The best restaurant in America
Chicago, Illinois – September 2019
Alinea has been named the best restaurant in America three times and holds three Michelin’ stars, Michelin’s highest accolade. That should be enough to set the stage for this incredible dining experience.
The entrance to Alinea is very unassuming and if we didn’t use Google Street View almost everyday for two months in advance (yes we were obsessed with Alinea) we may not have found it right away.
We also showed up very early as we didn’t want to be late. The staff that greeted us at the door were organized, knew who we were and what we were having and welcomed us inside almost 20 minutes early.
Eight Courses, Eight Wines
Booking a table at Alinea is not easy. The reservations are released online two months in advance. If you want to get a table be at your computer hitting that refresh button because they get scooped up in a matter of minutes. So quickly in fact that we missed the Friday night seating and ended up visiting Alinea on a cold and rainy Wednesday, instead. The happy ending to our reservation story is that we ended up getting a table at The Aviary, a specialty cocktail bar created by the same team as Alinea. Stay tuned for a review on that amazing experience.
Okay, eight courses!
- Contrast | Osetra, Sesame, Yoghurt
This caviar course came surrounded in a hard shell. The presentation was unique and interesting and started the evening off in a direction that promised some surprises. To open the package you tap it with your spoon, breaking the shell and mixing the hard outside with the soft inside and the inevitable snap and pop of fine quality caviar. The salty, nutty and creamy taste mixed with the opposing textures was a perfect example of how food should be experienced.
- Maize | Husk, Smoked Ham
Smut | Huitlacoche, Corn, Pink Pepper
Molecular Cuisine made it’s first appearance in this course. The Corn, ham and Huitlacoche were an interesting and complex pairing that mimicked a more simple corn chowder in the most deconstructed and delicious way possible. This is officially the first “too good to do it justice explanation” dish of the evening.
- King | Coconut, Culantro, Mango
Shell | Prawn, Chili
Ink | Squid, Korean Barbecue
There is a lot going on with this course. While it was one course it actually consisted of four different bites but before they arrived a server came by and added water to our table arrangement. Once the water was added smoke poured out as well as the aroma’s of its contents which consisted of Lime, Lemon Grass and other aromatics. Check our Instagram for a video, it was very cool to see and experience and worth a watch. The video also shows the presentation of the food on this course which was creative to say the least. They all tasted amazing, this was our favorite course until the next one came!
- Heirloom | Rabbit, Beans, Sassafras
Cracker | Celery Root, Sumac, Chervil
Truffle | Rabbit Liver, Pine Nut, Wojapi
Bone | Mushroom, Honey, Barbecue
This course starts with the arrival of a campfire style grill adorned with Pine Mushrooms. The mushroom cooked as we enjoyed the other course which were also equally unique in their plating. The Rabbit liver sat a top a piece of wood with a charcoal briquette along side the cracker and truffle.
- Trumpet | Cured, Blueberry
Cookie | Foie Gras, Lavender
Taco | Smoke, Myoga
Foie Gras Cookie? Yes please. This course was all about the rich and smokey. The “taco” was delicious and the Foie Gras served on the cookie plated atop lavender was decedent, crunchy and full of flavor.
- Rossini | Ribeye, Frites, Foie Gras
Fungi | Matsutake, Truffle
Yay! More Foie 🙂 the meat was perfect, the mushroom was perfect, the Foie Gras gravy if you will, was perfect and the two mousse that accompanied them were incredible as well. Protein course complete and satisfying.
- Wood | Hoja Santa, Tamarind, Chocolate
Dessert course, this dessert was sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy. The Hoja Santa, commonly known as the Rootbeer added a unique tang and spice to the dish. This course had an unusual pairing for desert. It was a very tasty, smokey, strong but smooth Mezcal.
- Balloon | Helium, Green Apple
Two things to mention here. First every sit down dinner should have a balloon course. Second, we were actually not sure we were getting one since we didn’t book the tasting menu we wanted so when these arrived at our table we were more than excited. Alinea was a one of kind experience that I have had on my bucket list for quite a while. See Leonard Cohen sing Hallelujah, eat a smoked meat sandwich in Montreal, visit the Buckingham Fountain (thanks Al Bundy) and eat a Balloon at Alinea. What’s interesting about Alinea is all the tables around us were fairly close to being on the same courses so as the Balloons arrived and people ate them and their voices sounded funny with the ingestion of helium, the atmosphere changed in the restaurant and the experience ended on a different feeling than it started, what it built up to and then eventually ended on.
The experience of Alinea guides you through a wide variety of emotions. When you sit down you are filled with anticipation, a little fear of the unknown and the excitement of what is to come. As you work through the courses you start to get a very deep appreciation of what they are trying to achieve with the cuisine. You think you end up on satisfaction and contentedness only to hit another twist in the plot when the Balloon arrives. We left Alinea smiling ear to ear, thoroughly enjoying every aspect of the restaurant and its’ cuisine.
If you have the opportunity to visit Alinea we highly recommend you do. It may be a once in a lifetime experience that you will remember back on as the years go by.
Alinea, an unparalleled experience in cuisine.
Once again, hats off to Chicago we love this town!