meal so far. I asked him for a kitchen tour at the end of our meal.

17. White & Dark Chocolate with Yuzu. A very pretty hollow white-chocolate ball that required liquid nitrogen to make. And a very tasty chocolate cracker and marshmallow thingy.

Wine: Eliot Prone "Sour gal," Muscat drastic, Piedmont, Italy, 2004.

18. Chocolate Cake with Hot Ice Cream. I didn't take any notes, but I remember thinking this dish didn't work all that well.

Churchill's "Late Bottled Vintage," Port, Aport, Portugal, 1998.

Bonus: Popcorn Flavored Packing Peanuts with Caramel Sauce. This had no right to taste good.

Chef came out to say hello around course 18. We talked about the meal and the restaurant. We passed along our comments. Then we went downstairs to see the kitchen. Definitely a nice end to the meal.

This was not a cheap meal: $160 each for the meal and $80 for the shared wine pour.

And the restaurant was not full. There were only fourteen covers that night. Admittedly it was a Tuesday night and Alinea had just opened, but still.

Bruce


Edited by Schneier (log)

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In a discussion with Chef Cantu we discovered that the French Onion soup with "frozen-hot" crouton did not work quite as intended. I couldn't figure out what he meant by "frozen-hot" after having eaten the dish, although once again the presentation was quite dramatic and as always fun. Apparently we shuld have eaten the crouton straight away to experience the sensation of the nitrogen. We hadn't and thereby missed this ephemeral effect. This was probably the one flaw in the service that we encountered as this aspect could have and should have been better instructed.

We weren't told to eat the crouton first, either.

Interesting.

Bruce

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Our meals were very similar, Bruce, although yours was more extensive. i had neglected to list the Caeser amuse. I'm sorry I missed the McSweetbreads and the Quail pull-apart. It was so late and we were so tired that I didn't ask for a kitchen tour, although I would have loved to have seen it. My wife would have divorced me on the spot if I did that then :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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I couldn't believe how busy Moto was on Saturday night. They were turning table and, I believe, about to seat people in the new, smaller private dining room downstairs. I'm guessing they did about 70 covers which really impressed me as the first time I ate there (January last year?) I was one of about 8 people in the place on a Tuesday night.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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I couldn't believe how busy Moto was on Saturday night. They were turning table and, I believe, about to seat people in the new, smaller private dining room downstairs. I'm guessing they did about 70 covers which really impressed me as the first time I ate there (January last year?) I was one of about 8 people in the place on a Tuesday night.

And a quick glance upthread will reveal just how much media attention moto is receiving these days. I think that eventually translates into new customers. It's nice to hear that they're busy. Thanks for the update . . . btw, how was your meal?

=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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Me and my wife had an extrordinary time their, my best buddy braught us, I would repeat the menu but it seams i had one simular to another I have seen posted above. The walk into the kitchen was beutiful, the silence and constant movement. Lots of room and lack of walkins amazes me. I would definatly rate this in the top 3 best places I have ever eaten, from the experience alone.

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One aspect of this restaurant that I really liked but haven't previously commented on is the location amongst Chicago's meat packing district. This was not expected. It is strange, but it added to the mystique and fun of the restaurant.


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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Homaro Cantu,Barry Dobesh, and Pastry Chef Ben Roche will be cooking at the Beard House in New York next week.. Sorry Chicago, but I dont think we are going to let them leave.. Just wanted to tell people to enjoy them while you can..

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I had the Grand Tasting Menu for the second time and I enjoyed it and would highly recommend Moto. Chef Cantu is an original and very creative and his staff is attentive, friendly and not stuffy as some high-end places can be. Some of my pictures will not upload for some reason?

GTM

Amuse of deconstructed caesar salad-lettuce ice cream, cruton on top of caesar dressing served on spoon/I really liked this tasted like Caesar salad, may be the best combo of savory ice cream that I have had

Maki in the 4th dimension-rice and tuna wrapped by edible picture of maki roll on top of a spicy emulsion that I do not remember the type. Great flavor, but the roll could have had more tuna in it

Champagne and king crab- the carbonated grapes had more fizz than when I had them last time-good

gallery_30892_1584_264690.jpg

Corn soup with popcorn-with shrimp-good soup, great theater

gallery_30892_1584_1182921.jpg

gallery_30892_1584_699927.jpg

gallery_30892_1584_1240477.jpg

Sweetbread with barbecued eggplant-Delicious, think chicken mcnugget, but with sweetbread and pipette filled with bbq sauce and eggplant puree

gallery_30892_1584_558303.jpg

Artichoke and macadamia-artichoke ice cream and nut-not much reaction

gallery_30892_1584_1723859.jpg

Sweet Potato Pie-potato chain link, very cool, but I think I would like it better as a side

gallery_30892_1584_98397.jpg

Bass baked tableside-served with tomatillo sauce, the bass was great

gallery_30892_1584_1199648.jpg

gallery_30892_1584_1026789.jpg

Short Rib pull apart- very good, break apart tube and sauce comes out

gallery_30892_1584_618610.jpg

Margarita with chips and salsa- I liked it the fist time that I had it, but would have rather had the real thing

gallery_30892_1584_980142.jpg

Beef with braised pizza and garlic-I loved the Ribeye cooked sous-vide, but I could have done without the pizza and garlic. This also came with garlic brulee on the Moto serviceware for aroma, but I did not get that much aroma off it

Bacon horseradish and amaranth-good toasted amaranth

gallery_30892_1584_178371.jpg

Edible literature of explorateur-cheese course

Sharleyne and crenshaw melon with frosted anise hyssop-ok

gallery_30892_1584_340319.jpg

Strawberry rice pudding, peanut and soy ice cream- good interesting flavors and textures

gallery_30892_1584_765651.jpg

Freeze dried pina colada-good

Doughnut soup-Think Krispy Kreme soup

Chocolate cake with hot ice cream-Frozen cake with liquid cheese center and hot ice cream

gallery_30892_1584_1104842.jpg


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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