Hello hello, everyone. As some of you may know, I recently traveled to Chicago in September for yet another foodie marathon. One of the restaurants I visited was the famous 3 Michelin Restaurant Alinea. I had heard great things about Alinea and was quite excited. Many of my foodie friends said that it was the best meal that they had ever had. I had thought Thomas Keller’s Per Se was the best meal I had ever had, but was very anxious to see how Grant Achatz’s flagship Alinea compares.
I’m sorry, but giving detailed descriptions of each dish will just not be possible for me for this entry. The meal was so delicious and phenomenal that thinking about it makes me want to cry (seriously…). I will comment on a few of the dishes, but please accept my advance apology for not commenting on every dish.
However, I can now easily say that Alinea was the best meal I had ever had. Each dish was quite unique and the dining experience itself was like none I had ever experienced. Alinea likes to have its diners be “interactive” with their meals, as I will explain in some of the pictures below. Definitely worth every penny ($210/pp) and I can’t wait to go again.
Alinea. aka Pilcrow, the sign for “new paragraph”. Get it? A new paragraph…new chapter of food.
Once we sat down, the staff brought out this little vegetable garden. They said it was a live garden and that we would be using it later in our meal, as you will see later in this entry. One of the diners w/ me wasn’t sure if it was real dirt so he tasted it. It was indeed dirt.
Our table cloths for the night were just these pillows and all that was placed on them was our silverware. Quite creative.
Steelhead Roe - watermelon, kaffir lime, oxalis.
I have never really been a huge fan of the larger families of roe, but I think it’s starting to grow on me.
Hamachi - west indies spices, pineapple, ginger
Needless to say, this was the most unattractive dish of the night, but don’t let its looks deceive you! This was like a hamachi tempura. The black stock is a vanilla bean. Just lift it up by the vanilla bean and eat the hamachi off of it.
Oyster leaf - mignonette
There is nothing in this dish that is made from oyster, but somehow they made it taste exactly like an oyster. So bizarre!! It’s just a leaf!
Lobster - queen anne’s lace, huitlacoche, gooseberry
Razor clam - carrot, soy, daikon
Mussel - saffron, chorizo, orange
Yuba - shrimp, miso, togarashi
Hrmm…what are the scissors for? They’re for cutting the vegetables out of our garden in order to use for our next dish!
Farm salad - tomato, goat cheese, red onion
We were given the above dish and were told to use our scissors to cut out the vegetables from our garden to use with our dish. See, interactive!
Bye bye garden.
I’m not very good at placement. What I remember the most about this dish was its heirloom tomatoes. So fresh and bursting with flavor. I love tomatoes, as some of you may know. But I hate ketchup.
They then placed these flags on our table. What is their purpose? You’ll see in a few more dishes.
Wild mushrooms - pine, sumac, ramp
Hot potato - cold potato, black truffle, butter
This was such an awesome dish that we asked for seconds and got them! We were told that this was time sensitive and we had to take pictures quick. This dish was served in a small wax cup with a hot potato broth, and a pin which had a cube of potato, butter, cheese, and black truffle on it. What you do is you pull the pin so all the elements drop into the broth and then you eat it all at once. So. Damn. Good. One of our diners said it was probably the best thing he has ever eaten. I may have to agree with him.
Agneau - sauce choron, pomme de terre noisette
Next we “traveled back in time” to the 1800’s and were presented with silverware and wine glasses from the old days. The silverware actually showed the date of 1847. We were then presented with the lamb dish above and it was just out of this world. Lots of flavor from the tender lamb and it combined very well with the pomme de terre noisette.
Black truffle - explosion, romaine, parmesan
This was a black truffle ravioli and we were warned ahead of time to make sure to keep our mouths closed upon the first bite because it would literally explode in our mouths. Apparently they had quite a few guests who didn’t adhere to that suggestion and ended up spitting out lots of black truffle. This happened to one of the members at our table (not me). It really did just EXPLODE in our mouths!
Squab - inspired by Miro
Too much going on here to explain, but basically, Chef Achatz was inspired by an artist named Miro for this dish. It’s like solving a puzzle (kinda like Jenga?). One must carefully pick which silverware to remove in order to remove them all without destroying the masterpiece. Only one way to solve the puzzle. It was also planned perfectly such that the courses started off salty and then got sweeter. Off the top of my head I can remember the squab, foie gras, lavender, olive, and fig. There were quite a few more, but I can’t remember what they were.
Next we were finally going to make use of the flags you saw earlier. We were handed the plate above and we were told that our next dish would be making our own pasta/ravioli thing. We were to use the flags as our wrap. But first, we had to solve one more quick puzzle of assembling our workshop.
Short rib - olive, fermented garlic, blackberry
There were way more ingredients than the ones listed above, but you can get the idea of what we had to do. We assembled the metal stand, placed the flag wrapper on it, and then were given pieces of shortrib and had to add in the extra spices and ingredients to complete the dish. Then just wrap them up and enjoy.
Octopus - eggplant, coriander, red wine
The last of our savory dishes. Onto desserts!
Snow - yuzu
Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit. Alinea took some yuzu froze it in liquid nitrogen to create this dish. We were told to only use our spoons and not touch the dish with our tongues to prevent freeze burning our tongues.
Peach - jasmine, basil, balsalmic
This was Alinea’s interpretation/twist of a caprese salad dessert. Some cubes of balsalmic, cheese, green tea, ice cream. Very interesting and delicious.
Lemongrass - dragonfruit, thai basil, finger lime
This was very unique. It was a tube filled with liquid with the above listed ingredients. We were to suck from the dragonfruit end (right) and inhale the entire tube. Very creative.
And alas, we come to the very last dish of our meal, and when we all started to cry inside because the experience was finally coming to an end. I won’t explain to you folks what this grand finale dish was. Instead, I will show you.
And that’s that. Best meal of my life, over. Highly recommend anyone who’s visiting Chicago to try and get reservations at Alinea and give it a try. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Now please excuse me while I go cry after looking at these pictures and remembering how wonderful of a meal and experience it was.