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Alinea - I'm a believer

Alinea - I'm a believer
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  • Post #391 - July 20th, 2015, 6:41 pm
    Post #391 - July 20th, 2015, 6:41 pm Post #391 - July 20th, 2015, 6:41 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:
    brokenspatula wrote:I was pretty down on them after a meal in December of 2013. The experience seemed cut short. I don't mind sitting 4 hours at alinea, I think we were done in 2.

    I ate there that same month, and we had a normally-paced dinner that took four hours. And it was the best dinner of my entire life.

    I gotta get back there...


    This is definitely the most disappointing part about that visit. We were flying in with the main goal being a nice dinner. Getting rushed, having a couple of stinker courses, and an abbreviated version of meals we've had in the past was a big enough let down to not return for over a year. While a few others like Gonzo on here reported the same, others were reporting it being the same 20+ ultra creative masterpiece it's always been. Our meal a few weeks ago was so good we instantly booked another reservation.


    The above menu appeared quite a bit different from what when I dined three weeks earlier at first glance, but I have to take that statement back. It's actually just 5 added courses along with one substituted one. We were not served the Peach or the Jamon but instead started right with the surf clam. After graffiti we had a lily and eggplant dish instead of octopus. Our two sets of small bites were the same except instead of shrimp and corn we were served hamachi. The next 3 are similar, sub pork belly for chicken. After rabbit we were served cheesecake, balloon, then tropical fruit (missed lamb, black truffle explosion, and bacon).
    Last edited by brokenspatula on July 20th, 2015, 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #392 - July 20th, 2015, 6:47 pm
    Post #392 - July 20th, 2015, 6:47 pm Post #392 - July 20th, 2015, 6:47 pm
    brokenspatula wrote:Service was easy, joking smartasses that come off on the playful side of things.


    That's the one thing I've never liked about Alinea. I don't want a Michelin *** meal with a joking smartass as a server.
  • Post #393 - July 20th, 2015, 6:57 pm
    Post #393 - July 20th, 2015, 6:57 pm Post #393 - July 20th, 2015, 6:57 pm
    It's possible others would claim it's engaging, unpretentious, and relaxed. I wouldn't say they are wrong. They could also have just picked up on my own sarcastic self and tossed it back at me.
  • Post #394 - July 20th, 2015, 7:23 pm
    Post #394 - July 20th, 2015, 7:23 pm Post #394 - July 20th, 2015, 7:23 pm
    My first few visits to Alinea the servers did seem adept at gaging how formal versus relaxed we prefer service and adjusting to provide that experience. This was absent my visit in 2013; very stoic, rigid, overly formalized service - which is not what my wife and I enjoy (we much prefer the servers being relaxed and jovial - i.e. more akin to El Ideas than Everest). Last visit it was back to being more relaxed. Grace IMHO does this best in Chicago - assessing the customer's preferences and flawlessly providing that type of experience.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #395 - July 20th, 2015, 7:31 pm
    Post #395 - July 20th, 2015, 7:31 pm Post #395 - July 20th, 2015, 7:31 pm
    Gonzo70 wrote:Grace IMHO does this best in Chicago - assessing the customer's preferences and flawlessly providing that type of experience.

    Not on my most recent visit to Grace, when our server was argumentative and uncompromising, rather than helpful and accommodating. :evil:
  • Post #396 - July 20th, 2015, 9:57 pm
    Post #396 - July 20th, 2015, 9:57 pm Post #396 - July 20th, 2015, 9:57 pm
    I found it interesting that when we were discussing various prospective places in Chicago to take our guests, Grace wasn't even on their radar. Given Grace's status, its Michelin stars and its shared DNA with Alinea, I think that probably says more about our guests than Grace. But at the end of the day, for well-traveled international visitors who aren't necessarily dialed into fine dining (in the way many of us are), it seems that Alinea is very well-known and Grace may not quite be there yet.

    =R=
    There's a horse loose in a hospital -- JM

    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #397 - July 21st, 2015, 9:21 am
    Post #397 - July 21st, 2015, 9:21 am Post #397 - July 21st, 2015, 9:21 am
    Alinea can change literally on a daily basis. I as well had a shorter, albeit delicious menu in October of '13, and the service was fine. I have had meals there that are 14 courses and 28 courses. The fall and winter get kind of tricky with ingredients for obvious reasons... That said, I returned in February of '14 with a friend and had an extremely filling feast of 20 courses. So you can really never predict what's going to happen.

    I think that without having eaten there more than once, or not at all, many people's minds immediately shift to what I call the 'cookbook' idea of Alinea... i.e. they think of the food documented in the cookbook, and as it was the first couple of years of the restaurant's existence. And the length of the menus as well. Going in and expecting those presentations and that exact menu length might lead you to disappointment. Chef Achatz's cuisine has certainly evolved since then..!! The only way to really know is to try it.

    If you go one night and your friend goes the next and he gets an extra course you didn't get and you feel jilted, then maybe Alinea isn't the place for you... there aren't any rules and nothing is promised except something that is surprising, delicious and fun.

    The one thing I've learned that with anything Chef and Nick do as far as their restaurant endeavors go, always expect the unexpected... The second you start trying to predict them is when things will go wrong for you. I realize that can be difficult because so much of the product is really cool food porn, but having a truly open mind really helps.

    ronnie_suburban wrote:I found it interesting that when we were discussing various prospective places in Chicago to take our guests, Grace wasn't even on their radar. Given Grace's status, its Michelin stars and its shared DNA with Alinea, I think that probably says more about our guests than Grace. But at the end of the day, for well-traveled international visitors who aren't necessarily dialed into fine dining (in the way many of us are), it seems that Alinea is very well-known and Grace may not quite be there yet.

    =R=


    Without speaking to the character, cuisine, or opinion of either restaurant, it just takes flat out time to be established on an international level. The times I have been abroad and eating great, people ask me as an American about places like Alinea, The French Laundry, Eleven Madison, and Jean Georges. I learned this from actually traveling and actively paying attention to restaurants and eating at some on my trips.

    Now, speaking specifically to Grace... I think it's an incredible restaurant; one of the country's best. It's one of the most unique and defined dining experiences on the face of the planet. It is warm, consistent, and the cuisine is truly unique and delicious... I'm sure that it will reach that go-to status very quickly! The restaurant world has room for a lot of people...!
    "People are too busy in these times to care about good food. We used to spend months working over a bonne-femme sauce, trying to determine just the right proportions of paprika and fresh forest mushrooms to use." -Karoly Gundel, Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg, 1954.
  • Post #398 - July 21st, 2015, 11:20 am
    Post #398 - July 21st, 2015, 11:20 am Post #398 - July 21st, 2015, 11:20 am
    I agree with Royal. Alinea has been around approximately four times as long as Grace. It definitely helps with regards to international recognition that it has been recognized in the World's Best 50 Restaurant list and Grace hasn't cracked yet (it took Alinea three years to crack the list, Grace will be three when next year's list is released). Also the style of cuisine Alinea is known for is more attention grabbing and garners more press, so people outside of the US are far more likely to hear about Alinea's edible helium balloon than Grace's amazing king crab dish. Sooner rather than later I believe that people outside of Chicago (and not long after that outside of the US) will have as much interest in Grace as Alinea.

    Chicago is privileged to have two restaurants of such high caliber around. Personally my first visit to Alinea was superior to my first visit to Grace; I loved the whimsy of Alinea and the evening was so full of surprises - it was a truly magical dining experience I will never forget. However some of that magic is forever lost after one's first visit and for me subsequent visits have never measured up (or even come close to) my first. On the other hand I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite meal at Grace; Grace is the epitome of consistency. Since it is less about surprise and whimsy, and more about beautifully presented and delicious food, the most personable yet highly polished service team I've encountered in Chicago and a luxurious yet comfortable dining room subsequent visits are no less special than the first.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #399 - July 21st, 2015, 12:29 pm
    Post #399 - July 21st, 2015, 12:29 pm Post #399 - July 21st, 2015, 12:29 pm
    Royal Lichter wrote:It is warm, consistent, and the cuisine is truly unique and delicious...

    Gonzo70 wrote:Grace is the epitome of consistency.

    Based on my two dinners at Grace - one with sublime food and exquisite service, the other with disappointing food and surly service - the last word I would use to describe it is "consistent".
  • Post #400 - July 21st, 2015, 12:54 pm
    Post #400 - July 21st, 2015, 12:54 pm Post #400 - July 21st, 2015, 12:54 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:
    Royal Lichter wrote:It is warm, consistent, and the cuisine is truly unique and delicious...

    Gonzo70 wrote:Grace is the epitome of consistency.

    Based on my two dinners at Grace - one with sublime food and exquisite service, the other with disappointing food and surly service - the last word I would use to describe it is "consistent".


    And I'd be willing to wager a boatload of money that you are in a tiny camp of people that believes Grace is inconsistent. I think you are reading far, far, far too much significance into a single visit by a single party (quite some time ago now to boot) where the experience was off. Even the world's most consistent restaurant is going to disappoint a party here and there and have the occasional off night. What is meaningful is the general consensus and of all venues in Chicago I hear more praise regarding Grace's consistency than anywhere else and precious few complaints - and most people have extremely high expectations when dropping that kind of coin on a meal.

    I'd strongly encourage you to give them another chance; my guess is you will find the experience far more similar to your first than your second.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #401 - July 21st, 2015, 2:07 pm
    Post #401 - July 21st, 2015, 2:07 pm Post #401 - July 21st, 2015, 2:07 pm
    I had a disappointing dinner at Grace a few months ago, and our entire party felt the same way about it.

    Some people merely post their own opinions without trying to denigrate those of others. Shame on you for trying to minimize and deride mine.
  • Post #402 - July 21st, 2015, 2:37 pm
    Post #402 - July 21st, 2015, 2:37 pm Post #402 - July 21st, 2015, 2:37 pm
    brokenspatula wrote:
    nsxtasy wrote:
    brokenspatula wrote:I was pretty down on them after a meal in December of 2013. The experience seemed cut short. I don't mind sitting 4 hours at alinea, I think we were done in 2.

    I ate there that same month, and we had a normally-paced dinner that took four hours. And it was the best dinner of my entire life.

    I gotta get back there...


    This is definitely the most disappointing part about that visit. We were flying in with the main goal being a nice dinner. Getting rushed, having a couple of stinker courses, and an abbreviated version of meals we've had in the past was a big enough let down to not return for over a year. While a few others like Gonzo on here reported the same, others were reporting it being the same 20+ ultra creative masterpiece it's always been. Our meal a few weeks ago was so good we instantly booked another reservation.


    The above menu appeared quite a bit different from what when I dined three weeks earlier at first glance, but I have to take that statement back. It's actually just 5 added courses along with one substituted one. We were not served the Peach or the Jamon but instead started right with the surf clam. After graffiti we had a lily and eggplant dish instead of octopus. Our two sets of small bites were the same except instead of shrimp and corn we were served hamachi. The next 3 are similar, sub pork belly for chicken. After rabbit we were served cheesecake, balloon, then tropical fruit (missed lamb, black truffle explosion, and bacon).


    Now I am wondering if on our last visit we encountered the same thing. It was very abbreviated compared to our first Alinea experience and more tellingly it was abbreviated compared to reports from other diners contemporaneous with our visit. Oh well, I will still forever cherish my first meal at Alinea even if I have little desire to go back now.
  • Post #403 - July 21st, 2015, 3:10 pm
    Post #403 - July 21st, 2015, 3:10 pm Post #403 - July 21st, 2015, 3:10 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:
    Royal Lichter wrote:It is warm, consistent, and the cuisine is truly unique and delicious...

    Gonzo70 wrote:Grace is the epitome of consistency.

    Based on my two dinners at Grace - one with sublime food and exquisite service, the other with disappointing food and surly service - the last word I would use to describe it is "consistent".


    I'm sorry you had that kind of experience. For the kind of money spent on these kinds of places, no one should ever have a bad experience, especially since they are for most people, once in a lifetime or twice in a lifetime meals.
    "People are too busy in these times to care about good food. We used to spend months working over a bonne-femme sauce, trying to determine just the right proportions of paprika and fresh forest mushrooms to use." -Karoly Gundel, Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg, 1954.
  • Post #404 - July 21st, 2015, 3:15 pm
    Post #404 - July 21st, 2015, 3:15 pm Post #404 - July 21st, 2015, 3:15 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:I had a disappointing dinner at Grace a few months ago, and our entire party felt the same way about it.

    Some people merely post their own opinions without trying to denigrate those of others. Shame on you for trying to minimize and deride mine.


    I think you misunderstood my post; I was not minimizing your experience nor deriding your opinion in the least - was just expressing my belief that your first meal at Grace is the norm (when you stated that "I thought that the food AND the service were sublime. We had quite a discussion about whether or not Grace is the best restaurant in the city") and your more recent meal there in 2014 (which you described at the time as "a VERY GOOD DINNER" but that "was also flawed") was the exception.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #405 - July 24th, 2015, 11:16 pm
    Post #405 - July 24th, 2015, 11:16 pm Post #405 - July 24th, 2015, 11:16 pm
    Chouxfly recently was awarded tenure, and his parents gave him the wonderful gift of a dinner at Alinea.

    We were encouraged to "take all the pictures you want" by our server, so I did (of course, no flash and silent shutter, to be as unobtrusive to other guests as possible).

    Here's a link to our photos, with descriptions and comments: https://www.flickr.com/gp/18626930@N00/967rg1

    It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was, for me, marred by a few tiny things. We were told to expect our dinner to last four hours, but we were ushered out at nearly the two-hour mark; and while I don't expect a chef of Achatz' caliber to necessarily be cheerful and chatty, he seemed almost angry when he did our dessert, and did not acknowledge our thanks at all... no eye contact, and clearly in a rush to be finished and away from us as soon as possible. It was a jarring and sour end to an otherwise amazing meal. I wondered, does he hate being photographed? If so, shouldn't the server have told us? I shudder to think that I may have inadvertently angered him.
    “Assuredly it is a great accomplishment to be a novelist, but it is no mediocre glory to be a cook.” -- Alexandre Dumas

    "I give you Chicago. It is no London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from tail to snout." -- H.L. Mencken
  • Post #406 - July 24th, 2015, 11:59 pm
    Post #406 - July 24th, 2015, 11:59 pm Post #406 - July 24th, 2015, 11:59 pm
    That's the exact same meal I was served, or at least pretty close. When did you dine?

    You're missing 5 or so courses that same menu can have, but 3/5 are small bites anyways. You're sitting second floor on the left side if you're facing the building, that's the 5-6 side for two tops. I think I've dined enough to notice that's the quick flip side, they need you gone to set up for the second round of two tops at 8:30 on while still giving good service to the 6 tops and 4 tops in the same room that don't flip (630-730 seatings)

    Photographs or not I wouldn't take offense to chef being serious. It's not often you get him in house let alone plating dessert like 4 years ago. I'd be happy for the treat!
  • Post #407 - July 25th, 2015, 12:26 pm
    Post #407 - July 25th, 2015, 12:26 pm Post #407 - July 25th, 2015, 12:26 pm
    Oh I wasn't offended! I was just worried that I offended HIM.
    “Assuredly it is a great accomplishment to be a novelist, but it is no mediocre glory to be a cook.” -- Alexandre Dumas

    "I give you Chicago. It is no London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from tail to snout." -- H.L. Mencken
  • Post #408 - July 28th, 2015, 10:16 am
    Post #408 - July 28th, 2015, 10:16 am Post #408 - July 28th, 2015, 10:16 am
    You shouldnt have to worry about offending (not to say you are allowed to be a jerk) someone at whose establishment you likely just dropped several thousand dollars.

    My gosh.
  • Post #409 - July 28th, 2015, 11:18 am
    Post #409 - July 28th, 2015, 11:18 am Post #409 - July 28th, 2015, 11:18 am
    mamagotcha wrote:I shudder to think


    I see what you did there.
    Pithy quote here.
  • Post #410 - July 29th, 2015, 2:09 pm
    Post #410 - July 29th, 2015, 2:09 pm Post #410 - July 29th, 2015, 2:09 pm
    Hey, all!

    Has anybody crashed the ticket system on release day lately? Do they open the tables up at midnight CST when the month changes over, or is it a little more variable?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #411 - July 29th, 2015, 3:47 pm
    Post #411 - July 29th, 2015, 3:47 pm Post #411 - July 29th, 2015, 3:47 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:Hey, all!

    Has anybody crashed the ticket system on release day lately? Do they open the tables up at midnight CST when the month changes over, or is it a little more variable?


    Tickets do not open at month's end; the date varies a bit, but most frequently it is on or about the 15th that they open up a full months of additional reservations - i.e. on approximately August 15th they will open up all of October. It will likely be sometime late morning or early afternoon when the release happens (based on past occurrences), but the time and date varies. They will announce the release via Facebook and Twitter. Generally unless you must have a very specific day/time you do not need to worry about immediately accessing the site and buying the tickets, it takes at least a few days before availability becomes picked over. Also keep in mind at some point in the near future they are temporarily closing to do massive renovations and will be popping up out of town during that time period - I forget the latest estimate as to when this is happening.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #412 - July 29th, 2015, 4:00 pm
    Post #412 - July 29th, 2015, 4:00 pm Post #412 - July 29th, 2015, 4:00 pm
    Aha! Well, that would explain why I didn't see anything around the first of the month when I scrolled back to see if they make an announcement via Twitter :oops:

    Thanks, Gonzo!
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #413 - September 15th, 2015, 2:39 pm
    Post #413 - September 15th, 2015, 2:39 pm Post #413 - September 15th, 2015, 2:39 pm
    Looks like tickets are up to $295 during peak this go around. Going to go one last time before the remodel/re concept....
  • Post #414 - September 15th, 2015, 4:36 pm
    Post #414 - September 15th, 2015, 4:36 pm Post #414 - September 15th, 2015, 4:36 pm
    Went to Alinea last Friday and had a really fun meal. The wine selection seemed to steer far towards the whites but we were warned of this and expected it given the end of summer menu. Highlights included the hot potato and cold potato and the black truffle both of which are staples. Service was great as always, I do however wish there were a few more red meat courses. A couple misses in my opinion (graffiti and steelhead roe) but otherwise great meal and look forward to returning after the changes.
  • Post #415 - October 13th, 2015, 11:06 am
    Post #415 - October 13th, 2015, 11:06 am Post #415 - October 13th, 2015, 11:06 am
    Alinea, the three-Michelin-star restaurant that led Chicago to its current renaissance of high gastronomy, will close for several months beginning Jan 1.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct ... story.html
    "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." George Carlin
  • Post #416 - October 15th, 2015, 9:11 am
    Post #416 - October 15th, 2015, 9:11 am Post #416 - October 15th, 2015, 9:11 am
    Looks like Alinea is popping up in Madrid in January/February. As well as doing a really, really interesting (and surprising!!) collaboration dinner with diverXO.

    http://alineainresidence.com

    On another note, I'm betting the second location for their popup will be Miami...
    "People are too busy in these times to care about good food. We used to spend months working over a bonne-femme sauce, trying to determine just the right proportions of paprika and fresh forest mushrooms to use." -Karoly Gundel, Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg, 1954.
  • Post #417 - October 15th, 2015, 1:06 pm
    Post #417 - October 15th, 2015, 1:06 pm Post #417 - October 15th, 2015, 1:06 pm
    Royal Lichter wrote:Looks like Alinea is popping up in Madrid in January/February. As well as doing a really, really interesting (and surprising!!) collaboration dinner with diverXO.

    http://alineainresidence.com

    On another note, I'm betting the second location for their popup will be Miami...


    That is a pretty good bet!

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct ... story.html
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #418 - November 21st, 2015, 5:10 pm
    Post #418 - November 21st, 2015, 5:10 pm Post #418 - November 21st, 2015, 5:10 pm
    Anyone going before they close up shop next month to rehab? Last night at the "old" Alinea is New Years Eve.
    "People are too busy in these times to care about good food. We used to spend months working over a bonne-femme sauce, trying to determine just the right proportions of paprika and fresh forest mushrooms to use." -Karoly Gundel, Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg, 1954.
  • Post #419 - November 29th, 2015, 9:56 pm
    Post #419 - November 29th, 2015, 9:56 pm Post #419 - November 29th, 2015, 9:56 pm
    I went this weekend. We had a fun meal but having gone a few months prior I wouldn't say a repeat visit was worth the price of admission. I won't post pictures course by course unless someone would like the visual spoilers, but here was our menu:

    Image

    Up until the Chicken (in the fire) course our meal was pretty similar to the one in September minus the Char roe dish and a few ingredient swaps with similar presentation (first course cocktail, graffiti). The duck in three parts was a memorable olfactory experience with charred cinnamon logs and burning leaves permeating the restaurant every 15 minutes. After that it was again a similar menu as our September experience with an addition of parsnip with burgundy truffle course that was quite nice. Misses were the olive oil cake, lamb/caper leaf ( everything great underneath, everything on top destroying the lamb), balloon which is great in theory but not my thing after having it, and the tropical fruit mat dessert is quite tiring after the third time flavor wise yet mike bagale made it look amazing. Courses served in house during our visit we did not receive were black truffle explosion, bacon, and a white truffle dish.

    Wine pairings pictured were reserve. The only thing repeated from our last visit was the Sake and the chianti (different vintage). Another miss for me, we really liked On the White Keys, Billecart vintage, and Cloudburst on the last pairing. Nothing stood out nearly as much here except for the 2010 Chateau Simone Palette Blanc. Not saying they weren't well paired, I just wasn't as impressed.

    We had great service up until mid meal and either our bladders or something else halted our service for a good 30-45 minutes which resulted in a meal lasting until 1 AM.

    If you haven't been since mamagotcha's post, I'd say it's worth a trip but not quite as good as the menu she posted. I have reservations for the end of December and I'm kind of regretting "One last time!" instead of grabbing tickets for when they reopen.
  • Post #420 - December 1st, 2015, 12:02 pm
    Post #420 - December 1st, 2015, 12:02 pm Post #420 - December 1st, 2015, 12:02 pm
    pepsican wrote:I have reservations for the end of December and I'm kind of regretting "One last time!" instead of grabbing tickets for when they reopen.

    Then do both! :)

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