It must have been my lucky day a few weeks ago when I got the chance to dine at one of the world's best restaurants, Alinea. If you're not familiar with Alinea,
we can't be friends, it is chef Grant Achatz's pride and joy and a Michelin three star culinary powerhouse.
Alinea, now ranked the #7 best restaurant in the world, utilizes an online reservation system. Every few months, tickets are released to the public via this system and lucky foodies go online to snag a table. The other way to get into Alinea is by stalking their Facebook and Twitter feeds for posts about same day and next day tables. I have responded to these posts numerous times in the past, with no response or luck. However, that all changed three weeks ago after I responded to a Facebook post and promptly reserved a 4-top for a Sunday evening. I. Was. Ecstatic. And terrified. In order to secure your spot at Alinea, you're required to fork over the entire cost of the meal (minus wine pairings) before your arrival. This was a bit of a sticker shock ($300+ per person) but I kept reminding myself it would all be worth it in the end.
[As a side note, I chose not to bring my DSLR camera to dinner for three reasons, 1) I didn't want to distract other diners 2) I wanted to be able to really enjoy the experience and not worry about adjusting my camera and 3) there are already numerous photos of the food at Alinea, far better than any photos I can take! Check out the website for Alinea's book as well as Flickr.]
One by one the rest of my party showed up outside the unmarked restaurant. We chit-chatted with the host who was standing outside with a tablet holding all of the evening's reservations. He informed us that our experience began as soon as we stepped inside...
Upon entering the restaurant, we immediately stepped foot on fresh, green, grass. Not golf grass, I'm talking plush, cushy grass. We walked down a narrow "Alice in Wonderland" type hallway illuminated by neon blue lights and filled with the sounds of wind chimes. We plucked a floating glass of lemonade from an aluminum basin filled with water and proceeded down the hall.
|"Alice in Wonderland" Hallway|
After sipping on our lemonade, a sliding door opened to reveal the Alinea staff who greeted us and led us to our table in the front dining room. Alinea has two floors of tables but the first floor only holds about 5 tables. I enjoyed being in this smaller room as it was more intimate and gave the impression we were sitting in a (very rich) friend's living room. The restaurant is decked out in neutral tones, except for the colorful abstract art on the walls. Personally, I felt this aesthetic forced one to focus on the food, and acted like sort of a blank canvas.
We decided to pass on the wine pairings for the evening for two reasons. 1) the cost and 2) it was a Sunday evening and the pairings amount to 4 full glasses of wine per person. Instead, our table agreed on a French bottle of white wine, similar to a cabernet sauvignon.
|White Wine & Cork Holder|
|Oyster Leaf, King Crab, Lobster, Razor Clam|
Our main course arrived next, as lamb, three ways. Lamb shank, saddle and tenderloin were covered tableside with a red sauce. Accompanying our lamb course was a glass sheet consisting of 60, yes, 60, different "toppings". We weren't told what any of them were and were encouraged to experiment with each bite of lamb. I must have tried half of them! There were different types of nuts, fruits, jellies and sauces, each pairing quite well with the tender and flavorful lamb.
|Inside the Alinea Kitchen|
|Inside the Alinea Kitchen|
It's no surprise Alinea gets a well-deserved 5 stars for its ability to provide a culinary experience that is truly one-of-a-kind and maybe (for me!) once-in-a-lifetime. I encourage you to try your luck at grabbing tickets and if you get the chance, you better take it!
1723 North Halsted
Chicago Illinois 60614
Same-day and next day tables on Facebook & Twitter