Thursday, September 20, 2018

Chicago Eats: Alinea

We're still doing a Chicago takeover on the blog, and today I'm sharing a highly anticipated culinary experience...dining at Alinea.

Michelin Star restaurant, World's 50 Best Restaurants, James Beard Foundation winner, and many other noteworthy recognition nationally and internationally. You must pre-purchase tickets in advance, and it's known for selling out a date within minutes of being released. I can confirm, because we were online the minute our desired date went on sale, and we lost out on the type of ticket we wanted (The Galley). So we purchased a reservation for The Salon, which offers a 10-14 course tasting menu for parties of 1, 2, 4, or 6. Wine pairings can be added (which we chose to do).

Expectations were set high, but were they met? Read on...

There was fire!
There was ice!
They even moved our room of 7 tables down to the kitchen for one course!
Each course came out, and you often wondered how to eat it or didn't want to dig in because it was beautifully plated. This was course Terrarium with Iceburg, Avocado, and Herbs.
From the plates and bowls used, to the thoughtful placement of each ingredient, it certainly was a feast for the eyes as soon as anything hit the table. This course was Smoke with Osetra, Sunflower, Onion, and Lemon.
Crunch with Rouille and Nori.
Wood with Hoja Santa, Tamarind, and Chocolate. These stunning plates were custom made by hand overseas, and I wanted to sneak one in my bag.
Heirloom with Peach, Begonia, and Nasturtium.
There was almost always an interactive element to each course, which certainly made the evening entertaining.
The embers from one course then smoked some fresh lavender under steamed buns, leaving the table filled with the soothing aroma.
There were often courses that required you to do something special (with ALL eyes in the room watching). The pressure!
Including the last and final course, a green apple flavored helium-filled balloon that you sucked open and ate. There was a trick to doing it without the balloon exploding all over your face and hands, and it was certainly fun watching others in the room do it too. Some not so gracefully! 
Here's the bottom line. I hate to burst your bubble (pun intended). It was certainly a memorable and unique dining experience. The techniques and plating are truly something special. Each course was so complicated that it comes with instructions, and there were many words on the menu that I have never seen before and still don't know what they are. But, the food itself just wasn't that remarkable.

Also, the small room of seven tables we were in was uncomfortably quiet. No background music or noise from other rooms/floors helped ease the painful silence in the room. Our tables whispered, and everyone just sat around and stared at the other tables as they received each course. Which really sucks when you are all getting the same coursed meal and you see every dish and hear all of the presentation/instructions prior to it being your turn.

At the insane price point that we paid for this experience, I just expected to enjoy it more and walk out satisfied. It was fun. It was cool. But the food didn't have a whole lot of flavor, just show. And I felt awkward for most of the night in that particular room. Now, wine and service were both fantastic, and the restaurant itself is beautiful. For me, it just wasn't worth the expensive price tag. Glad we did it, but don't need to again.

Now, stay tuned for the real culinary highlight of the trip!

1723 N Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614


Crystal @EatDrinkCLE said...

Sorry that it wasn't OMG I JUST ATE THE MEAL OF MY LIFE good. But it definitely looks like an experience for sure! These types of meals always SOUND fun to me, but I don't like that you have no input into what you are served. For that price, I want it to be things I actually enjoy eating. Too bad about the quietness - that sounds sooooo awkward!!

Bite Buff said...

Totally still fun, but just a few small things could have made it such a better experience. We can forget how expensive a meal is if we walk away happy and satisfied. Just wish that was the case here. But still glad we did it! Would love to do more on that Top 50 list!