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Alinea - I'm a believer

Alinea - I'm a believer
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  • Alinea - I'm a believer

    Post #1 - August 1st, 2006, 8:39 am
    Post #1 - August 1st, 2006, 8:39 am Post #1 - August 1st, 2006, 8:39 am
    On Sunday we went to Alinea - it was my birthday, so I got to decide (my husband has always thought they'd be too "gimmicky"). They were not gimmicky - they were wonderful. I'll spare everyone the blow-by-blow, which others have done here and on other boards, but just wanted to rave about the food and the presentation, which were playful, inventive, and many times surprising. Some courses were sooo good (and this was the only painful thing about the meal) that we really wished we could say "Stop the meal - can we just have a regular-sized portion of that?" But everything was great - well, okay - just one flub, in my opinion: the peanut course at the very end was unremarkable, and I wished they had not put it last.

    The only criticism we had was about the wine pairings. I had the "regular," and my husband had the "extended." The wines were the same in all but four or five cases, and he didn't feel that those four or five were special enough to warrant the $50 upcharge - although they were different than the wines I got, he didn't feel they were all that much better. I was perfectly happy with my wines - in fact, I had trouble drinking it all, because 20 little pours do add up!

    One question that maybe someone can answer - on two occasions they left the bottles on our table. We wondered why they would leave us the bottles in some cases and not others. It wasn't casual - it was deliberate, involving placing special little coasters under them, and was acompanied by an invitation to peruse the bottles at our leisure. Since these were not unusual or exceptional wines, there wasn't much to look at on the labels ("Ooh, look - it comes from New Zealand"). Once one of the many servers came over and poured us some more from these bottles, making us wonder if we were meant to help ourselves. We didn't though - we had quite enough as it was.

    After dinner we got a peek at the kitchen - which was a lot different that the usual restaurant kitchen. Most of the activity was in assembling the various little bits into courses - picture three young men huddled over a pan of chocolate strips, laying them carefully out on plates and arranging them into pretzel-like shapes for the chocolate dessert, while next to them three more young men labor to get pieces of bacon to hang just so on a wire thingy.

    All in all, a wonderful experience. Not actually a meal in the traditional sense - more of a series of taste sensations that leave you saying "Wow! That was delicious! How did they do that?"
  • Post #2 - August 1st, 2006, 2:06 pm
    Post #2 - August 1st, 2006, 2:06 pm Post #2 - August 1st, 2006, 2:06 pm
    Akatonbo wrote:The only criticism we had was about the wine pairings. I had the "regular," and my husband had the "extended." The wines were the same in all but four or five cases, and he didn't feel that those four or five were special enough to warrant the $50 upcharge - although they were different than the wines I got, he didn't feel they were all that much better. I was perfectly happy with my wines - in fact, I had trouble drinking it all, because 20 little pours do add up!


    I thought the upcharge was worth it. Some of the wines we had were positively mind-blowing and as for price, I happened to later see a bottle of the Grenache we were served at Sam's, and it was priced well into the $100+ range. Price aside, we were definitely getting some unique pours.
  • Post #3 - August 1st, 2006, 3:26 pm
    Post #3 - August 1st, 2006, 3:26 pm Post #3 - August 1st, 2006, 3:26 pm
    But for those who can't swing the extra $50, the "standard" wines were so good we could hardly believe it the night I went -- and there were five of us enjoying the wines (and the amazing food), and we all agreed that we loved the wine and didn't feel the least bit short-changed for having gone with the standards (and, in fact, there were some pretty amazing wines even in the standard group).
  • Post #4 - August 2nd, 2006, 7:54 am
    Post #4 - August 2nd, 2006, 7:54 am Post #4 - August 2nd, 2006, 7:54 am
    Cynthia wrote:But for those who can't swing the extra $50, the "standard" wines were so good we could hardly believe it the night I went -- and there were five of us enjoying the wines (and the amazing food), and we all agreed that we loved the wine and didn't feel the least bit short-changed for having gone with the standards (and, in fact, there were some pretty amazing wines even in the standard group).


    Right! I didn't mean to imply the wines weren't good - they were great. But taste is very individual, and I think the particular choices that night on the extended pairing simply didn't match my husbands taste in wines - who knows? As I said, I had no complaints.
  • Post #5 - August 3rd, 2006, 10:36 am
    Post #5 - August 3rd, 2006, 10:36 am Post #5 - August 3rd, 2006, 10:36 am
    Akatonbo wrote:Right! I didn't mean to imply the wines weren't good - they were great. But taste is very individual, and I think the particular choices that night on the extended pairing simply didn't match my husbands taste in wines - who knows? As I said, I had no complaints.


    No disagreement intended. I was simply adding on to the comment that aschie30 made about the upgrade being worth it. I imagine it would be stunning. But I wanted to reinforce for any who might worry that the standard grade was dandy, too. Because for some of us, doubling the price of the meal is more than we can comfortably handled.
  • Post #6 - August 21st, 2006, 9:47 am
    Post #6 - August 21st, 2006, 9:47 am Post #6 - August 21st, 2006, 9:47 am
    We did the tour (with the extended pairings) on Friday. After we made the reservation (several weeks ago) I became concerned that Alinea wouldn't live up to the hype or the astronomical price tag. And how wrong I was. The entire evening (4 hours) was quite the culinary experience. I didn't think there was a single misstep in the entire menu and some of the courses were pure genuis (Kobe beef with Watermelon, languostine in funnel cake, squab and strawberry).

    We were stuffed by the end (my date was full around the 18th course) and pretty drunk for that matter.

    The whole experience was top notch and we will def return (although I think we'd do the tasting nex time)
  • Post #7 - August 22nd, 2006, 11:41 pm
    Post #7 - August 22nd, 2006, 11:41 pm Post #7 - August 22nd, 2006, 11:41 pm
    We went Saturday night with two other couples -- some of our closest friends. My mother-in-law (NOT a foodie, bless her) asked me about the type of cuisine. I told her we dined in the future, as in the Jetsons or Star Trek. I'm a decent cook, and I have no idea HOW they made a lot of this stuff, other than saying "Computer, paprika-shell shooter, room temperature!"

    It was a magnificent experience. I can't see repeating it anytime soon, but if the restaurant lasts (or I do, for that matter), perhaps I will go back.

    Can't say enough nice things about the service and the kitchen -- how they manage to deliver 24 courses at an individualized rate over 6 hours? Amazing. And hardly even a whiff of snobbery or condescension.

    The wine pairings were worth it to me. What an outstanding selection! I firmly believe that by the end of the night, all fluids in my body had been replaced by wine -- a complete transfusion. It worked well to have me do the pairings and my wife to try each wine, and order glasses of the ones she liked best. Saved us at least $100, and we were both well-satisfied.

    The most hilarious moment was the arrival of food on the "antenna." We couldn't stop laughing long enough to eat whatever it was bobbing on the end of the long, hard rod (sorry). The wife was convinced that this course is just a practical joke, and was looking for hidden cameras.

    Best courses for me were the langoustino tempura (think lobster/corn dog -- if they served these at the Taste, I would not only go, I would blow serious dough on them!), lamb on the grill stone 3 ways (that's what the rosemary was for!), the hanging bacon (best.bacon.ever.), the Kobe beef & watermelon, the truffle explosion, and the deconstructed tomato with curry cream, couscous, blowed up mozzarella and the world's tiniest cucumber.

    Definitely do NOT go with people you aren't comfortable being around for a long time, and drunk to boot.
  • Post #8 - August 24th, 2006, 10:47 am
    Post #8 - August 24th, 2006, 10:47 am Post #8 - August 24th, 2006, 10:47 am
    My wife and I went two weeks ago, and had the tour.

    I basically echo everyone here - this was an amazing showing of culinary skill, outstanding flavors, incredible entertainment... 5 star service and wine.

    It's one of a kind and I'm glad this restaurant is here in Chicago.
  • Post #9 - September 20th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    Post #9 - September 20th, 2006, 3:06 pm Post #9 - September 20th, 2006, 3:06 pm
    wow:
    Gourmet Mag names Alinea #1 in the country. :shock:
  • Post #10 - September 20th, 2006, 11:28 pm
    Post #10 - September 20th, 2006, 11:28 pm Post #10 - September 20th, 2006, 11:28 pm
    Tony beat me to it!! I was coming here to see if it had been noticed and announced here! :D
  • Post #11 - September 21st, 2006, 2:33 pm
    Post #11 - September 21st, 2006, 2:33 pm Post #11 - September 21st, 2006, 2:33 pm
    Well, that will certainly make it harder to get a reservation now!

    But I'm pleased for Chef Achatz. I've been a fan since Trio.
  • Post #12 - September 21st, 2006, 3:34 pm
    Post #12 - September 21st, 2006, 3:34 pm Post #12 - September 21st, 2006, 3:34 pm
    My SO and I ate and drank (more on this later) at Alinea last Friday. The tour lasted about 4 ½ hours for the two of us. The food was absolutely incredible with only a couple missteps – for my taste – in the entire tour. The service was just as good, if not better, than the food – if that is even possible. Every member of the staff was top-notch. They were informative and instructive without being overbearing or condescending. I was left with the impression that they wanted us to have fun with this experience – and we sure did. I mention this because the staff at some other top tier restaurants serve with an attitude that conveys “you are so lucky to be here in my world tonight for dinner.” We received no such attitude at Alinea.

    My only criticism has to do with the wine pairings. Not the wine itself or the pairings, but the shear volume of wine -- I think it was too much. We both ordered the extended/upgraded wine pairings. The sommelier explained to us that the total amount of wine would add up to about 3-4 glasses by the final mini-pour. Based on plenty of past experience, my SO and I figured 3-4 glasses of wine over four hours with food would be no problem. I am 5ft. 10 weighing 240 pounds and my SO is 5ft. 7 and about average weight, so neither of us is a lightweight. Looking back, it sure seems like much more than 3-4 glasses.

    By the end of the meal, my SO was bordering on out of commission. I felt the effects myself but did not think the amount of wine was excessive at the time. However, looking back on my experience I feel otherwise. Some of the later courses and wine pairings are hazy in my memory. For a less expensive or less inspired meal, this would not bother me one bit. But, I do not believe that I was able to fully appreciate the subtle nuances in taste with some of the later food and wine courses because of the volume of wine.

    I will certainly return to Alinea because it was one of the best culinary experiences of my lifetime. However, if the wine program remains the same when I return, I will likely split a wine pairing with my dining companion.
  • Post #13 - September 21st, 2006, 4:41 pm
    Post #13 - September 21st, 2006, 4:41 pm Post #13 - September 21st, 2006, 4:41 pm
    A couple of times at Trio, when we didn't want the full wine pairing, we just asked for a modified pairing -- one white, one red, one dessert -- and the sommelier (who is now at Alinea) simply picked the most "universal" of the wines from the regular pairings list. That kept costs down and diners conscious. They know that not everyone can consume (or afford) the larger amounts of wine, and they happily accommodate that. (But I'm glad I did the full pairings once in my life, just to see how amazing it was -- but that was just with the 12 courses.)
  • Post #14 - October 5th, 2006, 5:53 pm
    Post #14 - October 5th, 2006, 5:53 pm Post #14 - October 5th, 2006, 5:53 pm
    Since this thread was discussing drinks at Alinea, I'm going to reactivate it in a similar vein.

    I'm heading to Alinea next week for my birthday, too, and I'm not going to be able to drink any wine because (1) I'm a lightweight usually and (2) I'm now taking medicine that further lessens my already limited tolerance. Since it just got the #1 ranking, I don't want to push back the reservation and wait even longer to go. I suppose I could tempt fate and have a limited pairing, but even though I'll want to experience Alinea over and over again, I think reverse peristalsis would be a subpar method.

    Has anyone here requested a non-alcoholic beverage pairing? I'd heard something about tea, and surely there has been some other person who couldn't have alchohol.
  • Post #15 - October 17th, 2006, 5:40 pm
    Post #15 - October 17th, 2006, 5:40 pm Post #15 - October 17th, 2006, 5:40 pm
    Okay, I'm going. On Thursday. I'm pretty excited. It's definitely beyond my means to do so, but I'm dining with (a) a grad student and (b) a bike messenger, so we're not trying to fool ourselves into anything beyond the matter at hand. We're not messing with the wine pairing.

    One question that I do have re: preparation: one school of thought seems to hold that you should go to an epic meal like this absolutely famished, while another (seemingly more reasonable) view is that this is a slow meal of many small bites...don't go in there starving, because you'll never catch up. I think I see more sense in the latter...anyone want to argue for the former? Any other preparatory advice?
  • Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 5:43 pm
    Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 5:43 pm Post #16 - October 17th, 2006, 5:43 pm
    I've been four times and have never done any sort of "preparation". Just go and enjoy. It will be a great time.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 6:24 pm
    Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 6:24 pm Post #17 - October 17th, 2006, 6:24 pm
    I went and wasn't that hungry (poor planning on my part) but was OK at the meal. I normally can't eat a lot at one sitting anyway, but there wasn't a lot of food :)
    Leek

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  • Post #18 - October 17th, 2006, 6:54 pm
    Post #18 - October 17th, 2006, 6:54 pm Post #18 - October 17th, 2006, 6:54 pm
    If LTH Thons have taught me anything it's that, if you don't fill yourself at any one point, you can keep eating continuously for hours and hours. (Which indeed is probably how mankind ate for most of its early history, rather than one big meal.) I wouldn't go desperately famished, but I would go hungry, and the meal will be paced appropriately-- obviously if most people were finding it impossible to go on after half the courses, they'd change things. (Experience based on Trio rather than Alinea, but there's not much difference in principle.)
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  • Post #19 - October 19th, 2006, 3:50 pm
    Post #19 - October 19th, 2006, 3:50 pm Post #19 - October 19th, 2006, 3:50 pm
    bluetangle wrote:Has anyone here requested a non-alcoholic beverage pairing? I'd heard something about tea, and surely there has been some other person who couldn't have alchohol.


    When my SO and I dined there earlier this year, everything was perfect. Since I've been off the caffeine (doctor's orders) for about a year, they had a really interesting herbal tea for me to drink after the meal in lieu of coffee.

    Although I have not been in the same situation as you, I'm sure that if you let them know your situation, perhaps even call in advance to let them know - I'm sure that they will more than accommodate you. Chef Achatz is so creative, and his staff is so gracious, that I'm sure they can knock something out of the park for your non-alcoholic self.
  • Post #20 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:37 pm
    Post #20 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:37 pm Post #20 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:37 pm
    Being a student, I also had concerns as to what I would be able to drink once Im able to eat at Alinea.

    Hopefully someone will have some info soon.
  • Post #21 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:37 am
    Post #21 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:37 am Post #21 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:37 am
    I took a few pictures (more functional than artistic), which are here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndg/sets/7 ... 337839929/

    It was a great time and a great meal. I was plesantly surprised to find that the menu was almost completely different than any of the ones reviewed lately. Highlights: rabbit served under glass with smoke from burning sage, 30-hour-old Michigan trout roe, and, of course, the famed black truffle explosion:

    Image

    Lunch for the rest of the week is apples and Clif bars, thank you very much.
  • Post #22 - November 9th, 2006, 11:49 am
    Post #22 - November 9th, 2006, 11:49 am Post #22 - November 9th, 2006, 11:49 am
    Simply AMAZING. What can I say that hasn’t been said? (A lot)

    First, the food... Geniusly presented. No matter what anyone might say, it really is unlike anything else. We had the 24 course tour. And what a tour it was. Every course came in some unique fashion. Everything was well thought out, the flavors melded together and contrasted perfectly. The wine pairings were dead on. Occasionally there was too much to know about what you were eating, and even after the waiter explained it for a good long minute, it was easy to forget parts of what was in everything. That was part of the fun, though, because you could sit and really try to decipher everything, much like you might for a fine wine.

    Of course you can go to Alinea’s web site and see the full menu of what you’ll be eating on your tasting or tour, but reading it does no justice for what you’ll experience. On paper its “romaine.” On plate, its actually pureed romaine.

    Word of caution: a good amount of what Alinea is all about is surprise. Is too much press a bad thing? Possibly. If you’re planning to go, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time reading reviews, looking at pictures, reading press articles. It ruins some of the surprise and takes some of the fun away. If you haven’t been but plan to go, you might skip over the next few paragraphs and go straight to the end--I’d hate to ruin any surprises you may experience. I feel as though I would have benefited slightly by knowing a little less prior to going.

    If Alinea had its own Academy awards, there could probably be some award for every course on the tour, but the awards from me would look something like this:

    Best sensual experience: Rabbit. Brought to the table covered in a Autumn in a glass, literally. The glass was filled with the smoke of burning leaves; the waiter lifted the glass and lets the smoke waft. It smelled and tasted amazing.

    Best sweets: Crabapple, served with three gelatinous sauces: eucalyptus, olive oil (strangely interesting as a jellied sauce), and cheddar cheese. Close second: some sort of puff encrusted foie gras (which we were told was a “gift” not on the menu, which apparently makes it “legal” in Chicago. Though if it weren’t a gift something tells me they can afford the fine).

    Most unexpected flavor: during the raspberry course, just when you thought it might seem as expected, you bite into red pepper taffy that just pops out at you. It tastes amazing and worked perfectly together.

    Oddest method of eating: Quince wrapped in prosciutto, served at the end of a long antennae. When eating, your hands stay away and you bob your head in and eat it off the tip. It reminded me of a sexual act and I just had to laugh at the time.

    Best savory tasting course: A difficult one to pick, I’d pick either the rabbit or the squab.

    Best wine pairing: They were all so good, but even more was that they were so complimentary to the courses. There was a New Zealand Syrah that was among the most peppery and complex wines I’ve had.

    Most unusual ingredient: So many unusual ingredients (unusual to most, at least). Pickled huckleberry, squab, cured trout eggs fresh from Michigan (supposedly 15 hours old), cask aged Belize maple syrup—Blis. Other things weren’t necessarily unusual, but prepared in unexpected ways that worked really well; many things you wouldn’t imagine as being pureed or jellied were.

    The restaurant was bustling with people. There were a ton of people dining, and a ton of people working. Everything was well partitioned, though, so it didn’t seem too crowded.

    Service was good. Somewhat robotic, but in a good way. Somewhat casual, but in a “not stuffy” way--as opposed to a casual because we’re lazy way. We had 4 or 5 people who seemed to be serving us (we seemed to have two waiters, a few expeditors, sommelier for wine), but it still felt personal. There was one minor service hiccup that was probably the result of too many people doing too much different stuff all at once; one of the waiters came to give us new glasses and take our glass of wine that was just freshly poured by another waiter less than a minute before. We told him, and it was not a big deal at all. The wait staff was willing to engage in conversation and even crack jokes, which is always welcomed by me. Upon leaving, the waiter also led us to go inside the kitchen, which was also a nice treat.

    The food here is art, and many apparently feel the need to bring their cameras. That’s perfectly OK, but I wish everyone had enough respect for my $900 meal that they’d turn the flash off while taking pictures.

    There were some great people watching opportunities. Chico’s was definitely in fashion for the women, many of the older women there were über-stylish. I’m not sure I agree that a “jackets required” policy for men is necessary for this type of restaurant. There were a lot of men in unmatched blazers, and it just seemed unnecessary and too old school for such a cutting edge restaurant.

    The only question left somewhat unanswered in my eyes: is it really the #1 restaurant in the country--or even Chicago? We pondered it while we were there, looking around, wondering “could it be?” I’m honestly not sure of it, but I'd put it at either #1 or #2 of the top dining experiences I’ve had (for those that are curious what the other contender would be, that would be Tru—but maybe that was exceptionally amazing to me given that we were in the semi-private dining room). Alinea is a foodies paradise, and something everyone should experience. It’s definitely way up there in the rankings, and after going to a place like this most other restaurants will pale in comparison.
  • Post #23 - December 10th, 2006, 11:43 pm
    Post #23 - December 10th, 2006, 11:43 pm Post #23 - December 10th, 2006, 11:43 pm
    I popped my Alinea cherry last night. Good gracious! (Is that too graphic a description?? I couldn't resist the imagery, after enjoying so many explosive dishes). I'm mostly a stranger to fine cuisine...more the hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant type, but our Alinea experience has converted me.

    We went with another couple, friends from New York, one of whom worked on the line at both Trotter's and Tru, before going into finance!

    I'll spare you all the course-by-course description. Suffice it to say, we had the tour, but ordered four bottles of wine, rather than the pairings.

    Every dish was a standout. My favorites were:

    Rabbit, cider, roasted garlic and the smell of burning leaves. It was my first rabbit ever. And if it were my last, I would still consider myself lucky. It's served under a glass, and when the server lifts it up, smoke billows out, giving everybody a whiff of campfire.

    White truffle, explosion, romaine, parmesan. The truffle is tucked inside a ravioli, and bursts out as soon as you take a bite -- the ravioli has a liquid filling....I have no idea how they accomplish this.

    Chestnut Blis maple syrup. A chestnut, with maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels (edited, thanks to ddane's clarification!), which we know brings out the maple flavor. But how did they get the marvelous consistency??

    Orange, olive oil, green olive, almond. Flavors you'd never imagine would mix, but are delectable together...I can't even describe it.

    I didn't think I'd ever be able to eat again (until a friend brought out a plate of bagels from New York Bagel and Bialy for this morning's brunch).

    So yes. I'm a believer, too.


    Cheers!
    Last edited by rachel2025 on December 12th, 2006, 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #24 - December 11th, 2006, 1:42 am
    Post #24 - December 11th, 2006, 1:42 am Post #24 - December 11th, 2006, 1:42 am
    My wife and I went the first week in November.

    At the time we loved it, but now in retrospect I have more of an "emperors new clothes" kind of vibe about the whole experience. While everything was good, much of it wasn't amazing. I could try to justify it as an "experience"... But I cannot say it was the even close to the best meal I have ever eaten.
  • Post #25 - December 11th, 2006, 5:15 pm
    Post #25 - December 11th, 2006, 5:15 pm Post #25 - December 11th, 2006, 5:15 pm
    Tortfeasor wrote:But I cannot say it was the even close to the best meal I have ever eaten.


    so what was the best meal you've eaten? :P

    rachel... sounds like you really enjoyed it!! i can still smell the autumn smoke from the rabbit... maybe i'll forever associate the two :o

    the maple syrup is apparently made in belize, yet it's aged in bourbon barrels (which is made in kentucky...) , so the logistics of that is a bit of a mystery to me... : you can buy it here http://mikuni.myshopify.com/products/bl ... up-375ml-1 (pretty sure this is the same...) ... i found an interesting article on the company that makes this product: http://www.canada.com/topics/lifestyle/ ... ed&k=87604 ...apparently oprah just featured it in her "o" magazine too...(which could be good or bad, hmm)
  • Post #26 - December 11th, 2006, 6:42 pm
    Post #26 - December 11th, 2006, 6:42 pm Post #26 - December 11th, 2006, 6:42 pm
    dddane wrote:so what was the best meal you've eaten? :P


    I have had some particularly fantastic meals at Nine, Cyrano, JoyYee, Manny's and Rosebud on Taylor that have all been better. I am sure if I really try to think I can come with a bunch more....
  • Post #27 - December 11th, 2006, 7:00 pm
    Post #27 - December 11th, 2006, 7:00 pm Post #27 - December 11th, 2006, 7:00 pm
    With a restaurant like Alinea, it's hard to compare a meal there to another at many restaurants and declare one meal "better" than the other. Dinner at Alinea is different than dinner at Nine, and certainly all of the other places you listed.

    Was it the style of cooking or the actual flavors that put you off? Hopefully you didn't go in expecting "the best meal of your life" because I don't think any restaurant could live up to that expectation. Also, I'm confused about how you went from "loving it" to thinking the "emperor has no clothes" (which to me would imply that you think the place is a total fraud, a pretty extreme viewpoint even if you weren't nuts about the place).
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #28 - December 11th, 2006, 8:09 pm
    Post #28 - December 11th, 2006, 8:09 pm Post #28 - December 11th, 2006, 8:09 pm
    jesteinf wrote:With a restaurant like Alinea, it's hard to compare a meal there to another at many restaurants and declare one meal "better" than the other. Dinner at Alinea is different than dinner at Nine, and certainly all of the other places you listed.

    Was it the style of cooking or the actual flavors that put you off? Hopefully you didn't go in expecting "the best meal of your life" because I don't think any restaurant could live up to that expectation. Also, I'm confused about how you went from "loving it" to thinking the "emperor has no clothes" (which to me would imply that you think the place is a total fraud, a pretty extreme viewpoint even if you weren't nuts about the place).


    By "emperor has no cloths", I mean you are told that you are paying so much for what you are being convinced is amazing stuff when really you are getting much less if not anything at all. Really, what you are getting, except for perhaps 5 or 6 courses no different then what you would get on any tasting menu anywhere in the city... Except it is weird for the sake of being wierd.

    While there we got into a conversation with our terrific waiter and he told us that the staff never eat the stuff being served. He told us that they make a huge staff meal every day that is served in a more traditional style. I asked him if he ever dines at the restaurant and he told me that once a year they get a free meal and that while it is always a fun experience, he prefers the daily staff dinner. Later when he was serving us wine, I asked him about a particularly fantastic white that was $8 a glass and he hemmed and hawed a bit before telling me that it would cost me no more than $12 a bottle at retail.

    I guess my point is that in the end the restaurant is just fancy for the sake of being fancy. You almost have to laugh as they serve you some wacky dish is a wacky bowl with some sort of wacky stick it eat it with. If they instead concentrated on the 5 or 6 items in the tasting menu that were truly groundbreaking and served them in a less pretentious way, I think the whole experience would have been much better.

    Why did my mind change after the meal? Because we were determined to throw ourselves into the experience! Afterwards we just couldn't help but laugh at how silly the meal was.
  • Post #29 - December 11th, 2006, 8:47 pm
    Post #29 - December 11th, 2006, 8:47 pm Post #29 - December 11th, 2006, 8:47 pm
    Tortfeasor wrote: Really, what you are getting, except for perhaps 5 or 6 courses no different then what you would get on any tasting menu anywhere in the city... Except it is weird for the sake of being wierd.


    I couldn't disagree more with this statement. What were the dishes you had at Alinea that were similar to what you can get at other restaurants?

    But, if you didn't like it, that's cool. That's why they have 31 flavors.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #30 - December 12th, 2006, 7:27 am
    Post #30 - December 12th, 2006, 7:27 am Post #30 - December 12th, 2006, 7:27 am
    Tortfeasor wrote:I have had some particularly fantastic meals at Nine, Cyrano, JoyYee, Manny's and Rosebud on Taylor that have all been better. I am sure if I really try to think I can come with a bunch more....

    Tortfeasor,

    While the molecular gastronomy style is not for everyone, I'm betting in a year you will still be thinking, pondering, chewing over your meal at Alinea. To me a meal of that nature, though I have not been to Alinea as of yet, gets you thinking outside the box in a way steak and oysters at Nine, no matter how wonderful, does not.

    Speaking of Nine, I can see how Nine for the aforementioned steak, oysters and drop-dead gorgeous female customers, Cyrano for rabbit, Manny's for pastrami/oxtail, and Rosebud for sheer exuberance might be on your top in Chicago list, but Joy Yee?

    I've been to Joy Yee, Evanston branch only, 4-5 times over the years and was never much impressed. Do you have a specific dish or three you like there?

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow

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