Our dinner at Alinea is now complete and I am having a really hard time trying to determine what information to share on the meal. I have rewritten this first paragraph about five times. If you are reading this you are obviously interested in our meal or some type of recap. The challenge is, and I know this sounds corny, I don’t have the ability to do the meal justice. I am neither a skilled enough writer nor brave enough to take numerous photos during the meal (Chef Grant Achatz’s post on photographing during dinner service). The experience we had at Alinea was something that was fun, interesting, humorous, unusual, and much more.
So, that still leaves me with how to share my experience with you? Well, in admitting my lack of writing skills and to attempt to impart some semblance of information to you, I will put some answers to questions that I have heard below. If you have something you would like to know, drop me a line.
- How did you get reservations? Easy, I just called when reservations open (first of the month two months prior) and kept redialing until I no longer got a busy signal. They start taking them at about 10AM and I was through by 10:30AM and had my pick of dates and times.
- What was your favorite dish? That is almost an impossible question to answer in that some are great for presentation, some flavor, some just for their strangeness.
- Okay then smarty pants. . . .
- What dish had the presentation? The short rib had a very interesting presentation that involved assembling a ravioli at the table.
- What dish had the best flavor? There was bass in a larger dish that consisted of taking familiar flavors and completely changing the texture and colors to where you would not recognize them immediately. The bass was poached in butter and was absolutely perfect.
- What dish had the most strangeness? That would have to be the above bass dish, it was just so confusing and great at the same time.
- How was the service? The service was phenomenal. What was best about it, was that all of the front of the house staff worked to read your table’s attitude. If you were serious and silently focused on the food, they would be so as well. If you were more casual and interacting with the whole experience, they mirrored that as well, joking and telling stories about the food or themselves. We were definitely in the latter group.
- How was the wine? The wine was great but this is probably where we were a little over our heads. We did their wine pairings were you get a little wine with every few courses. Erin and I are by no means oenophiles so I am sure many of the subtelties were missed by us. Nonetheless, the selections were very well chosen and paired perfectly with the courses. In particular, two wines that stood out were the 2004 Domaine de la Solitude Cuvee Barberini and the 1959 Toro Albala Don PX Convento.
- How was the atmosphere? Breathtaking and subtle at the same time. The focus is totally on the food so the décor isn’t dramatic but it is luxurious in an understated way.
- What about this molecular gastronomy stuff, isn’t it all powers, gels, and foams? One could think that but you would be wrong. One dish that particularly sticks out is the Canard a la Cussy. It is a dish that is an homage to Escoffier from the turn of the century. This course, along with the plates, silverware, and glasses were all a perfect example of his (and the kitchen’s) skills when it comes to classical French cooking technique.
- Is there anything you would have changed? Nothing went wrong, but if I could change anything (and I realize this isn’t practical) I would make it so you couldn’t see what other diners are getting. Part of the experience at Alinea is the surprise associated with learning what the dish is and how it is supposed to be eaten. Many of these dishes (such as the Hot Potato/Cold Potato and the cheese course) you have no idea on how you are supposed to eat them until you are instructed by the server, and that is part of the fun!
- What was the most amazing part of the meal? I can’t believe I almost left this out, but the dessert course was prepared table top by Chef Grant Achatz himself. I don’t know how we were lucky enough to get this honor (not everyone did), but it was truly amazing to watch a chef with three Michelin stars prepare your meal. I was grinning ear to ear.
- Any advice for anyone else is planning on attending? Yep, I think it is pretty simple. Go with people who enjoy food the same way you do (serious, casual, etc.), have an open mind, and finally don’t do any research on the meals! As I said above, one of the best parts of the meal is the surprise associated with each dish. There are a couple of surprises throughout the meal and I have tried avoid spoiling them here. Being lucky enough to eat here is a gift and I don’t want to ruin that for you.
*Proof of the title of the article title can be found at http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners.