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


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I'm heading to Chicago over the last weekend in August, and I'd like to try Alinea [which I found out about after being blown away at minibar here in Washington, DC)] but I get the sense I'm unlikely to get reservations (they're closed until Wednesday). Any suggestions if I can't get a reservation just by calling? If I can't get any, what other restaurants in Chicago should I consider? Moto? I've recently been disappointed by several well-known restaurants, and am hoping for something that will be intriguing.

thanks in advance (and apologies if this really belongs in another thread)

A friend of mine was visiting Chicago a few weeks ago and his friend and him snagged a resv. on a sat.nite, (could have been sunday), last minute wise and with luck.

My friend, who likes good food but is NOT a foodie , had an OUTSTANDING experience, enjoyed every aspect of the meal.

He thought the food itself was sublime.

Great job to all up there!!!

2317/5000

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I'm heading to Chicago over the last weekend in August, and I'd like to try Alinea *snip*

A friend of mine was visiting Chicago a few weeks ago and his friend and him snagged a resv. on a sat.nite, (could have been sunday), last minute wise and with luck.

My friend, who likes good food but is NOT a foodie , had an OUTSTANDING experience, enjoyed every aspect of the meal.

He thought the food itself was sublime.

Great job to all up there!!!

I scored reservations for early this coming Thursday night a week and a half ago, so they're obviously not entirely booked months in advance! Now I'm going to start another thread asking about cheap places to eat so I can afford to feed myself the rest of the trip (we're going to Moto, as well.)

Thanks for the help.

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I scored reservations for early this coming Thursday night a week and a half ago, so they're obviously not entirely booked months in advance! Now I'm going to start another thread asking about cheap places to eat so I can afford to feed myself the rest of the trip (we're going to Moto, as well.)

If you're talking Thursday the 25th, I'm dining at Alinea that night as well. Look for me and say hi! I'll be at a table for 6 and I look like my avatar to the left.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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I am curious if anyone knows if the Alinea team will be expanding on their website anytime in the near future?

We will....eventually have a website. In fact we had a completed website ready to launch at the begining of May... but decided it wasn't representive of Alinea. So we started over.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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Regarding fun at Alinea, here's another account:

. . . Last month, two years later, I dined at Alinea in Chicago and science and gimmick is far from what’s important there. Forget what goes on in the kitchen lab, the "cool" factor, the technological experimentation. This is about fun. Dining at restaurants like Alinea - and there are a few - is like a great opera in Paris, a play that takes you through all the emotions - laughter, love, a touching joy. There is whimsy and delight that touches all of the senses. It is the art and experience of dining with imagination. . .

Dining as theater by Rachel Forrest at the Portsmouth Herald (NH).

=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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  • 2 weeks later...

I went to Alinea on Sunday, and they are transitioning to the fall menu - presumably the third complete menu since opening. Once the transition is complete, does anyone have plans to take pictures of the dishes? The first two rounds were so wonderful!

Assuming the team repeats the process from the last menu change - replacing 7 dishes every week or so for a month - it looks like they're about 3/4 through. The flight of palm remains, as well as the bacon-on-a-bow (although it's amended).

enhF94

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We went to Alinea on August 25th and we both thought it was the best meal we've ever had.

And we are harsh critics!

After having reservations at Moto, then Trotter's, we finally pulled the trigger and decided to go for Alinea. (It was a tough choice: we had only one night in Chicago). We'd been to Trotter's in Baja before (very good) but the Chicago branch seemed a little heavier than we wanted, and Moto sounded like it might be too gimmicky.

We took a cab from downtown...and once we were in the door we knew it was going to be great. That entry described in other posts, really sets the vibe. It is at once sophisticated and playful. Just like the food, it turns out.

We found the food to be consistently surprising. They served a couple things, Skate, and Lamb Cheeks, that I don't like and would never seek out. But both were like new experiences: different then they had ever been, and really wonderful to eat. The skate was unlike anything I'd ever had. Paired with bananas? Worked beautifully.

We did the 12 courses, with the wine pairings. We thought about the tour, but were worried that it might be too much, and too rich to do. More on that worry later.

The flight of palm was not only fantastic, diverse, and a big WOW (I did think the pedestals were a little awkward - I kept thinking I'd lose a palm to the floor), but the wine pairing they did worked with all five palms...a tough thing considering the vanilla pudding is sweet and the prune is strong, and the truffle pungent. That pairing was killer.

The wine pairing was good not only for the wines, but also for the informative wine service (we didn't get his name). Our server, Peter, was gracious and funny.

We had litchi with horseradish gelee, oyster cream and caviar. That might've been our favorite dish all night. It is better than FL's Oysters and Pearls. So sublime, creative, great tasting, and fun. Exciting just to think about. It was really a peak experience. Unforgetable.

The bacon just made us giddy. In fact so many dishes did.

The bison was some of the best red meat I've ever had. Cooked perfectly. Great flavor.

The sweet corn dessert was awesome. The chocolate on the spoon was killer.

We were very surprised that the meal was not heavy at all. We've had a lot of tasting menus and usually leave feeling too full. Or you can't sleep that night cuz your body is trying to digest the 200 ingredients you just ate, not to mention all the wines. (French Laundry always kills me. This is so much better).

We not only didn't feel too full, we slept great. And no food hangover in the a.m.

We didn't want it to end! I'm trying to go back in January.

Two small knocks: When you reserve, they ask you what meal (8 or 12 courses or the tour) you're going to want to have. It's a little hard to totally know in advance, isn't it? Depends on how you're feeling that day. I know they probably need to plan the tables out, esp. since the tour takes so long, but that's an awkward question to be asked. I had to call back the morning of our dinner once we agreed together on what we thought we wanted. I told them the 12 course, but then once we sat down and had the menu in hand, we toyed with going for the tour, but the server said he'd need to check to see if it was available to us.

That is strange. If that's the case, that should be stated at reservation: if you don't pre-book the tour, you might not be able to get it once you sit down.

The other thing was that one bathroom appeared to be out of order (we were upstairs) and the one available was dirty, with a bad smell and urine splashed on the floor like a ballpark. It was gross and not watched over as carefully as it should have been.

But we walked out of there on cloud nine, and I still think about that meal daily.

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A couple pages back, someone was asking about an "audio spotlight" I was never able to discern from this brief discussion what this was exactly. I can generate a general idea, but it may not be correct.

Would someone please explain what this is and how it intends to be incorporated at Alinea. Thanks

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The audio spotlight was invented and manufactured by Holosonics. Their website may be found here.

Remember the "cone of silence" from some movie? Well this is the exact opposite, a "cone" of sound that can be "beamed" directionally to one or a few people without the sound leaking to others. The sound can also be bounced off of a wall or floor to make the listener believe the sound is originating at the bounced point.

Dr. Pompei, the inventor, was very kind to us in helping us understand the technology and allowing us to test the speakers for use at Alinea. Unfortunately, for what we wanted to accomplish, our physical space had to many hard surfaces -- lots of granite, glass, steel, and wood. So the sound would bounce around a bit too much and leak to areas that were not intended to have sound.

We may yet utilize the audio spotlight and in fact the building is wired for the speakers. But as of now the spotlight is not being used at Alinea.

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We went to Alinea on August 25th and we both thought it was the best meal we've ever had.

And we are harsh critics!

After having reservations at Moto, then Trotter's, we finally pulled the trigger and decided to go for Alinea. (It was a tough choice: we had only one night in Chicago). We'd been to Trotter's in Baja before (very good) but the Chicago branch seemed a little heavier than we wanted, and Moto sounded like it might be too gimmicky.

We took a cab from downtown...and once we were in the door we knew it was going to be great. That entry described in other posts, really sets the vibe. It is at once sophisticated and playful. Just like the food, it turns out.

We found the food to be consistently surprising. They served a couple things, Skate, and Lamb Cheeks, that I don't like and would never seek out. But both were like new experiences: different then they had ever been, and really wonderful to eat. The skate was unlike anything I'd ever had. Paired with bananas? Worked beautifully.

We did the 12 courses, with the wine pairings. We thought about the tour, but were worried that it might be too much, and too rich to do. More on that worry later.

The flight of palm was not only fantastic, diverse, and a big WOW (I did think the pedestals were a little awkward - I kept thinking I'd lose a palm to the floor), but the wine pairing they did worked with all five palms...a tough thing considering the vanilla pudding is sweet and the prune is strong, and the truffle pungent. That pairing was killer.

The wine pairing was good not only for the wines, but also for the informative wine service (we didn't get his name). Our server, Peter, was gracious and funny.

We had litchi with horseradish gelee, oyster cream and caviar. That might've been our favorite dish all night. It is better than FL's Oysters and Pearls. So sublime, creative, great tasting, and fun. Exciting just to think about. It was really a peak experience. Unforgetable.

The bacon just made us giddy. In fact so many dishes did.

The bison was some of the best red meat I've ever had. Cooked perfectly. Great flavor.

The sweet corn dessert was awesome. The chocolate on the spoon was killer.

We were very surprised that the meal was not heavy at all. We've had a lot of tasting menus and usually leave feeling too full. Or you can't sleep that night cuz your body is trying to digest the 200 ingredients you just ate, not to mention all the wines. (French Laundry always kills me. This is so much better).

We not only didn't feel too full, we slept great. And no food hangover in the a.m.

We didn't want it to end! I'm trying to go back in January.

Two small knocks: When you reserve, they ask you what meal (8 or 12 courses or the tour) you're going to want to have. It's a little hard to totally know in advance, isn't it? Depends on how you're feeling that day. I know they probably need to plan the tables out, esp. since the tour takes so long, but that's an awkward question to be asked. I had to call back the morning of our dinner once we agreed together on what we thought we wanted. I told them the 12 course, but then once we sat down and had the menu in hand, we toyed with going for the tour, but the server said he'd need to check to see if it was available to us.

That is strange. If that's the case, that should be stated at reservation: if you don't pre-book the tour, you might not be able to get it once you sit down.

The other thing was that one bathroom appeared to be out of order (we were upstairs) and the one available was dirty, with a bad smell and urine splashed on the floor like a ballpark. It was gross and not watched over as carefully as it should have been.

But we walked out of there on cloud nine, and I still think about that meal daily.

Glad you had a great time. We have reservations for next month. Two questions, if you don't mind: do you regret not having gone for the tour menu, or do you think it would have been too much food? Do you remember any of the wines?

Thanks

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Glad you had a great time. We have reservations for next month. Two questions, if you don't mind: do you regret not having gone for the tour menu, or do you think it would have been too much food? Do you remember any of the wines?

Thanks

I don't think that the Tour is too much food. It's intended and designed to be filling without being ridiculously so.

It's clear that the menus at Alinea are ever-changing but here are the wines (and other pours) we were served with the Tour when we were last there in late July:

Lillet Blanc, Podensac, France

Au Bon Climat "Hildegard" Santa Maria Valley 2000

Bisson "Marea" Cinque Terra Italy 2003

Pol Roger "White Foil" Brut Champagne

Tommaso Bussola Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001

Masumi Arabashiri junmai Ginjo Sake, Nagano, Japan

Guy Larmandier Premier Cru Rose, Vertus

Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris "Im Berg" , Alsace 2002

Georg Breuer Riesling "Charm", Rheingau 2002

I Portali Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, Italy 2002

Achaval-Ferrer "Altamira" Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2001

Ramos-Pinto 20-year Tawny, Oporto

Lheraud Vieux Pineau des Charentes

Ochs Blaufrankisch Beerenausiese, Weiden am See, Austria 2002

Don PX 1971 Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles, Spain

=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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But we walked out of there on cloud nine, and I still think about that meal daily.

Glad you had a great time. We have reservations for next month. Two questions, if you don't mind: do you regret not having gone for the tour menu, or do you think it would have been too much food? Do you remember any of the wines?

Thanks

We definitely thought about the tour during our 12 course meal, because we didn't want it to end! I think it is doable...we were comfortably full at the end, and I imagine that the tour is portioned out a little differently, so that you're not too full.

I would do it next time for sure.

The wines we had I can't remember (they are supposed to send us a copy of the menu and the wine pairings) but looking at the list in the above posting, I know we only had a couple of those. Their Malbec was fantastic - I am not sure the one listed here is the same we had. In fact, they offered us a Malbec that was very, very good for a small supplement (an extra $12) to the wine pairings, replacing the Malbec originally offered. Trust their wine people. They are good and very fair.

Have a great time!

Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)
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Glad you had a great time. We have reservations for next month. Two questions, if you don't mind: do you regret not having gone for the tour menu, or do you think it would have been too much food? Do you remember any of the wines?

Thanks

I don't think that the Tour is too much food. It's intended and designed to be filling without being ridiculously so.

It's clear that the menus at Alinea are ever-changing but here are the wines (and other pours) we were served with the Tour when we were last there in late July:

Lillet Blanc, Podensac, France

Au Bon Climat "Hildegard" Santa Maria Valley 2000

Bisson "Marea" Cinque Terra Italy 2003

Pol Roger "White Foil" Brut Champagne

Tommaso Bussola Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2001

Masumi Arabashiri junmai Ginjo Sake, Nagano, Japan

Guy Larmandier Premier Cru Rose, Vertus

Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris "Im Berg" , Alsace 2002

Georg Breuer Riesling "Charm", Rheingau 2002

I Portali Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, Italy 2002

Achaval-Ferrer "Altamira" Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2001

Ramos-Pinto 20-year Tawny, Oporto

Lheraud Vieux Pineau des Charentes

Ochs Blaufrankisch Beerenausiese, Weiden am See, Austria 2002

Don PX 1971 Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles, Spain

=R=

Ron --

How large were the pours? I'm driving to Peoria tne next morning!

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Ron --

How large were the pours? I'm driving to Peoria tne next morning!

About 2-3 oz. each. And, if we finished a pour before we'd completed all the courses with which it was supposed to be paired, our thorough server Scott would pour us a bit more.

I don't have time to read back through this entire thread right now but I seem to recall 2 folks possibly splitting one wine pairing with their Tours but I don't remember for sure. Certainly, it would be worth asking.

=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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How large were the pours? I'm driving to Peoria tne next morning!

I'm a light weight when it comes to drinking wine but they are spaced apart nicely so that by the end of the meal, with full wine pairing, I really didn't feel intoxicated at all and was quite fine the next morning.

You can also request that the wine pairings stop at any point.

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My wife and I split a pairing with the tour. It was perfect. I strongly feel that this is the way to go at this restaurant if at all possible.

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 split a pairing with the tour. It was perfect. I strongly feel that this is the way to go at this restaurant if at all possible.

Great. Thanks, everyone. BTW, not to be crass, but I'm figuring about $300 per person for the tour and wine pairing?

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My wife and I split a pairing with the tour. It was perfect. I strongly feel that this is the way to go at this restaurant if at all possible.

Great. Thanks, everyone. BTW, not to be crass, but I'm figuring about $300 per person for the tour and wine pairing?

That should be about right before tax and tip.

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 split a pairing with the tour. It was perfect. I strongly feel that this is the way to go at this restaurant if at all possible.

We did this as well, and I agree that it is the way to go. We did a flight each when we did the TDF at Trio and, frankly, we were a little bit overly "relaxed" (ahem) by the end of the meal. We split the pairing at Alinea and it was perfect. The staff did not seem to mind at all.

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Congrats to Chefg and his amazing team on receiving a coveted 4 star review from Chicago Magazine. Having just had the opportunity to experience Alinea first hand, I can honestly say it is truly in a league of its own.

ChefGEB

Graham Elliot

@grahamelliot

www.grahamelliot.com

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Chef Grant very kindly sent along the proposed fall Tour menu, which looks absolutely fantastic:

gallery_3085_250_102617.jpg

The elements are so "fall" and the combinations sound wonderful. Duck Skin?! This menu speaks to me. :biggrin:

I can't wait to get back in and take the Tour again. It's hard to believe that Alinea has been open less than 5 months. With the continually evolving menu, I think I'm beginning to understand at least part of what Grant wasn't able to do at Trio.

=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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Wow. That menu looks awesome. I'm hoping to get back there around the beginning of December. I wouldn't mind in the least if this menu was still around. Then again, I have no doubt that if it is replaced the new menu would be just as interesting. one dish sounds cooler than the next. Unbelievable.

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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