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“Culinary Adventure of Your Senses”
Review of Alinea

Alinea
Ranked #1 of 9,882 Restaurants in Chicago
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $150 - $1,000
Cuisines: International
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions
Dining options: Late Night, Dinner, Reservations
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Reviewed October 20, 2013

My husband and I experienced Alinea for our wedding anniversary back in May 2010 (omit the fact that tripadvisor only allowed me to select a date between 2012 and 2013). We opted for the wine pairing menu, which meant a different type of wine for EACH of the courses served. With the 15+ courses, I would NOT recommend having wine pairing unless you can tolerate having that much wine and that much varietal of wines. Both my husband and I actually ended up turning down the glasses of wine by the 7th course or so because we were so overwhelmed by the amount of wine!

Overall, we had spent 4-5 hours completing our dinner meal and it was definitely one culinary experience to remember. The best part of the meal was the dessert in which it was a masterpiece created on top of your table with a variety of different techniques used.

Would I say this is one of the best meals I have ever had? Not necessarily but definitely one of the more expensive meals per person we have ever had!! Don't get me wrong - this is definitely a wonderful meal but to us it was more of a culinary adventure/experience than a "meal" (sorry - it's kind of hard to explain but to me there is a difference between a "meal" and an "experience" and Alinea is more of an "experience"... ).

As for the culinary adventure of your senses:
(1). Sight - Aesthetics are brilliant both of the restaurant and plating of the food. Romantic with dim lighting with a spiral staircase heading up to the restaurant for seating. Plating of the food is artistic yet unique and unlike any other (mostly because it is due to its gastronomy style of food). It is hard to describe. The equipment such as plates used to serve the dishes are different depending on the technique involved in the preparation of the food.

Smell - Depending on the season, the menu may involve your sense of smell to complete the gastronomy experience. Imagine a "contained" puff of smell in a vacuum and in order to experience and taste the food, one must "poke" a hole in the "container" and experience the smell and then taste.

Touch - When your tongue comes in contact with the food, your eyes may tell you one thing but your tongue tells you something totally different - rest assured that it is a pleasant experience of the palate.

Taste - One would assume that gastronomy may just be technique used to prepare food a unique way but not necessarily appealing to the palate; however, at Alinea, all of the courses are well balanced, seasoned and delectable. Proportions may seem small at first but once you hit the 4th or so course, you'll be surprised just how satisfying (yet enjoyable) the small plates can be.

Hearing - Waiters and Waitresses are educated on each of the course. Ask them any question about each of the courses and they can tell you anything!

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2  Thank eshopgirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 20, 2013

I have been to a lot of high end places including all the usual ones like Tru, Charlie Trotter, Per Se (my all time favorite). I think this place is a little more about theater than the food. I won't give away any of the secrets but some of the courses just didn't taste all that fantastic. Some of them did. But for $300 a head, you would expect all of them to blow you out of the water. Also, I didn't find the atmosphere all that great. We were seated upstairs in a small room of about 5 or 6 tables but there were so many staff/servers around constantly moving about that it was somewhat unsettling. The service was great and the servers didn't come across as pretentious at all. I am just more about food than I am theater. Per Se is and remains my favorite. Perfect in every way.

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3  Thank Allisonfaye
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 18, 2013

Eatable artistry sums up our recent meal at Alinea. This 13-course meal was the most artistic we have ever had. This dining experience finished our quest to eat at all USA based restaurants in the "The World's 50 Best Restaurants" list. Alinea is 15th on the 2013 list and did not disappoint. The meal engaged all our senses: smell, sight, taste and touch. The use of smoke was unique. In many of the dishes it was used to create a background that enhanced both the taste of the food and the visual appearance. The first course was a single bite of pumpkin flavored with birch syrup on a burnt oak branch. The ceviche of scallop served over a bed of seaweed over dry ice was visually stunning. The dry ice created a stunning blanket of smoke over the entire table. The five preparations of duck were exquisite. They were served with a pallet of ~60 flavors that you paired uniquely with each bite of the duck. The pallet alone was a work of art! The "pièce de résistance" was a milk chocolate dessert made directly on the table. The uniqueness of this meal changes your relationship with the wait-staff. The complexity of preparations and their unique serving methods requires them to explain how many of the dishes should be consumed. To some degree I feel this explains why some recent reviews "complain" about the service - its not your typical relationship and it might be perceived by some as "pretentious". We found the service professional and friendly. If you "surrender" to the experience your will have a most wonderful time!

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Thank S_NJAdventurer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 17, 2013

four days ago we had dinner at Alinea. The food was good. Not close to restaurants like Arzak in Spain or the Meurice in Paris. We opte for the reserve wine pairing. A selection of totally insignificant wines including (with great pomp a Lebanese cabernet ). None which I would even consider buying for my cellar. Service was adequate but the hostess who "greeted" us was rude and ill mannered. And all that for close to 1300 dollars for two. This place is never to be visited unless of course you are a movie star or an idiot.

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24  Thank osikam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 14, 2013

If you spent the time to seek this restaurant out, then you know why you and going and what you are going to get. If you are simply a hanger-on to someone else's reservation and if you have ever though going to Red Robbin was a good meal then please do the person that invited you and the restaurant you can't make it. (and hey, no intent to slag on Red Robin necessarily, I try not to be a food snob and everything has a time and a place)

Look, what places like Alinea, or Jose Andres at Saam in Los Angeles, etc., are doing are not for probably most of the population - not because they would not enjoy it, but because as I see a lot of the reviews saying here, they don't understand the point of these places and are not willing to open themselves up to the experience. You may have never had a cryo-vaced pouched piece of salmon, but because Chefs like Grant were doing these years ago, they have moved the needle for EVERYONE else so when you do go to you local McCormick and Shmicks, etc., their food is now trending toward that level - and that is a good thing for you because instead of the murdered, overdone piece of Salmon you are getting it served to you the way it should be (sorry, McCormicks, you do a fairly descent job at seafood, I was just reaching for a common example)

The think I liked about Alinea slightly more than Saam at SLS is that this felt more like food. I loved Saam and would go back in a heart beat (if I could get an invite) but is truly experimental. Alinea is perhaps less experimental (in a good way) and more practical ? I am not saying that correctly. At Saam I felt like I was in a avante garde master class and at Alinea I felt like I was having a dinner... the most mind blowing dinner ever, but still dinner.

We did the wine flight, and if you are coming here and not doing the wine flight, again that should perhaps be a cue that this place may not be what you are looking for, then why bother. Sorry Chef, I know you pride yourself on your wine program but your Somm did such a great job with the pairings, nothing I could have ordered would have competed.

I won't go into detail on the meal. it would take too long and again, you either get it or you don't. Suffice it to say, if you know what Grant is trying to do here, I promise it will not disappoint.

Service was unfailing and perfect. Professional without pretension.

I will say, the only negative note was being upstairs in the back. I love the buzz and energy that comes from other dinners. I suppose if I was a rock star, the back room would be Position A, but nothing is perfect. The room and space was as amazing as Chef described in the book.

Simply wonderful. Thank you for doing this. Your efforts here are greatly appreciated ! I am from Seattle and while we did not travel only to come here, the night was certainly the highlight.

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1  Thank WashingtonTravel_001
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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