With as many talented chefs, sommeliers, and restauranteurs as there are across the world, it’s impressive to see a restaurant that can maintain a spot on the list of world’s greatest restaurants, have head chefs that are leading voices in molecular gastronomy, garner its own Wikipedia page, and boast a three star Michelin rating in Chicago (an honor that is in fact only boasted by two restaurants). The restaurant that I am bragging so much about is in fact Grant Achatz’ Alinea, Chicago. Every bit as good on table as it is on paper, Alinea is a dining experience that truly defines and re-imagines the experience all together.
Alinea’s tagline is “Alinea is not a restaurant…at least, not in the conventional sense”. This allure of mystery and contradiction are definitely a draw for a restaurant that has been described as “emotional and provocative”. Achatz’ creative culinary coup is a deconstruction of classic flavors and preparations. Although recent seasonal menus have most of the drama happening in the kitchen, former menus have boasted plenty of table theater—or have you not heard of the edible helium balloon (made of dehydrated apple), or the edible kinetic sculptures suspended by wires, or dishes plated directly at your table. A staple dish is the “Hot Potato”, in which you are served a cold potato, pierced by a needle in a paraffin bowl with a bit of butter, and a slice of black truffle. When you pull the pin out, everything falls into a pool of warm, creamy soup. The avant-garde composition and presentation is what Achatz has built the Alinea legacy on, offering diners not just a meal full of flavor, but a private experience that is seductive and extravagantly sinful for all of your senses.
Like any fine dining establishment, a night spent here is not without a drink selection to compliment the chef’s vision and creations. Since the cuisine here is presented as a rotating (and unconventional) tasting menu, the sommeliers’ skills are to be tested, but the Alinea standard is always fulfilled with a wine list that appeals to wine enthusiasts and neophytes across the board. Though wine director Joe Catterson finds his strength with most Austrian, Mediterranean, and German wines, you can find yourself lost in a variety of popular wine countries including Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and Australia’s Henschke Hill. A night at Alinea will last you about three hours. An experience that has been described as transcendent, you can expect nothing but the unexpected when stepping foot into this innovative, progressive, and remarkable Chicago hotspot.