The first time I went to Alinea was in 2007, and I thought it was the fantastic. At that time there were 24 courses + one extra; the food was very creative and fresh, and the wine pairing was totally on point. At that time regular food was deconstructed and put back together again in a new and interesting way, and it was truly an experience. Not so much on my recent visit. The menu is now downsized to 18 courses, with 6 of them being desserts. The food now looks and tastes much more conventional, nothing deconstructed and they weren’t very novel. Many of the courses consisted of only one bite, and they were too small of a bite to taste anything. One of the courses was one leave – just one single leave with some seasoning on it counted as a course. Another course was one single oyster on the half shell. It tasted good but one doesn’t need to go to Alinea to get oyster on the half shell. If not for the six desserts that filled us up with all that sugar, we would have left the place feeling hungry. Most disappointing of all is that the food preparation was not as novel as it once was. They are much more conventional now. The presentation, however, was always stunning. The elaborate and stylish utensils were designed for their dishes, and every dish was a show just on presentation. I walked pass the kitchen and saw quite a few of the staff putting tiny flowers on the little pieces of food with tweezers. Clearly the focus now is on the presentation rather than the food preparation, which is very disappointing.
I also didn’t like the atmosphere. It was very hush hush and stiff - one is supposed to be in awe of the place instead of having fun. The service was professional but unfriendly, with rarely a smile from anyone. In fact, the piece de resistance of the meal is the last course, when Chef Grant Achatz himself came to the table to “paint” the dessert on the dining table. He did not greet anyone, did not smile, did not say a word, and did not make eye contact with anyone. He painted and left. I guess he was being an “artist”? It was not very enjoyable as they somehow make you feel oddly unwelcome.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.