Gourmandistan

This is not another Alinea menu post

There are many, many sites where people post video and/or pictures and course-by-course accounts of their experiences at Chicago’s Alinea. This is not one of them. Before our last visit, Michelle read about chef Grant Achatz expressing his dismay and confusion over diners’ need to document every moment of their visits, to the detriment of the dishes he was trying to serve. (OK—we did sneak one iPhone photo of the final dessert course, but not of Achatz himself preparing it at our table.)  And we did receive two copies of the menu with wine pairings ripe for the scanning:

Click for a larger photo

So we thought we’d share our experience, edited to a tasty sampling. After all, pictures or video of virtually every part of our menu are available via Alinea’s own distribution, be it on YouTube or the restaurant’s own forum.  And many of our courses are also wonderfully illustrated here, in Michelle Humes’ jealousy-inducing depiction of an Alinea menu in Jelly Belly flavors.

Dining at Alinea is like having a court-side seat in Rupp Arena watching John Wall, or possibly chatting about the universe with Stephen Hawking. You get to see genius up close—and the best part is you get to eat it.  23 separate studiously-prepared sensations of touch, aroma and taste, expertly presented by gracious and engaging staff.  Favorites would have to include pork belly (cucumber, curry, lime), almost as much for its perfectly-cooked inclusion of Steve’s beloved swine flesh as the intricate presentation (starting as a “flag” centerpiece and continuing through self-assembly, spicing and disassembly of a sublime spring roll).  Chao tôm (sugar cane, shrimp, mint) was a spicy-sweet chew of the essence of Asian street food. King crab (rhubarb, lilac, fennel) was a three-stage process, the flavors moving from cold to hot and light to rich as we moved through the pieces of the serving dish. Sturgeon (potato, leek, smoke) presented intense flavors in tiny little sheets. We could go on—but Chef Achatz can tell you better than we can.

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