Monday, April 28, 2014

Alinea

Alinea currently ranks as the 9th best restaurant in the world, but many who have not yet dined at this incredible restaurant still ask, "Is it worth it?"  YES.  It's worth every penny and you get what you pay for.  The dinner lasts approximately 4 hours and reservations must be made in advance via a ticket system.   If you're lucky, you can purchase tickets for the same night or the next day if you follow Alinea's Facebook page or Twitter.  Some would say that Alinea is more about the experience as opposed to the food.  Although I could agree to a certain extent, I would have to say that the food, is in fact, incredible.  There were numerous flavor and texture combinations on each plate that my head still spins thinking about it... even 9 months after my dining experience.  The visual effects of using open fire, dry ice, test tubes, and even edible helium taffy balloons were elaborate and mesmerizing.  Before the food even hits your lips, you were intoxicated by a distinct scent used to enhance each particular dish.  The level of detail and precision of each plate were truly mind blowing.  For such a refined fine dining establishment, the service was unpretentious, very welcoming and the staff was even quite humorous.  Alinea is elegant and graceful and the atmosphere brought out different emotions during our 4 hour experience.  After each plate was cleared, the staff brought an element or utensil used for the next dish, bringing about curiosity and excitement to see what was next.  I think the most ironic thing about Alinea is that although Alinea is a fine dining establishment, Mr. Achatz's concept somehow made me feel like a kid again.  There was a level of playfulness and curiosity to each dish that brought forth an unreserved childlike reaction, just like when I was a little girl opening gifts on Christmas morning.  Blogging about Alinea brought back a flood of memories of my evening in that restaurant and viewing picture after picture, my mouth instantaneously began to water.  I think I'm going to have to revisit soon.  Special thanks to the gracious Ms. Hye Jin for allowing me to dine with her that evening. 
4 1/2 stars on Yelp
1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
The restaurant was elegant yet simple and minimalistic in its decor. 
Osetra. A little caviar never hurt anyone before a full course meal. 
The service was impeccable.  Silverware was placed on a clean, white square cushion.  I told my friend that she needed to add this to her wedding registry. 
Rabbit.  Cherry blossom, smoke, and wasabi.
How gorgeous is this dish? 
Scallop. 
Lift the lid.  The sounds that came from the dish were reminiscent of a bubbling brook. 
Citrus aroma with fourteen textures.  14?!? Who's counting? 
Dungeness Crab.  Squash blossom, cardamom, and saffron. 
Is that cotton candy? Yes. 
Is that leaf edible? Yes. 
Binchotan.  Tokyo inspiration.  
Ahi tuna, Japanese wagyu beef, Pork belly, and a deep fried shrimp head.
Each piece had its own perfect little garnishes.  Absolutely fantastic. 
Just look at that level of detail. 
Veal cheeks.  Lapsang souchong, pine, blackberry. 
This dish reminded me of the Chinese dish called "jjajangmyun."
The bowl was nestled on a bed of fragrant lemongrass. 
Hot potato. Cold potato, black truffle, butter.  The truffle and potato were threaded on a pin.  You pull the pin from under the plate and immediately "drink" from the dish as if you were taking a shot.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. 
Duck. ....... ????? ..... !!!!!!  [No joke, that's how this dish was named on the menu.]
Duck prepared five ways. 
Duck jus is poured over the meat. 
From here, you pick and choose which garnishes you would like to accompany your duck.  The options were overwhelming to say the least.  
The abundance of options made for quite a topic of conversation.  "Is that chocolate?" "You try the jelly thing..." 
Black Truffle Explosion. Holy. Balls. This dish was INCREDIBLE.  
The dish is small, but the truffle flavor is mighty and unforgettable. 
Ginger.  A palate cleanser to transition into the dessert courses.
Each cube was no bigger than 3-4 millimeters in dimension. 
Yet each tiny cube still had garnishes!  My camera couldn't even focus because this bite was so small.  To the line cook that skewered all these microscopic ingredients, I salute you. 
The servers brought out these test tubes. And left them there.  No instructions.  ?!?
Balloon.  Helium. Green apple. Every part of that balloon was edible. 
Suck.  Nothing inappropriate going on here. The fun part about this dessert was that obviously, when people spoke after inhaling the helium, everyone's voices sounded funny.  It was interesting to see how one dessert course brought a room full of strangers together through laughter. 
Strawberry. Sassfras, pine nut, long pepper. 
How gorgeous is this plating? 
Raspberry infused with rose. 
Insert the test tube into the raspberry soda. 
The test tube is your straw. 
Milk Chocolate.  For the final course, the table was cleared and a mat was rolled over the surface. 
Chefs came out and began creating the dessert. 

Yup, I can definitely do this at home. Except my design would look more like a mess, most likely resulting from an accident in the kitchen. 
An absolutely unforgettable dining experience and definitely worth it. 
Happy eating. 

xoxo
Grace