July 26th, 2008 · 2,831 Comments

it’s called ‘chinese take out’.  a 6 hour sous vide short rib on a guinness gelee film with roasted peanuts and peanut puree, shaved broccoli stalks, fried broccoli and red peppercorns. 

call it theatre.  performance art.  whimsical cuisine on steroids…  call it what you will.  and then we can all simply agree that grant achatz of alinea is a genius.  because after all is said and done – and trust me when i tell you that there is a lot being done to get to where this man goes – the food tastes as extraordinary as it looks.

carol (famed writer of ‘french laundry at home‘) and i continue on our restaurant tour (see: ‘per se’ and ‘per se’), this time meeting up in chi-town with our sole purpose: this one singular dining event. and being that we’d traveled far and were ready to experience all alinea had to offer – we chose the 27 course ‘chef’s tour’, the exact menu which you see below.  the size of the circle represents the size of the dish – the smallest being one bite, the largest being perhaps 3 or 4.

it is a bit of a 3 ring circus, but a highly sophisticated circus.  courses are presented – sometimes grouped together – in a various array of sculptural vessels.  a chunk of compressed watermelon pierced on a 14" stainless steel antenna which then pierces its heavy base – balancing on the thin end of the metal.  (3rd from left below.)

crucial detail is the maker of these unique pieces.


the shaved slice of wagyu (below) first defrosts on the table in a flag-like manner, doubling as table art – suspended from a diagonal cut of wood – only later to be carefully draped over a maitake mushroom and smoked date. 

from centerpiece to…

what one might dream of in a perfect world… wagyu, maitake, smoked date, blis elixir and oregano.

the foie gras course served with tapioca, fig and coffee, arrives in a glass tube that one then ‘sucks’ the contents from…

blurry, but hopefully you get the idea

i could go on… and so i will.

frozen lightly foamed mozzarella over just sweetened basil ice cream with tomatoes 7 ways – incredible

duck confit encased in chocolate with blueberries…
and 3 sauces, and gelee/jelly cubes – of which i have no recollection…

i found the duck course to be kind of, ummm, not my thing.  i mean, you can’t win them all and only 2 of the 27 courses were – for me, less than stellar.  i’d say that’s still 4 stars, wouldn’t you?  of course you would.

oh frothy lobster pea ball stuff with mint vapor, how i loved thee

can you match these 8 courses to the menu above? i dare you to try…

hot potato, cold potato

the needle goes through a small hole in the miniature bowl where a hot potato and sliced black perigord truffle are speared above a cold vichyssoise.  the pin is pulled, the contents of the needle hit the soup and you knock it back.

lamb with sunflowers 3 ways along with potatoes… one of the better things i’ve ever eaten and perhaps my #1 course of the night

oh and this little guy here…

this is some kind of chicken liver mousse made with vin santo and encased in a caramelized onion shell with bacon powder on top.  yes it is.  no really.  this way-too-little truffle actually exists on the face of the planet.  in chicago.  on north halsted.  and you know what i did?  i asked for seconds.  yup.  shocked?  oh, but then you don’t know me…. my balls are large.  much larger than one way-too-little truffle.

bacon being waterboarded or on a sex swing?  you decide…

and this is wafer thin bacon.  it’s dessert bacon, remember?  hell yeah.  with butterscotch, apple and thyme.  suspended from – a thing.  don’t ask me… i’ve no clue except to say, bring it on grant, because i am so very your audience.

and speaking of grant, he made it a point to come out and talk to us.  he was gracious to do so and if i may say, for a boyish kinda looking guy of slight build, the man has quite the handshake and mesmerizing gaze.  grant achatz has been through hell and back.  if you’re not up on the story, you can read it here.  there are no words except, rock on.  and thank you.

but perhaps the biggest thanks goes to carol.  because as each course was presented in all its glorious detail, i would grab my camera and try to get a half decent pic – with no lighting – on my old point and shoot.  so when i finally went to eat i always, but always said to her "so what’s in this?" to the point where i was even annoying myself.

but that’s why you dine with friends and lovers and well, anyone who’ll put up with the fact that you spilled your cold potato soup all down the sleeve of your little black dress…



Tags: restaurants · travel

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