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[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 1)


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Moderator Note: For an in-depth look at Alinea's pre-opening development, please visit The Alinea Project forum.

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We were the first table sat at Alinea on opening day......words can't describe what It's like to eat at this restaurant

Alinea will change the way people look at restaurants forever.......I can't even imagine what this restaurant's future will hold, it is almost scary to think about

A completely flawless meal on opening night with a 28 course format, very few people can pull that off..... it will be a very long time before a restaurant of this caliber surfaces anywhere in the world.......

an amazing experience to say the least....alinea has raised the bar to unreachable heights!!!!!!

the kitchen is amazing and the new plates and serviceware are really cool as well

congratulations to chefg and the team at Alinea....I can't thank the entire staff enough for the mindbending experience and I am looking forward to my next meal (if I can get a reservation)

I have pictures of every course and will post them soon>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

seaninnashville

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~heck.

those are some damn strong (and equally honest) words. i can't even imagine how you must've felt throughout your dining experience. i can't wait to read more about people's reactions and feelings. and it will all lead up to my may 24th reservation when i will find out just how amazing this restaurant is going to be. i just got goosebumps.

.trevor williams~

-Kendall College-

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Since there is so much to talk about, I need to make multiples postings (environment, menu and courses).

THE ENVIRONMENT

The last time Chef Grant Achatz worked in a kitchen of a restaurant was July 31, 2004. This became the last night at Trio for chefg as well as what may be his last kitchen table. Nine months later, he's back to present some of his latest ideas at Alinea (in case you missed it, you can follow the progression at The Alinea Project forum). Opening night was Wednesday, May 4th, and 50 (or so) lucky souls were able to experience his fare. I was in a party of three.

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Upon getting to the restaurant, only an address mounted onto the exterior facade tells you where you are. There is no signage, except for the removable free-standing valet parking sign. No hours of operation, no deliveries at back, no we accept Visa/MasterCard. As you open the full height doors, you find yourself within the entry vestibule. At this point, there is no signs or anyone telling you what to do. You must move through the space until you get to the opposite side where a couple of solid opaque sliding doors (reminiscent of Star Trek) open as you trigger the motion sensor.

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Moving through the doors, the space opens up to reveal the grand staircase (ultra modern) and a greeter is there to assist with your reservation (we were set for 6:15). Right now you are standing along the main axial circulation space. To your left is one of the three dining rooms (the other two are located upstairs) and to the right is the maitre d's station, restroom and the entrance to an open kitchen. Even though there are benches for waiting, the open kitchen design invites the guests to take a closer look, sort of like a light at the end of the tunnel. The kitchen is a cool white room (probably fluorescent lighting, or highly reflective surfaces, or everyone wearing white) and the dining spaces a warm white (incandescent lighting, or all the staff wearing dark attire). While sanding there we were able to view the controlled chaos occurring within and had the opportunity to chat it up with chefg.

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We would be seated in the lower dining room at a 4-top located next to the staircase. The tables are exposed dark wood veneer accompanied by a light colored chair with armrests. I must say these chairs are comfortable. Comfortable enough to spend 7 1/2 (seven and a half) hours on it. Upon sitting down, the napkin with the Alinea mark embroidered, is on the dark table. The traditional white on white elements is gone from this presentation and is a welcome site. I think the dark table will act as a wonderful platform for the white porcelain dishes and what ever light colored items find their way onto the table.

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Underneath the napkin is a metal disk that will be used for a course later on in the evening. This leaving of items on the table to be admired is found again with the table center piece. A few longitudinally cut pieces of ginger held together with shinny metal dowels adorns us. This too will be used in a later dish, although we want to play with the it. It just begs to be touched, and of course we take our turns examining it as if we never seen ginger before.

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Observing the room you can see the amount of ambient light supplied by the windows at the other side, where bench style seats line the wall. The artificial light is provided with ceiling mounted spot lights and a lamp on the credenza. During our 7.5 hour experience, it was difficult to notice night fall because of the led fixtures, located along the window wall, produced sufficient room light to make the space seem evenly lit. The installation of the Audio Spotlight did not make it into the first night of Alinea.

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Next up, THE MENU.

Edited by yellow truffle (log)
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THE MENU

Scott, our server for the evening, and for everyone else at this dining room, is an alum of Trio. As to is a female server whose name I do not know, who was the head of the wait staff at chefg's last night at Trio. There are probably more people that have migrated to Alinea that are working different parts of the restaurant. I wonder if anyone knows the actual number.

Alinea offers its guest a three option, prix fixe menu, called, "One, Two and Tour." The One has 12 (twelve) courses, the Two has 8 (eight) courses and the Tour has 28 (twenty-eight) courses. They are priced at $110, $75 and $175 respectably. I don't know why the menu is not in sequential order, but I have a few guesses.

They also have a few "aperitif suggestions selected with PB&J in mind." This is the first course for all of prix fixe items. You have the ability to choose specific wines from their young, yet diverse offerings or you can take the wine pairing option with your meal. The Tour menu, brings out 28 glasses, for $125. The sommelier, Joe Catterson, and those involved in the food/wine pairing did a fantastic job. Perhaps I can post what we had when I am emailed the list (bump).

After diner beverages are coffee, tea and digestifs. The digestifs all sound wonderful and I probably would enjoy most of it, but after seven and a half hours and the clock telling us that it is 1:30 in the morning on a Thursday, I want to go home.

Evian water is poured into our glasses and I welcome the servers not asking if wanted a specific type/brand of water. For those who need constant shots of caffeine, the restaurant can provide, when asked a progression of iced teas, as both my guests had about four glasses of iced tea through out the evening.

I am sure we can discuss Alinea's beverage options for 7+ hours, but I think it's time to talk food. Following are the items for the Tour.

1. PB+J grape, peanut, bread

2. SOUR CREAM smoked salmon, sorrel, star anise

3. DUNGENESS CRAB raw parsnip, young coconut, cashews

4. HEART OF PALM in five sections

5. ASPARAGUS caramelized dairy, egg, bonito

6. TURBOT shellfish, waterchestnuts, hyacinth vapor

7. EGGPLANT cobia, crystaline florettes, radish pods

8. FRIED BREAD chocolate, adjukura, oregano

9. FROG LEGS spring lettuces, paprika, morels

10. BEEF flavors of A-1

11. HAZELNUT PUREE capsule of savory granola, curry

12. PROSCIUTTO passionfruit, zuta levana

13. FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus

14. MELON gelled rose water, horseradish

15. ENGLISH PEAS frozen lemon, yogurt, shiso

16. FOIE GRAS rhubarb, sweet onion, walnut

17. BURNT ORANGE avocado, picholine olives

18. BROCCOLI STEM grapefruit, wild steelhead roe

19. SNAPPER yuba, heavily toasted sesame, cucumber

20. LAMB NECK sunflower seeds, kola nu, porcinis

21. ARTICHOKE fonds d'artichauts cussy #3970

22. BISON beets, blueberries, smoking cinnamon

23. BACON butterscotch, apple, thyme

24. PINEAPPLE angelica branch, iranian pistachios

25. SASSAFRAS CREAM encapsulated in mandarin ice

26. STRAWBERRIES argan, lemon verbenna

27. LIQUID CHOCOLATE milk, black licorice, banana

28. SPONGE CAKE tonka bean, vanilla fragrance

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THE MENU

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The menu is a single sided, nine page, 6" x 11" book, bound with a folded metal clasp. The sheets come in various thicknesses and translucency. The printing looks to be done in house, except for the white opaque ink. And then, their are the bubbles.

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A translucent sheet divider is located in between the list of items. This sheet has bubbles that looks like it has been watermarked onto the paper. These bubbles correspond to the items on the menu. We hoped the bubbles was something more than a visual graphic. And we were right. We were told that the size of the bubble is relative to the weight of the dish.

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So going back to why the menu is not in sequential order... It looks as if option One and Two will satiate a diner in fewer dishes and in different flavor experiences. The question that still remains unanswered is the position of the bubbles relative to the edge of the paper. Anyone have a guess?

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Note: The Tour has all the items from the One and the Two, except that the Two has one item the Tour does not offer. The 6th course for option Two is, "CHEDDAR mustard seed in three forms." Perhaps someone can chime in and talk about this.

Next up, THE COURSES.

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