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.

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


Recommended Posts

I'm continually amazed at the lack of enthusiasm for this dish.  It was so hyped up that many people, including myself, tried to make this at home.  I'll admit when I made it, it was so-so.  I was hoping this dish would be much better in the hands of a pro.

Just kind of curious, does anyone think that part of the problem with this dish is that fact that it's not what you expect?  When I made it, it was so extremely tender that it caught me off guard.  Also the flavor seemed to taste more like broccoli then broccoli does!  I also noticed a background flavor of sulfur which I think was more pronounced because the gases were being trapped under vacuum seal. 

My problem with this dish (and it was my least favorite of the night by far) was that it the taste of grapefruit totally overwhelmed any flavor of broccoli. I could barely taste the broccoli at all...

Edited by VeryApe77 (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm continually amazed at the lack of enthusiasm for this dish.  It was so hyped up that many people, including myself, tried to make this at home.  I'll admit when I made it, it was so-so.  I was hoping this dish would be much better in the hands of a pro.

Just kind of curious, does anyone think that part of the problem with this dish is that fact that it's not what you expect?  When I made it, it was so extremely tender that it caught me off guard.  Also the flavor seemed to taste more like broccoli then broccoli does!  I also noticed a background flavor of sulfur which I think was more pronounced because the gases were being trapped under vacuum seal. 

My problem with this dish (and it was my least favorite of the night by far) was that it the taste of grapefruit totally overwhelmed any flavor of broccoli. I could barely taste the broccoli at all...

My thoughts exactly. The grapefruit was very overwhelming. I'm going back on July 1. If the broccoli is still on the menu I'm going to try to eat it without the grapefruit.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It really was just the piercing bitterness of the grapefruit that knocked out the taste of any other flavors. The broccoli, I thought, had a great texture, and potentially amazing flavor. In my mind, I can see the grapefruit flavor working well. It seems to me that perhaps the reason it was so overwhelming was the fact that there was so much tartness in so little--the grapefruit being dried and all.

I think that if the broccoli was allowed to shine through, with the grapefruit playing the role of a backup flavor, still pronounced, but not mouth-puckeringly tart, this dish would be a real winner.

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is not a new policy. Enforcing the policy is difficult at times... some patrons simply ignore requests to refrain from using a flash, or don't know how to disable it. At that point it is up to the dining room staff to use their best judgement in handling the situation, and judging the seriousness of the disruption to other patrons..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is not a new policy.  Enforcing the policy is difficult at times... some patrons simply ignore requests to refrain from using a flash, or don't know how to disable it.  At that point it is up to the dining room staff to use their best judgement in handling the situation, and judging the seriousness of the disruption to other patrons..

Maybe you should just start supplying tables with little tripods and lighting rigs :wink:

Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To preserve this thread for discussion of Alinea, I've started a separate thread about the review which appears in today's Sun-Times OVER HERE.

Thanks, George. Starting a new thread for reviews of Alinea reviews was a good idea.

=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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brief report of Alinea dinner this past Saturday, June 11th. Brief since I could never outshine any of the previous course by course descriptions, and won't even attempt to try, lol.

Let me say this, I was somewhat concerned about the restaurant actually living up to all the hype. Alinea has been discussed so much and has been stated to be so absolutely incredible I was wondering if any restaurant ever could actually live up to that sort of reputation. Plus, I had read so much about it would I really be experiencing it for the first time with a fresh perspective? I was very relieved and quite happily surprised to find out that it does live up to the hype and regardless of what you've read you are not prepared for just how amazingly cool it is. :biggrin:

From the very modern entry way to the greeting to the comfy chairs the stage is set for something truly unique. Staff was attentive without being fussy and understood what pace we wanted immediately. For the record our party of four did the Tour in 6 1/2 hours. The pacing of the food and wine was absolutely perfect leaving myself at least never overly full or tipsy. Granted there were a few service glitches which would be evident in any team only working together for 5 weeks ~ they were smoothly handled and corrected immediately and did not in any way take away from the experience. Now since you are all curious....one example was that one person in our party did not want the wine pairing and once a wine glass was placed in front of her instead of me.

I will also add that one of our party had two allergies (dairy being one of them) and the chef came up with subsitutions on the spot which looked just as amazing and interesting as the food planned in advance.

From the pb&j ~ where the grape was surprisingly warm to the "A1 steak" to the strawberry tube at the near end it was wonderful, surprising and actually went beyond my expectations. If you can get a reservation and deal with the bill at the end go for it. Wear comfortable clothes, settle in and simply enjoy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to ask a question that may have already been discussed, but how do you suppose one peels a grape? I'm just curious. Very interesting idea that must take time and lots of patience.

Edited by avant-garde (log)

"A woman once drove me to drink and I never had the decency to thank her" - W.C. Fields

Thanks, The Hopry

http://thehopry.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The chefs use a small paring knife and carefully peel the grape much as one would peel a raw tomato -- though the grapes are not, of course, blanched or anything. It is time consuming and difficult, and some do fall off of the stem, rendering them useless.

It is an interesting exercise to eat two grapes, one peeled, one not, from the same vine and taste the difference.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry to ask a question that may have already been discussed, but how do you suppose one peels a grape?  I'm just curious.  Very interesting idea that must take time and lots of patience.

Actually I want to know who's back in the kitchen pulling off single cells of limes for the lime & eucalyptus drink. There really was a bunch of little peices of lime floating around and they looked like whole cells, not just cut up, put like they were individually peeled! I've done the same thing to blackberries and it was a pain. I couldn't imagine doing that to a lime.

FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus

Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually I want to know who's back in the kitchen pulling off single cells of limes for the lime & eucalyptus drink.  There really was a bunch of little peices of lime floating around and they looked like whole cells, not just cut up, put like they were individually peeled!  I've done the same thing to blackberries and it was a pain.  I couldn't imagine doing that to a lime.

FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus

When I was with the team in their food lab, before Alinea opened, Chef John Peters produced some grapefruit cells (for another dish) via the use of an industrial deli slicer. From there, individual cells were separated by hand from the thin sheets of fruit. I'm not sure if the same method was used in this case but I'm guessing it was.

FWIW, it was also the deft-handed chef Peters who was peeling the grapes -- on the stem -- that day as well.

=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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEW MENU COMING: Went to Alinea for the third time a few nghts ago (yes, I know it's an addiction but I will destroy anyone who tries to have an intervention). Anyway, they debuted a number of new dishes and indicated that the menu will be substantially changed very soon.

I was sad to see my favorite Dungeness crab/raw parsnip/coconut dish go on hiatus, but it was replaced by AMAZING butter-poached lobster served with "raviolis"...wrapper made of carrot and filled with powdered coconut milk. The powdered milk liquifies in your mouth and the overall effect is classic ChefG.

What continues to impress me the most about Alinea (besides ChefG's food, of course) is just how great the overall vibe is. The staff is just so genuinely nice and you can tell how excited they are to be part of this phenomenon. Seasoned fine diners shoud be very pleased with the unpretentious professionalism; but I also think that younger people and/or other fine-dining novices shouldn't feel weird about dining at Alinea. Yes, the atmosphere is rather formal and quiet; yes, they do have a dress code (thankfully); but, NO, it's not stuffy or intimidating. In other words, for those who have never dined at such a high level, I can think of no better place to do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEW MENU COMING: Went to Alinea for the third time a few nghts ago (yes, I know it's an addiction but I will destroy anyone who tries to have an intervention). Anyway, they debuted a number of new dishes and indicated that the menu will be substantially changed very soon.

I was sad to see my favorite Dungeness crab/raw parsnip/coconut dish go on hiatus, but it was replaced by AMAZING butter-poached lobster served with "raviolis"...wrapper made of carrot and filled with powdered coconut milk. The powdered milk liquifies in your mouth and the overall effect is classic ChefG.

What continues to impress me the most about Alinea (besides ChefG's food, of course) is just how great the overall vibe is. The staff is just so genuinely nice and you can tell how excited they are to be part of this phenomenon. Seasoned fine diners shoud be very pleased with the unpretentious professionalism; but I also think that younger people and/or other fine-dining novices shouldn't feel weird about dining at Alinea. Yes, the atmosphere is rather formal and quiet; yes, they do have a dress code (thankfully); but, NO, it's not stuffy or intimidating. In other words, for those who have never dined at such a high level, I can think of no better place to do it.

I heard some things from another eGS member which also led me to believe that a new menu was in the works, as she described a rabbit dish she had at Alinea a couple of Saturdays ago. This is very exciting and timely news as I'm returning to Alinea on 7/29 (only my second visit, no interventions required :wink:).

Thanks, Pugman, for the report.

=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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEW MENU COMING: Went to Alinea for the third time a few nghts ago (yes, I know it's an addiction but I will destroy anyone who tries to have an intervention).

The first step is admitting you have a problem. :raz:

We'll be going back next Friday for visit number 2. Hopefully we'll be doing the Tour, but that will be up to others at the table. I'll be sure to report back anything new.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NEW MENU COMING: Went to Alinea for the third time a few nghts ago (yes, I know it's an addiction but I will destroy anyone who tries to have an intervention).

The first step is admitting you have a problem. :raz:

We'll be going back next Friday for visit number 2. Hopefully we'll be doing the Tour, but that will be up to others at the table. I'll be sure to report back anything new.

Yes the menu is changing. At this point about ten new dishes have been introduced with the balance coming over next couple of weeks. We have decided to keep one dish from the original menu on for this next iteration, but the remaining 30 or so will change. Obviously this menu will focus on more summer seasonal ingredients, but I also think as a whole they will be more representitive to Alinea. As useful as the "food lab" situation was during the 8 month down time, it is difficult to really understand how the dishes will react in the actual space. The kitchen interaction is obvious, but what really makes the difference is the addition of people, both service team and guests. We also found it difficult to be reactionary with our creativity. Many times the best dishes come from a fleeting thought in spontaneous impulse to something we saw..or food we touched in the kitchen setting.

Due to the logistical challenges of changing the menu from the standpoint of training both front and back of the house, and retaining a menu structure that makes sense, we will bring the dishes into the fold about 7 a week. This allows us to focus on a specific set of dishes and tweak them as we become more familiar.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My vote would be for the turbot. That was probably my favorite amongst many great dishes. This feeling has only increased upon continued reflection. Runners up would be the artichoke, finger lime and pineapple dishes.

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a scary thought. Alinea has gotten better. I don't mean a little better, I mean A LOT better.

We went last night with my family who are in town visiting from NJ. They had eaten at Per Se not to long ago, so expectations were pretty high.

The new menu items are out of this world. We did the twelve course, and 10 out of the 12 items were different from the last time we did it about 5 or 6 weeks ago.

BTW, the one dish that will remain from the first menu...the hearts of palm.

In addition to the butter poached lobster with raviolis that Pugman described, there were several other items that blew me away, including:

Squabb with watermellon, squab confit, licorice and a foie gras sauce. The sauce was so good I wanted to just empty the bowl right into my mouth.

Octopus with an eggplant panna cotta and soy foam. The cold, sweet panna cotta was an amazing combination with the salty foam.

A "cheese course" of a semi-sold ball of grape juice, filled with walnut milk (how does one milk a walnut? I couldn't get the cat milking scene from "Meet the Parents" out of my head). The ball was on top of red wine gelee, maytag blue cheese and some other things I can't remember.

Any minor service glitches that occurred the last time were long gone. We had a chance to talk to Chef Achatz in the kitchen briefly after the meal and he couldn't have been more gracious.

Overall, I felt like the first dinner we had there was wonderful, but I didn't think the food was as "out there" as it was at Trio. Also, I felt like the flavors were more on the subtle side, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, this time, the flavors were big and bold. I thought almost every new dish pushed the envelope.

If this is Alinea at 2 months, it is scary to think about what we have to look forward to in the future.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chef Achatz has graciously forwarded to us a copy of the new Alinea menu, which will bow on Thursday of this week:

gallery_3085_250_3190.jpg

I'm intrigued by the descriptions and I have a lot of questions, but I'll happily wait to have most of them answered in person, later this month.

That said, I'm wondering what the difference is between eating wild celery and eating regular celery and where one would source wild celery.

Pillow of lavendar air?!?! I can't wait to find out what that's all about.

Damn! This is a lot of new dishes. Is this the regular frequency with which new dishes will be introduced, or is this more of a tweaking of the original game plan?

=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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pillow of lavendar air?!?!  I can't wait to find out what that's all about.

  Is this the regular frequency with which new dishes will be introduced, or is this more of a tweaking of the original game plan?

=R=

The frequency of the menu change is about right. In the past we have changed the menu about every 10-12 weeks. It is driven primarily by product availability, seasonality basically.

There were several factors that contributed to this menu change. Again seasonality was one of them. We have certainly entered summer here in the midwest...

But more importantly we knew we could do better. Contrary to what I once thought, I realized we need to be in the environment in order to be at our creative best. One would think that devoting 6 months to develop an opening menu would prove to be the ideal situation. And maybe it was,but I do know that this second menu is better and more representative of what we do and what we are trying to accomplish here at Alinea.

The pillow of lavender air is just that. It is our first success with the vaporizer, the machine that captures air that has been infused with an aromatic. The pillow is inflated with air scented with lavender blooms. It arrives at the table just before a dish composed of peas, ham and freshly made tofu curds. When the plate is set atop the pillow it slowly releases the scented air around the guest until the pillow is completely deflated.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...