Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Comment::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 0
Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003
04.26.07

Alinea, Still the Barack Obama of Restaurants

Restaurant Reviews


Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/mjnagran/hungrymag.com/wp-content/plugins/polls/polls.php on line 303

Alinea’s take on lamb (all photos courtesy Lara Kastner and Alinea)

As we headed for the unassuming front door of Alinea, my friends worried that it might not live up to their expectations. After all, there had been so much press, so many people talking about it. Were there any surprises left? Would they be disappointed? I just smiled and encouraged them to notice the fanciful, diminishing hallway and automatic door, the view into the kitchen from the entryway, and the spare but stunning décor. I figured I didn’t have to convince them. Alinea would do that for me.

I’ve been a fan of Achatz’s cooking for some time. I fell in love with his culinary inventions when he was at Trio. This would be only my second trip to Alinea, but I knew from the first visit that Achatz was just getting better. Granted, Alinea’s food is not for everyone, just as not everyone can imagine a destination that justifies a 12-hour plane ride. But these friends were open to new experiences, so I had no doubt they would love it.

We were asked if we wanted the wine pairings for our 12-course dinner. The restaurant’s success at pairing remarkable wines that go perfectly with even the oddest courses is almost as astonishing as the food, but I was driving this time, so I feared I’d have to pass. I was overjoyed to learn that you can have a “petite pairing,” with half pours of each of the wines.

The first pour was a combination of Pineau des Charentes with champagne, sort of Alinea’s answer to Kir royale. When we showed interest in the wine, our wine steward was only too happy to give us history, background, and a sample of the Pineau des Charentes before the champagne was added. (The friendly, knowledgeable, eager-to-share staff is definitely one of the joys of this establishment.) The champagne kicked off a memorable string of wines that included a full-bodied chardonnay, a Grüner Veltliner, a big Spanish red that was redolent of leather and tobacco, and a couple of off-the-chart dessert wines (in particular, the Tokaji Aszu and Schilfwein).

But enough about the wine—because as good as it was, we were there for the food. The first course was a bite-size pastry puff filled with liquid sour cream, smoked fish roe, and cucumber. It came perched on a small porcelain pedestal, which we were instructed to grab by the stem and just toss back like a glass of wine. It was astounding, warm and cold, with lots of contrasting flavors and textures (smooth, crunchy, liquid, popping bubbles of fish roe). We were off to a great start.

The bowl that set before us next was clearly created for an unusual presentation. There was a deep notch in one side of the rim that held a fork in place above the liquid in the bowl below. On the fork was a combination of grilled octopus, smoked papaya, and shiso. Fabulous combination of textures and flavors. The bowl held toasted soy milk, which was warm and sweet and, though not as astonishing in flavor as the octopus combo, it was a nice chaser.

Bread was brought out at this point—house-made Nueske caramelized ham rolls served with organic cows milk butter and goat milk butter. Mmm.

I began to run out of superlatives with the next course—it was surprising, amazing, delicious. A puddle of chanterelle purée held a group of little “packages,” each of which exploded with flavor: spinach with Dijon mustard, apricot leather with curry, and something with egg yolks that was beyond description, but where the incredible, velvety texture almost won out over flavor.

What looked like a big marble in a shot glass was now placed before us. As it turned out, the big marble was a delicate sphere of butter and horseradish that was filled with reduced granny smith apple juice. The “marble” was sitting in a bath of celery juice. We were again told to consume this in one bite, as if we were doing a shot. The sphere collapsed in our mouths, releasing the sweet-tart contents. The apple/celery flavors were comfortably familiar, but with the horseradish giving it a surprising bite. This was a major “wow.”

The next offering was a “gift from the chef,” we were told. This was a thirteenth course, not among the 12 for which we were paying, because it contained foie gras. It was a delicate puff of meringue dusted with cinnamon and filled with an apple pâte de fruit and foie gras. Thank you for skirting the law Chef Achatz.

We then moved into the “main course” section of the tasting menu. First up was monkfish: a poached loin, a chilled, mouse-like quenelle, and marvelously crunchy, crisped tail. This was served with lime, banana, and onion paper. A palate cleanser of frozen yuzu followed, tasting like a chewy, icy lemon drop. Next there was duck. This was the “pillow course,” the course that would be enhanced by a fragrance-filled linen pillow beneath the plate. The fragrance was juniper, which was echoed by one of the three duck preparations. There was confit, juniper-cured, and seared duck breast served with mango puree, turnip, and duck cracklings. This was actually as close to being a let down for me as anything this good could be, and its only because it was hard for me not to compare it to the supremely, celestially good squab dish I’d had on my previous visit. But I couldn’t actually complain, as it was still mighty good.

Sensational, house-made, smoked paprika-flavored rolls were offered with short ribs. This course was among the most visually stunning of the presentations, with an arrangement of incredibly tender, flavorful beef, fried broccoli purée, pink peppercorns, and whole-grain mustard artfully arranged and held in place by a square sheet of Guinness “cellophane.” Amazing.

The next course was the only thing that was similar to something I’d had previously: hot potato/cold potato. I dreamed about this for weeks after I had it the first time. This was slightly modified, because nothing rests here, but it was still a gladsome thing. A small paraffin bowl arrives with a large needle piercing one side. In the bowl is intensely rich, creamy, cold potato soup and on the needle are a hot piece of potato, a chunk of Parmesan cheese, and a generous slice of black truffle. You are instructed to pull the needle out, which drops all the goodies into the chilled soup, and then you toss it back like you’re eating a raw oyster. I’m pretty certain they’ll be serving this in heaven.

The next course had a bit of a set-up. First, we were brought chopsticks, which were rested on a small metal bar that had a sprig of rosemary stuck in it. We heard sizzling before hot bricks (400 degrees, we were told) reached our table. The rosemary was then taken out of the metal bar and stuck in the hot brick, releasing a heady burst of fragrance. On each brick there were three pieces of medium rare lamb, one piece topped with mastic cream, one with date purée, and one with braised red cabbage.

I was pleased when the next course turned out to be the bacon on a trapeze. I’d read about this presentation device, and here it was before me, both whimsical and high-tech. Suspended from the stainless steel “trapeze” was a piece of cooked, dehydrated bacon with butterscotch, apple leather, and thyme.

Now it was time to begin the dessert courses. First out was an orange sorbet with olive oil ice cream with Thai basil, dehydrated olive oil with vanilla, and dried olive gel drizzle. This was infinitely better than you might imagine from the description. A frozen licorice cake with orange rind and licorice-flavored spun sugar, served bobbing at the end of a long piece of wire, was simply amazing—gigantic flavor bursting in your mouth. Next up was a Venezuelan chocolate ganache served with passionfruit gelée, horchata pudding, kaffir lime ice, toasted soy sauce marshmallow, and candied kumquat rind. This pushed the envelope just a little too far for my dining companions, but I loved the sweet/salty/tart combination.

The final dessert item was another one-bite wonder: liquid caramel and Meyer lemon zest in tempura batter, fried, and served on the end of a cinnamon stick. Yow.

As the coffee was poured, the question was raised, “Is this really the best restaurant in the United States?” The perhaps obvious point was made that, if you wanted a steak or Chinese food, you certainly wouldn’t rate this tops. And of course there is the issue of the experience, expectations, and preferences of the diners. I acknowledged this, referring back to our diverging opinion on the chocolate dessert. However, I felt that no argument could really be made against Alinea’s top spot, though the question haunted me after we had parted company.

In the early days of my career, when Jean Banchet was the name on everyone’s lips and Le Français was the restaurant drawing people to the Chicago area, I would save all year for an annual opportunity to indulge in the sublime. Though Alinea is definitely not French, there are many commonalities that for me help define what made and makes these places the best. Passion and vision ruled the kitchen. Quality of ingredients was paramount. The envelope was pushed on a regular basis. Flavors were immense and complex. Combinations could be intriguing. Dining involved your mind as much as your palate, with a theater of food that was as dazzling as the tastes were gorgeous. The focus was on delighting in the food. And the chefs were and are artists of rare talent and skill. No matter how much one had heard, the experience always exceeded expectations. So do I think Alinea is the best restaurant in the United States? For the sheer joy of discovery, the fun of surprise, the daring of almost always successful experimentation, the wit of presentations, the intensity and brilliance of flavor, I think it is unsurpassed.

5 Comments on "Alinea, Still the Barack Obama of Restaurants"

Madeline

As a owner & consultant to the fine dining industry, I can appreciate the effort and talent it takes to prepare a meal of this magnitude..However, all the shooter style presentations and the many tiny courses would not sit well with 99.99% of the fine dining public. Its excessive and has no comfort value…all in all it is an oddity and may do well it certain locales for a time but it has no real staying power.



Cynthia

That may be true, but it’s sure fun while it lasts. (And if it doesn’t last, Achatz is a good enough chef that he will probably have moved on to something else before this phenomenon dies out elsewhere.)

I think there’s room for both — the more traditional and the innovative — in fact, I count on having both available.

Read my article on Michael, and you’ll know that I also value the comfort experience.

But like the fancy dress ball, not all experiences are meant to offer comfort.



ab

I found it very comforting, and judging by the accolades and crowded reservations list, that .01 % is plenty to allow this incredible restaurant to thrive.

Perhaps you consult to a less adventurous clientele, because Alinea has already proven it has staying power.



dave

i just have two words about one questioning the staying power of a restaurant like alinea.
el bulli.



Anonymous

This restaurant was a huge disappointment to me. Much of the food, at least the entrées and main dishes were of course, very tasty, but the horse-radish celery shooter and the butterscotch-bacon were just obnoxious and self-indulgent. The three dessert courses were uniformly awful, and the night I was there (last week) the wine pairings were simply atrocious, almost all of them sickenly sweet. In fact, having read several reviews, I was prepared for the food to be “challenging”, I think is the euphemism most often used, but it was the horrible wine selection that ruined this experience for me.

But I am, apparently, a minority of one.



Comments

Please Leave a Comment!




Please note: Comments may be moderated. It may take a while for them to show on the page.





Features/Archive
Podcast Interviews
Feeds
Everytime Hungry Magazine is updated, you can be notified. Just click on your preferred feed (What's a Feed?) below:

Chef Interview Podcasts Only

All Hungry Magazine Content

Theme By fruta planta