ALINEA (Chef Grant Achatz, Chicago, US)

ALINEA – Toward creativity!

  “The word alinea refers to the copy editor’s symbol for a new paragraph—or new train of thought.”

Alinea (Chef Grant Achatz) is driven by perfection – to achieve the most creative “creations” possible to put on a plate. Very sophisticated – a drama from start to end. That’s why this restaurant is unique and deserves his 3 Michelin stars.

We arrived at 5.30pm for our reservation – have been greeted at the door, reservations will be checked via Ipad outside the building. The door opened – to teleport us into the another world – the world of Chef Grant Achatz.

Once inside, we encounter a glass floating in water – filled with its first flavour encounter “LEMONADE, wine chime”. The entrance hall has been laid out with grass – maybe an interpretation of Chef Achatz to showcase the green side of Chicago (just a joke!). Moving towards the end of the hall – putting down the glass – a slide door will open, where the personal experience will start. The service staff is awaiting us, to bring us to our table. (Small info – Alinea has 2 service turns at night, about 80 covers per day, more or less – no lunch service. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

We are served champagne and wine throughout the night – nothing I will be going into details – all wines have been top. Best of the best that night – a Pinot Gris from the winery Chehalem. (We have been to the Aviary a night before – therefore alcohol wasn’t much desired that night at Alinea).

The Food:

 There are no table cloths, what I personally like – a proper wooden table instead. On our table – 2x Ice holes set in stones. (the ice holes are made daily by the chefs). The preparation for the first amusebouche.

The next 3 small photos should show the first amusebouche “STEELHEAD ROE, peach, St. German, kinome” 1. Server will bring a test tube filled with the ingredients, placing the tube into the hole. 2. The whole is filled with a peach distillation 3. Suck it up.

   

Next amusebouche to follow, a more complex one: served on a wooden log covered in seaweed. There have been 4 items be served at once. “OYSTER LEAVE mignonette” / “KING CRAB, passionfruit, heart of palm, allspice” / “LOBSTER carrot, chamoille” and last and my person favourite of that installation, “RAZOR CLAM, shiso, soy, daikon”  The oyster leave served with mignonette

 King crab with passionfruit, heart of palm and allspice  Lobster with carrot and chamomille

 Razor clam with shiso, soy and daikon.

After an very interesting sea introduction – the first of the Crucial detail serving ware was brought to us. The antenna. “WOOLY PIG, fennel, orange, squid” (3rd amusebouche)  to be eaten without any utensils or hand – pop it!

After such an interesting start – we came to our first course:

“TOMATO – watermelon, chili, basil”  Ripe heirloom tomatoes from the US, served with watermelon granite, chili, different types of basil in different textures, dried red onions & edible flowers.

Second course was one of the outstanding ones regarding flavour boost

“CORN, huitlacoche, sour cherry, silk” 

Followed by our third course – my personal favourite – great combination of flavours!

“OTORO, thai banana, sea salt, kaffir lime” The otoro (tuna belly) is cut into small dices and covered by the kaffir lime foam, sea water foam and compressed cucumber.

Next course – “CHANTERELLE (mushroom), ramps, asparagus, smoked date” the dish is served on hot stones, onto a wooden smoked slate (oak-wood – burned in the kitchen to give the customer a smokey flavour on the table, to combine the dish.

Course 9 – one of the dishes who have been served for a longer time, as the dish is very successful. “HOT POTATO, cold potato, black truffle, butter”   a hot and cold sensation!

Main course to follow; “LAMB,……….?????………!!!!!!!!!!!!!” served on 2 plates. The lamb is plated in front of the customer – served with the special glass plate with 60 different flavours. To finish one of these plates takes more then 80 steps…  Lamb prepared in 3 ways. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSygdcskpFw LAMB 86 (a short video of the plating)

Course 11 – another dish who have been served for a longer time, as the dish is very successful. “BLACK TRUFFLE explosion, romaine, parmesan”  The ravioli has a warm truffle liquid inside – will burst once eaten.

Next was the cheese course: “ANJOU PEAR, onion, brie, smoking cinnamon” Pear jelly (pectin) with brie cheese and confit onions – fried in tempura, on a cinnamon stick ….. surrounded by the smell of cinnamon. Served in Crucial detail serving ware. (http://crucialdetail.com/ – designed by Martin Kastner)

Palate cleanser: “GINGER, five other flavours”  Ginger -served on stylish Crucial detail serving ware.

Dessert number 1 / Pre Dessert to come….

“BLUEBERRY, buttermilk, sorrel, macadamia” This dessert is genius – the glass ware has a deep bowl in the center, with a small lid (not seen on the photo) – the chefs will poor liquid nitrogen into the center – when the dish arrives at the table – the lid is shaking – once released the cold air will shoot out and evaporate. Served with a metallic straw – the liquid feature (sorrel) is eat/drinkable and supports the main dessert on top of the glass plate/rim. Blueberries in textures, as well buttermilk – served with sorrel and macadamia nuts. Fantastic dessert!

NEXT – The gimmick of the night – another show killer…(in a positive way!)

“BALLOON, helium, green apple” the string is made of apple, the balloon is made from sugar topped with dried apple powder…. filled with helium. It’s a kind of fun dish… as we all know what happens once we inhale helium.

And last but not least (as we still got tea after dessert) – Le Grand Finale!

Last and final dish/dessert – the most memorable one. Prepared by the chef himself – Grant Achatz. “WHITE CHOCOLATE, strawberry, english pea, lemon”  The service team will prepare the table / place a kind of silicon mat onto the table… then, time to wait for the chef.

(the video i have uploaded shows Chef Grant Achatz in action – it gives a better understanding on what happened that night – to showcase the person / chef. I was not able to capture chef and food on our table) the result…….lots of textures… lots of flavours…

“WHITE CHOCOLATE, strawberry, english pea, lemon” Alinea is a progressive restaurant what challenge the boundaries of cooking. Modernist cuisine at the top of the game!  Lastly, a small video from Alinea (its a bit older – but shows how the place is buzzing).

A big thanks to Chef Grand Achatz, Nick Kokonas and the full team of Alinea.

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