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

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I've always appreciated Docsconz's perspective on food and dining from his posts in the NY forum. That he continues to gush about Alinea in comparison Per Se and wd~50 (probably my 2 favorites in the city) is a testament to how revolutionary Alinea really is. Thanks to his spectacular post, I'm even more excited about my visit to Alinea later this month.

One general about the restaurant itself, is it better to sit upstairs or downstairs? Is one markedly better than the other that I should try to request a table on either floor?

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I've always appreciated Docsconz's perspective on food and dining from his posts in the NY forum.  That he continues to gush about Alinea in comparison Per Se and wd~50  (probably my 2 favorites in the city) is a testament to how revolutionary Alinea really is.  Thanks to his spectacular post, I'm even more excited about my visit to Alinea later this month.

One general about the restaurant itself, is it better to sit upstairs or downstairs?  Is one markedly better than the other that I should try to request a table on either floor?

Thanks Bryan for the comliments and the confidence.

Both times that I have been at Alinea I have sat upstairs in two different rooms. While that clearly has worked for us, I have no reason to believe that therre is any significant difference as the downstairs room is equally attractive. I have no doubt that you will be treated very well and enjoy the restaurant immensely.

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Can anyone describe the Idiazabal and Mastic? What exactly is it or are there any similarities to something else?

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Can anyone describe the Idiazabal and Mastic? What exactly is it or are there any similarities to something else?

Idiazabal is a spanish cheese. At alinea it is somehow fried and made very crispy and puffy. It is served with a light maple syrup glaze and is also slightly smoked. I wasn't crazy about it, but it was cool.

Raw mastic is a resin from a mediterranean evergreen. Alinea infuses a rich sauce with this piney stuff in a wonderful dessert of matsutake mushroom cake, rosemary and pine nut gelee.

The mastic is the white creamy sauce being poured tableside.

There are photos of both the idiazabal and mastic dishes on alinea's website.

For the record, I agree - Alinea, for my tastes, is the best restaurant in North America.

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I was wondering if anyone had any info on the menu or special New Year's Eve plans at Alinea?

P.S. I can't wait for my reservations on Thursday. :laugh::biggrin::smile:


Edited by babern38 (log)

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docsconz.

as always, i have enjoyed "meeting up with you for dinner" on egullet. we have similar tastes, preferences and experiences. thanks for the update! i look forward to trying achatz's new menu the next time i'm in chicago! my last (and only) visit was in july of this year.

u.e.

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docsconz.

as always, i have enjoyed "meeting up with you for dinner" on egullet.  we have similar tastes, preferences and experiences.  thanks for the update!  i look forward to trying achatz's new menu the next time i'm in chicago!  my last (and only) visit was in july of this year.

u.e.

U.E. the feeling is mutual. I will look forward to your take on this restaurant next time you go.

Reading the beansbeans blogspot take on Alinea linked to by sneakeater just goes to show how different people can have different takes on a similar experience. Her read was obviously totally different than mine as I sense her culinary interests are. I don't believe one is any less or more valid than the other, but the difference is interesting, nevertheless. I do think it helps to dine at Alinea with the proper spirit and frame of mind.

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I just read the beansbeans review. I came away with two things:

1. Either this "Scott" is a jerk or beansbeans has a strong tendency to overdramatize. The service at both Trio and Alinea has been charming. There is definitely a bit of humor in it but I found the pacing and the delivery excellent and not overwrought.

2. Both her and her friends were sick when they went to the restaurant. That would, frankly, invalidate any review for me off the bat. Reviewing a restaurant when one is ill is like having sex when one is miserable.

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There are people who more than agree with Beans. In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part: "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...." I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything). Robyn

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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

Well said, Doc. The humor in the Alinea experience seems totally lost on some people and yet it is one of the reasons that I'm hopelessly addicted. (And the mind-boggling tastes and sights, perfect service, best-ever wine pairings and supreme comfort a'int too shabby, either!) And since GM Joe Catterson has figured out who "Pugman" is, if I ever do have any criticism, I'll have to make up a new alias!

BTW: I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs and I've never left Alinea feeling hungry. Last visit a few weeks ago (12-course), I left VERY full because my size 0 companion couldn't finish some of the final courses and I greedily mopped up every last molecule!

The only place where I've felt that the portions were too small was at Avenues (tiny courses and an incongruously large dessert). That was some time ago and may not represent the current experience.

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There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

This has already been discussed exhaustively . . . here.

Thanks,

=R=

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Well said, Doc. The humor in the Alinea experience seems totally lost on some people and yet it is one of the reasons that I'm hopelessly addicted. (And the mind-boggling tastes and sights, perfect service, best-ever wine pairings and supreme comfort a'int too shabby, either!) And since GM Joe Catterson has figured out who "Pugman" is, if I ever do have any criticism, I'll have to make up a new alias!

BTW: I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs and I've never left Alinea feeling hungry. Last visit a few weeks ago (12-course), I left VERY full because my size 0 companion couldn't finish some of the final courses and I greedily mopped up every last molecule!

The only place where I've felt that the portions were too small was at Avenues (tiny courses and an incongruously large dessert). That was some time ago and may not represent the current experience.


echo doc and pugman. my one experience at alinea wasn't "perfect" - but i didn't expect that... an athlete and one with a naturally high metabolism, i left alinea satisfied.

as for avenues - i will agree that some of the portions were downright small, but i found the main fish and meat courses to be generous. the dessert was large, but i didn't think disproportionately so (based on one 7-course meal).

u.e.

[Moderator note: This topic continues in [CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 2)]


Edited by Mjx Moderator note added. (log)

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