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Alinea - I'm a believer

Alinea - I'm a believer
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  • Post #421 - December 1st, 2015, 1:40 pm
    Post #421 - December 1st, 2015, 1:40 pm Post #421 - December 1st, 2015, 1:40 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:
    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! :)



    That's the plan! Rereading my post it comes off way too negative. We had a wonderful trip and are happy to return this month. The three part duck dish might be the best bites of food I've had this year.
  • Post #422 - December 14th, 2015, 4:20 pm
    Post #422 - December 14th, 2015, 4:20 pm Post #422 - December 14th, 2015, 4:20 pm
    This makes me excited.

    Image
    "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 #423 - December 31st, 2015, 12:03 pm
    Post #423 - December 31st, 2015, 12:03 pm Post #423 - December 31st, 2015, 12:03 pm
    Snuck in last night for one final hurrah at Alinea v1.0. It was a pretty meaningful and fun meal. There was a happy vibe in the room, being the second to last night and all... maybe even a tinge of bittersweetness. As always the cuisine was fun, delicious, and slightly provocative. My most recent visit was in October and everything aside from tableside dessert and black truffle explosion/hot potato cold potato was different.

    I can't wait to see what comes of Alinea v2.0.

    If anyone is wanting one final chance to sneak in, the deal of the century exists on Craigslist right now...

    http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/tix/5380762442.html
    "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 #424 - April 1st, 2016, 4:02 pm
    Post #424 - April 1st, 2016, 4:02 pm Post #424 - April 1st, 2016, 4:02 pm
    Looks like R&D for Alinea 2.0 is popping up in the old Moto location. Picked up a pair of tickets today for it, really excited to see what this is going to be like...

    The Alinea Group announces….

    The Progression.

    Alinea.TockTix.com

    A highly experimental dinner hosted by the Alinea team, The Progression is an informal evening of food and beverage highlighting concepts and ideas that we simply cannot produce anywhere else. Created over the course of only a few weeks in collaboration with the visual artist Adam Siegel, The Progression is unedited and spontaneous, an improv version of dining.

    We hope that stripping away the constraints of formal dining will allow our team to conjure new concepts and ideas that will, once edited, make their way to the new Alinea.

    What you need to know:

    • Parties of 2 only please.
    • You will receive an email 24 hours in advance with details.
    • We are terribly sorry but we cannot accommodate any dietary restrictions.
    • Informal attire only please. Ladies will be more comfortable without high heels.
    • Important: Please be on time. You will not be admitted if you are more than 10 minutes late.
    • Bookings are $115/pp — Beverages will be available for purchase at time of your experience.

    We will be running The Progression for a very limited engagement of only a few weeks, selling about a week of bookings at time.

    Location: 945 W. Fulton Market
  • Post #425 - April 2nd, 2016, 6:18 pm
    Post #425 - April 2nd, 2016, 6:18 pm Post #425 - April 2nd, 2016, 6:18 pm
    pepsican wrote:
    The Alinea Group announces….

    The Progression.


    • Informal attire only please. Ladies will be more comfortable without high heels.


    Blatantly sexist! I'm sure (most) men would also be more comfortable without high heels, why aren't they warning *them*? :wink:
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #426 - April 3rd, 2016, 11:43 am
    Post #426 - April 3rd, 2016, 11:43 am Post #426 - April 3rd, 2016, 11:43 am
    I spoke with Nick last night about it. There will be movement throughout the experience and it is going to be highly spontaneous and experimental.

    I was lucky enough to travel to Madrid and Miami for the popups and eat Alinea 1.0 food one last time but I think this will be totally different. I gazed through the windows - well tried to - but couldn't see anything.

    I am excited to see what they have up their sleeves for this.
    "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 #427 - May 4th, 2016, 12:23 pm
    Post #427 - May 4th, 2016, 12:23 pm Post #427 - May 4th, 2016, 12:23 pm
    Daniel Gerzina, via Eater, is reporting the following dining options for the upcoming Alinea 2.0:

    Fresh off its James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant, Nick Kokonas and Grant Achatz are revealing more details on Alinea 2.0. Chicago's three-Michelin-starred institution is set to reopen in two-to-three weeks, Kokonas says, after closing on New Years Eve for a complete renovation and overhaul.

    First off, take a look around the new space in the photos above. The "whole place is brand new," Kokonas says, as they gutted the entire restaurant with the exception of the lines in the kitchen. For the design inspiration, Kokonas says that "we sought to create a juxtaposition of classic architectural details from various historical eras with modern design and materials."

    But the space isn't the only thing that will be brand new at Alinea. The menus and pricing are also changing, and those will vary based on where in the restaurant you are. There are three "distinct dining experiences" you'll be able to choose from:

    The Kitchen Table — a private area costing a whopping $385 per person for parties of six, requiring a $950 deposit. They describe it as Alinea's "highest dining expression."

    The Gallery — first floor dining area, parties of two and four, with only 16 total seats. 16-18 course menu with "experimental moments." $285-345 per person, based on the day of the week.

    The Salon — second floor areas that are "more approachable," costing $175-225, and available for one person up to six. All prices are before tax, gratuity, and beverage pairings, and Kokonas says he hasn't priced the beverages yet.


    Needless to say, the dining public and myself alike, are eagerly anticipating the books being opened for reservations.

    It's nice to see a number of experiences being offered, similar to Next and Aviary. I suspect these will be well-received, particularly the Salon offering.
    "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 #428 - May 4th, 2016, 1:01 pm
    Post #428 - May 4th, 2016, 1:01 pm Post #428 - May 4th, 2016, 1:01 pm
    I wish I had four friends that would spend that much on the kitchen table, some day hopefully.

    The interior is quite shocking. Between that and getting rid of all of the things they're known for, it should be quite a fun experience. Definitely going to attempt to get reservations for The Gallery whenever they happen to release those.
  • Post #429 - May 5th, 2016, 11:59 am
    Post #429 - May 5th, 2016, 11:59 am Post #429 - May 5th, 2016, 11:59 am
    Seems like Alinea is having a This is Spinal Tap moment. I'm all for creativity but this seems a bit pretentious to me.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/04/dining/alinea-restaurant-chicago-grant-achatz.html
  • Post #430 - May 11th, 2016, 9:07 am
    Post #430 - May 11th, 2016, 9:07 am Post #430 - May 11th, 2016, 9:07 am
    So, the Alinea website has been updated with the following introduction:

    On May 4th, 2005 we opened the doors to Alinea. The culmination of years of dreaming and imagination, Alinea was a minimalist modern vision that put the focal point on the cuisine and dining as an experience.

    Chasing modernity is a fool’s errand. What was modern design in 2004 when we began the project is unlikely to be cutting edge in 2020. And so just before our 10th anniversary we committed to completely redesign and rebuild Alinea.

    On January 4th of this year the demolition crew came through and the rebuild began shortly after. Crews worked continuously to do in 4 months what took 13 months the first time around. And we sent our team around the world in the process.

    The new design is an intentional juxtaposition of classical architectural references and modern touchstones. It seeks to be timeless and sophisticated while giving no direct hints to a specific time or place. We also took the opportunity to improve the mechanicals, modernize the lighting systems, and install a five-zone sound system. We’ve also come to understand that the best moments of creativity come when we are uncomfortable and uncertain. So we are starting with a blank slate on the cuisine as well – and adding a few completely new experiences and choices for patrons.

    Some people are calling this iteration Alinea 2.0 or the Alinea Reboot. We just call it Alinea. Because all along we’ve always desired to embrace innovation and change as our core identity.

    “Alinea” means the beginning of a new train of thought.

    Welcome back to Alinea.


    I suspect they will be accepting bookings for (re)opening night very, very soon.
    "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 #431 - May 11th, 2016, 1:42 pm
    Post #431 - May 11th, 2016, 1:42 pm Post #431 - May 11th, 2016, 1:42 pm
    I'd love to see them radically rethinking the cost to dine there. Oh, wait, they tried that, for a minute, with Next. Never mind. Print the money!
  • Post #432 - May 11th, 2016, 1:46 pm
    Post #432 - May 11th, 2016, 1:46 pm Post #432 - May 11th, 2016, 1:46 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:I'd love to see them radically rethinking the cost to dine there. Oh, wait, they tried that, for a minute, with Next. Never mind. Print the money!


    Stunned to see you in a Next/Alinea thread.
  • Post #433 - May 11th, 2016, 7:49 pm
    Post #433 - May 11th, 2016, 7:49 pm Post #433 - May 11th, 2016, 7:49 pm
    That's why I get paid the big bucks!

    I'll be honest, it's fun to tease them, but you've got to admit they sometimes invite it. Anyway, site's been kind of slow lately.
  • Post #434 - May 18th, 2016, 10:50 am
    Post #434 - May 18th, 2016, 10:50 am Post #434 - May 18th, 2016, 10:50 am
    Alinea tickets go on sale at 11 a.m.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct ... story.html
    "Sandwiches are wonderful. You don't need a spoon or a plate!"
    Paul Lynde
  • Post #435 - May 19th, 2016, 7:00 am
    Post #435 - May 19th, 2016, 7:00 am Post #435 - May 19th, 2016, 7:00 am
    I have great respect and even admiration for Grant Achatz. He is remarkably talented, creative, and thoughtful. A visit to Alinea is always a special event. But when tickets went on sale yesterday, we saw that a single ticket for dinner on a Saturday night--all that was left by the time we got in--goes for $354.
    I understand a lot of what goes into the pricing and have an appreciation, I like to think, for the quality of the ingredients and the level of skill (and even technology) in the kitchen. But $354 for a single ticket--albeit inclusive of tax and tip--does not yet include beverages. And even if I felt like drinking nothing but water, that is simply too much. Can I afford it? I suppose so. Will I pay it? Nope. Sorry. We've just dropped over into the abyss.
    We paid $285 a ticket, as I recall, at Grace. That was a price that made me uncomfortable at the time. It still makes me uncomfortable. But $354 doesn't make me uncomfortable; it simply makes the decision that much easier.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #436 - May 19th, 2016, 9:03 am
    Post #436 - May 19th, 2016, 9:03 am Post #436 - May 19th, 2016, 9:03 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I have great respect and even admiration for Grant Achatz. He is remarkably talented, creative, and thoughtful. A visit to Alinea is always a special event. But when tickets went on sale yesterday, we saw that a single ticket for dinner on a Saturday night--all that was left by the time we got in--goes for $354.
    I understand a lot of what goes into the pricing and have an appreciation, I like to think, for the quality of the ingredients and the level of skill (and even technology) in the kitchen. But $354 for a single ticket--albeit inclusive of tax and tip--does not yet include beverages. And even if I felt like drinking nothing but water, that is simply too much. Can I afford it? I suppose so. Will I pay it? Nope. Sorry. We've just dropped over into the abyss.
    We paid $285 a ticket, as I recall, at Grace. That was a price that made me uncomfortable at the time. It still makes me uncomfortable. But $354 doesn't make me uncomfortable; it simply makes the decision that much easier.

    I don't know . . . supply, demand, and a lot of intangibles that factor into the mix. I suppose that if interest levels off, prices may drop some. But I suspect that people will be willing to pay for the creativity and evolving experience. Personally, I admire and respect their willingness to take one of the most successful restaurants in the world, rip it apart, and attempt to dramatically alter the experience. Pardon my French, but that takes balls and I am eager to give it a try. When I pay this much money for dinner, it's not just about the particular ingredients, but the total experience, and with these guys I know my next experience will likely be vastly different from almost any dining experience I've had to date.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #437 - May 19th, 2016, 11:23 am
    Post #437 - May 19th, 2016, 11:23 am Post #437 - May 19th, 2016, 11:23 am
    BR wrote:I don't know . . . supply, demand, and a lot of intangibles that factor into the mix. I suppose that if interest levels off, prices may drop some. But I suspect that people will be willing to pay for the creativity and evolving experience. Personally, I admire and respect their willingness to take one of the most successful restaurants in the world, rip it apart, and attempt to dramatically alter the experience. Pardon my French, but that takes balls and I am eager to give it a try. When I pay this much money for dinner, it's not just about the particular ingredients, but the total experience, and with these guys I know my next experience will likely be vastly different from almost any dining experience I've had to date.


    I don't disagree with a single thing you said; indeed, I appreciate your pointing out that "it's not just about the particular ingredients, but the total experience...." Agree 100%. But I still don't expect to be seeing it, sadly. Very sadly, actually.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #438 - May 19th, 2016, 12:34 pm
    Post #438 - May 19th, 2016, 12:34 pm Post #438 - May 19th, 2016, 12:34 pm
    On off days it's $285. You can also do the shorter experience for $175. At 12 courses that's close to par with what alinea has been doing the last couple of years.

    I personally whiffed on getting tickets. was shooting for a two top the 29th for the gallery but they only released four tops on that day. By the time I realized I should change plans to Saturday, everything was sold out. Demand is definitely greater than supply currently.

    *fixed grace pricing, hasn't been on my radar in awhile.
    Last edited by pepsican on May 19th, 2016, 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #439 - May 19th, 2016, 12:39 pm
    Post #439 - May 19th, 2016, 12:39 pm Post #439 - May 19th, 2016, 12:39 pm
    ^^ Grace is $235

    ---

    At the risk of sounding like not only a die hard fan but a broken record, you really are paying for far more than just food.

    Everyone talks about price; I admit myself included on occasion for some places - but it's not the only measure. It's the easy criticism - but the periphery of an experience at an Achatz/Kokonas establishment is just as well thought out as the food. That all costs money. They are not simply charging the prices they are because they are a high profile, James Beard and Michelin-star winning group, but because literally all aspects of the experience are complex and well thought out.

    You are getting not only food made from good product, but you are paying for the service, the stemware, the plates and service ware (many times custom or procured from a far-off corner of the planet), the wine, the coffee, the tea, the tablecloth (or lack thereof!!), the table, the furniture, the art, the lighting, the kitchen staff, the dishwasher, the rent, the maintenance, management, etc... the list goes on and on. The philosophy of addressing all aspects of the experience has been a touchstone of Alinea literally since day one.

    Ultimately a chef/restaurateur can choose one of two things. They can decide that keeping prices low is important and run the risk of running at a loss, breaking even, or perhaps even closing... or they can continue to operate in a profitable fashion factoring in the multitude of things that cost more over time (rent and property taxes, maintenance, upgrades, raises for staff, fluctuations in pricing of raw materials) and having to raise prices over time. Ferran Adria chose the former; Grant Chose the latter of the two. There is no right or wrong answer... but you can't choose both. Now, value is another dynamic and totally different to everyone -- the first two weeks sold out in two minutes. Will it be different in a year? Could be; time will tell. If the experience is good, the uptake will be quick. If it is not, they will assuredly tweak.

    I admit that I was very excited to make my reservation for Alinea 2.0 and I am joining them for opening night, but that I am slightly nervous it won't match up to the 20+ times I have been there before... but I know in theory why it costs as much as it does. I hope that I enjoy it and feel my money's worth so that I can return and experience new things -- because it feels damn good; a true pleasure.

    There is no restaurant group that I am aware of on the face of the planet that seeks to put out as something as different and as nuanced as they do. The comparison to Grace is not even an apt one - the only reason people compare them is because they are the only two three-starred Michelin restaurants in Chicago and because of the Curtis-Grant relationship. They are not mutually exclusive and there is no better or worse. If Grace was in Norway and Curtis wasn't the chef no one would draw any link whatsoever. Kitcho Kyoto is $565 without beverages... it's just that no one is outraged because what they're doing is not progressive or different. The progressive/different stuff always gets flack based on price because of the small percentage of people that don't "get" the food or like the experience.

    One thing is for sure... it takes huge cojones to kill something after it's best year ever business wise. Add into the mix an ambitious rehab, three new experiences, and a curious dining public, and that makes for a pretty damn anticipated opening!
    "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 #440 - May 19th, 2016, 1:28 pm
    Post #440 - May 19th, 2016, 1:28 pm Post #440 - May 19th, 2016, 1:28 pm
    Royal Lichter wrote:^^ Grace is $235

    ---


    You are getting not only food made from good product, but you are paying for the service, the stemware, the plates and service ware (many times custom or procured from a far-off corner of the planet), the wine, the coffee, the tea, the tablecloth (or lack thereof!!), the table, the furniture, the art, the lighting, the kitchen staff, the dishwasher, the rent, the maintenance, management, etc... the list goes on and on. The philosophy of addressing all aspects of the experience has been a touchstone of Alinea literally since day one.

    Ultimately a chef/restaurateur can choose one of two things. They can decide that keeping prices low is important and run the risk of running at a loss, breaking even, or perhaps even closing... or they can continue to operate in a profitable fashion


    While I agree with a lot of what you eloquently stated, IMHO there is a balance between a restaurant being profitable (something I strongly support) and a restaurant striving for maximum profit. Obviously this is not black-or-white, but on a continuum, and personally I feel Alinea in recent years has come to skew towards the maximum profit end of the spectrum (non-refundable tickets in lieu of reservations, higher prices yet fewer courses so less food cost and the ability to turn tables more frequently, no seating of odd numbered parties to maximize space etc).

    While I do believe that much of Alinea's product is extremely high (if not top) quality and strongly agree that a dinner there is far more than just the food served, they also sometimes cut corners, i.e. if they cannot negotiate ridiculously low prices from upper echelon vendors for some items. Some of what is served at Alinea is not what I consider to be at (or even near) the top in it's class - and I believe that comes down to their decision to highly prioritizing maximizing profits. I don't blame them for that, but personally I believe it impedes them from being the best restaurant possible as well as decreases the frequency I dine with them - due to feeling I am not receiving good value.

    That said I am glad they took the risk to do the major renovations and am excited to see and hear about the new dining experience. Enjoy your upcoming meal and I look forward to your comments on the new iteration of Alinea!
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #441 - May 19th, 2016, 1:55 pm
    Post #441 - May 19th, 2016, 1:55 pm Post #441 - May 19th, 2016, 1:55 pm
    Well, I don't agree or disagree and of course I always respect your opinion, we are friends!! As well, I don't disagree that they are tidily profitable. That is probably the case!

    I'll have a thorough post after tomorrow evening, to share..!
    "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 #442 - May 19th, 2016, 3:02 pm
    Post #442 - May 19th, 2016, 3:02 pm Post #442 - May 19th, 2016, 3:02 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:...But when tickets went on sale yesterday, we saw that a single ticket for dinner on a Saturday night--all that was left by the time we got in--goes for $354.
    I understand a lot of what goes into the pricing and have an appreciation, I like to think, for the quality of the ingredients and the level of skill (and even technology) in the kitchen. ...


    Aren't the prices different for different days and times? If so, I'm not surprised that such an expensive seat was all that's left. But your complaint isn't solely about the value proposition for the food and experience, but for the experiencing those things at the most popular day of the week.
  • Post #443 - May 19th, 2016, 9:28 pm
    Post #443 - May 19th, 2016, 9:28 pm Post #443 - May 19th, 2016, 9:28 pm
    When you guys agree that Alinea "cuts corners" (relative concept I know) at times, what specifically do you have in mind? Is it mostly wine and booze, which would be my guess after 25 years of fancy dining and doubling my bill with interesting, unusual, but not necessarily great libations that cost minuscule amounts compared to the charges. (And the service costs nothing compared to the cooking.) This is the main "value" problem I've had with this type of restaurant over time. Easy enough to avoid but I'm a sucker for pairings.
  • Post #444 - May 21st, 2016, 1:12 am
    Post #444 - May 21st, 2016, 1:12 am Post #444 - May 21st, 2016, 1:12 am
    Random luck and I have a 4 top today 5/21 if anyone wants to split it with my wife and I, cost ($924). Royal you want to do two days in a row :wink: ?
  • Post #445 - May 21st, 2016, 11:46 am
    Post #445 - May 21st, 2016, 11:46 am Post #445 - May 21st, 2016, 11:46 am
    Attention: spoiler alert.

    I'd almost be tempted to come back tonight if those are Salon dinner tickets I didn't have any plans...

    We were part of the first table seated at the reborn Alinea on opening night. I can't tell you exactly in words (well I'll try...) how different it really is but still distinctly and recognizably Alinea. The Gallery dinner experience is something extremely unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced before (the experimental aspect perhaps slightly overstated by press/misunderstood). Our reservation was at 5:30 and we were advised to show up on time otherwise we run the risk of not being part of the whole experience, so we showed up early. Another couple showed up about 15-20 minutes late and they were still part of it -- though don't consider that license to show up late on my accord...! I really did feel, upon sitting down, like I was visiting Alinea for the first time in a totally different way. Not like I was visiting it's brother or sister but perhaps it's cousin.

    The Gallery is all truly seated together, at once, for the first part of dinner. Nick was in-house and greeting people and profusely thanking us all for coming in. You are part of a large sixteen person table and part of your first course is already sitting on the table when you arrive (it's the little touches like this that feel familiar). Champagne is poured as people arrive and while everyone gets settled. It's candlelit and dim, but not dark, and there's wonderful classical music playing at a comfortable volume. The vibe matches the first course - which is traditional caviar service with accompaniments and brioche. Very tasty, and not a small canapé but a composed and somewhat substantial dish! Not a bad way to start! The whole table was basically comprised of friends of the restaurant and prior diners -- I'd imagine slightly less (or maybe not?!) pressure for the entire team.

    The curve balls began when, after the first course, we were asked to get up and invited to come into the kitchen. One entire stretch of counter space was cleared to make way for us all. There was a single-bite course waiting for us. Grant, Mike Bagale, Micah Melton from Aviary, and Simon Davies had a few words to share and they pointed out some of the differences in the kitchen. They then had an eighteenth century designed mechanical cocktail shaker (very cool! I actually got to be the lucky guest who turned the wheel!) and made us a Gin Fizz cocktail to sip on and linger for a few minutes. We were then all escorted back to the dining room, by party, and to our surprise... returned to find the long sixteen person table gone and replaced with individual 2 and 4 person tables. Lights were on and the music was not present... at this point, the parade of dishes began.

    All of the food was totally new and different. Not one course was the same. Black Truffle Explosion, Hot Potato/Cold Potato, aromatic pillow course, swinging bacon course... all of the Alinea classics were gone. The only things in theory that remain are the helium balloon course, but it's a different flavor. An iteration of table side dessert remains, but gone is the tablecloth and the flavors are totally reinvented.

    The flavor profiles of the dishes are decidedly Alinea -- bold and explorative, but stricken with a balance of being palatable to diners that may not be always interested in that. There were Japanese flavor profiles - a course early on with notes of scallop and sweet corn broth. One course had a theme of "yellow" which was a heavily manipulated and oh so amazing piece of sweet potato with a bunch of accoutrements including flowers and sunflower seeds. There was a course with Mexican flavor profiles and a Mezcal shot and open fire/smoke -- this one was a favorite of mine. There were playful things too like a cotton candy course -- this was actually a two part course including the new Strawberry taffy helium balloon. I swear -- there is no soigne way to eat that balloon... Sure as heck is fun though.

    I can't recall the exact number of courses, but the experience was close to four hours and we definitely left full. If one tried to be critical and draw a line from what they were serving there in 2005-2015, they would overall be hard pressed to do so past the balloon and broad concept of table side dessert. Gone are the thirty course days of Alinea. The food is overall, at first glance, not as complex as it used to be... Whereas you would sometimes get a dish highlighting ten or more flavors (I recall once a ceviche dish having fourteen different flavors and textures), most of these dishes had anywhere from four flavors to maybe eight or nine, max.

    As someone who "understands" Alinea's food and experience, there is really a whole lot more to the experience now, past the food. I always used to stand by their philosophy of "Alinea is not a restaurant" and I still very much do, but I'd describe the efforts of the reborn Alinea to be highly choreographed and show like--that phrase now has a totally different meaning. The food is still very much the focus, but even more action is happening behind the scenes and in the periphery. The music, the plate ware, the interaction (not too much, just enough to be fun -- it's not work!) on the part of the diner, the movement throughout the spaces and transformation of the room (from 1 course being communal to the rest traditional and seated)... it's all very new and exciting. I have not before been to a restaurant that seeks to create this kind of experience. It is very sophisticated and as always, totally lacks pretense. That itself is a familiar feel too. And for anyone wondering -- there was not a poet or violinist at last night's dinner.

    I think overall that they ripped it apart and threw it away just enough to the point where there is a balance of newness and innovation and also familiarity. This is still Alinea and not it's brother or sister, but perhaps it's mature cousin. The familiarity aspect will make you smile and say "oh that's SO Alinea." You will not be disappointed that you just spent $1,000 for something that you've already experienced -- because trust me you have not experienced something like this before.

    As I am sure some oenophiles are curious -- there's three beverage pairings offered -- standard ($215), reserve ($295) and the Alinea pairing ($415). They won't always offer the Alinea pairing, apparently, as it's comprised of highly rare and hard to get bottles. Also - all three pairings were straight wine and no sake or beer. I rarely opt for beverage pairings, but did for this dinner (standard) and was not disappointed -- Domestic, French, Austrian, Australian, and German offerings comprised the flight for the evening.

    I, of course, cannot wait to return and try the Salon dinner and see what the more traditional, and slightly abridged offering is. The dinner was worth it on the first night of service, and I am sure they will tweak a few things, so even though great immediately, it will only get better. I nervously and anxiously approached this dinner due to how delightful it used to be, but it's really great to have the place back in it's new design. I do think with all of the newness as well as the variety of offerings that they will get some folks going in who were put off, skeptical of the experience and not wanting to commit, or wanted something more.

    Do enjoy if you go, because it is a distinctly fun and delicious experience - in a new way!
    "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 #446 - May 22nd, 2016, 9:40 am
    Post #446 - May 22nd, 2016, 9:40 am Post #446 - May 22nd, 2016, 9:40 am
    Great write up - I'm inspired, thank you.
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #447 - May 23rd, 2016, 8:50 pm
    Post #447 - May 23rd, 2016, 8:50 pm Post #447 - May 23rd, 2016, 8:50 pm
    Did the gallery on Saturday. Loved it. It's absolutely Alinea, just on a new (and beautiful) stage. Hoping to see reports on The Salon experience soon...
  • Post #448 - June 3rd, 2016, 2:57 pm
    Post #448 - June 3rd, 2016, 2:57 pm Post #448 - June 3rd, 2016, 2:57 pm
    We got a 6 top for the Salon last Saturday (5/28). A few high level thoughts:

    1) Entry - the door is still at the southwest corner of the building, but as you come in, you go straight north. The host stand is right in the middle of a new space that runs north-south and is separated from the first floor by a solid wall. I didn't look too closely, but I think they had a copy of the Alinea cookbook open below a glass shelf for the host stand. We were the first of our party to arrive and they offered for us to stay in the entrance which has a bench. We opted to head up to the table.

    Nick has spoken about how the 2nd floor used to be the 'desirable' floor and that the Gallery Menu is, in part, an attempt to address this and make the first floor more desirable. Having now seen the 1st and 2nd floors, the re-design seems to have definitely favored the Gallery. The second floor Salon rooms seem to have added a table or two. The configuration is still fairly intact - 3 rooms that open into each other - but it seemed busier than before. Either extra 2-top(s) or the way they've moved the service stations and increased service staff makes the rooms feel busier. I think it might be both. Still very elegant, but the second floor seemed busier than it had before. Also, no music.

    2) Food - from what I've been able to gather, at opening there is significant overlap between the Salon and Gallery dishes, with the obvious note that the Gallery menu is significantly longer (so portion size and plating is likely different). For certain, the flavors, how the dishes are approached, etc. appears to be consistent.

    Some of the courses, like the Mexican adventure (with a mezcal pairing!!!), still take my breadth away just thinking about them a week later. Less avant garde than hanging bacon or some of the amazing Martin Kastner designs, but just as much fun and totally unexpected. For me, those departures are what make 2.0 so exciting.

    If there was one let down for me in the evening, it was conceptual and had to do with the final dessert course. Chef Achatz has talked a lot about how art inspires him. The final dessert course honors this, but the problem is that it feels like a step backward from Alinea 1.0. It was a rush to have Grant (or Mike, etc.) come to the table to plate their art. It was an incredibly private/personal moment with the chef. That is now gone. The final course is plated in a way that references what Alinea 1.0 was doing, but now that plating occurs in the kitchen. The equivalent of this with the balloon course would be for Chef Mike to now send out a chunk of green apple taffy instead of floating food from 1.0. They're not doing that, so I don't understand why Chef Achatz would so intentionally reference that past with an experience that is inferior.

    3) Wine - Jill Zimorski, who was promoted from sommelier to wine director over the winter, is incredible. We had the Standard pairing and it was awesome. Consistent with Alinea's overall service (more on John Schafer later), Jill did a phenomenal job of making the wine approachable and linking it back to the food.

    4) Service - John Schafer is incredible and his passion for service vibrates through the entire restaurant. I didn't make the popups in Madrid or Miami, but did make the Progression. The break was clearly not only great for the kitchen, the service staff hasn't missed a beat. To say they seem re-energized is wrong, because service was perfect before, but they're as confident, friendly and knowledgeable as ever with that elusive quirky element that the Alinea group seems to have mastered.
  • Post #449 - June 3rd, 2016, 6:19 pm
    Post #449 - June 3rd, 2016, 6:19 pm Post #449 - June 3rd, 2016, 6:19 pm
    They did add a few two tops upstairs. They also still plate the final course in front of you in The Gallery.

    Based on what I've seen, The Gallery gives you a more communal and interactive experience, but the menus are still very similar. Upgrades from The Gallery were traditional caviar service with free flowing champagne to start, cocktails and a small bite with the chefs in the kitchen, and a large group of chefs all plating the final course in front of you. Everything in the middle is the same as far as I know, at least when we dined.
  • Post #450 - July 10th, 2016, 4:27 pm
    Post #450 - July 10th, 2016, 4:27 pm Post #450 - July 10th, 2016, 4:27 pm
    I returned to Alinea on June 30th to experience the Salon and I was extremely impressed. I definitely prefer the Salon to the Gallery. The word that comes to mind in describing the Salon is "refined." If you have been there before, this is the well-oiled machine you know with a totally different, refreshed face. The menu was fourteen courses and we left absolutely stuffed. They have this experience absolutely down pat. There were a couple new dishes on the menu since I'd gone for "opening" night. As said the dessert is no longer plated table side, but brought to you. Mignardises were also a nice little surprise.

    The experimental aspect of the Gallery might not be for everyone, but the Salon should be palatable to 99% of people. I definitely enjoyed my Gallery experience because I have an open mind, though do not feel like I need to repeat it for a bit, yet. I also thought that the price tag of the Salon was a better value than the Gallery was.

    I think lots of folks are focusing on the Gallery and dubbing the Salon as the "low end" experience and I can say that is absolutely a dead wrong assessment. It is the more refined, streamlined version of the restaurant and cannot be sold short and it is the one I am more apt to repeat.

    Pro-tip: do order coffee, as barista Richard Alvarez is doing some incredible new things like a flight/tasting of several different preparations.
    "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.

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