Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

chefseanbrock

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

Recommended Posts

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.


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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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


"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.


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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.


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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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=


"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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Similar Content

    • By Porthos
      I picked up enough boneless short ribs to make 3 meals for my Sweetie and me. One meal will be pan-braised tonight. One has been vacuum-sealed and is in the freezer. My question is about seasoning, sealing, freezing, then defrosting and cooking at a later date. I'd like to season and seal the 3rd meal's worth. Can I use a dry rub on the meat, then seal, freeze, and cook at a later date? Does anyone else do this?
    • By newchef
      So I've now found myself at the water's edge of Modernist Cuisine.  Specifically, using sodium citrate for emulsifying all kinds of cheeses.  What I'm after is making an emulsified Parmesan sauce as well as another emulsified cheese sauce (most likely using Cheddar or Colby) that I can freeze and use later.  I'm a single guy and am no stranger of tweaking recipes for freezing but I haven't done it for modernist stuff yet.  I'd love to make a big batch of cheese sauce, freeze it into ice cubes for up to 3 months or so, and then take a few cubes out to thaw on a weeknight and toss with pasta, drizzle over veggies, etc.
       
      I looked at the modernist cuisine FAQ and saw this specific post about the cheese sauce that is "probably" freeze-able because it uses something called carageenan.  Has anyone been able to freeze sauce and keep it frozen for, say, a few months?  And not have to use carageenan?
       
      Thanks!
    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      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.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...