Dinner at Alinea is probably the craziest meal I’ve ever had. Really. Throughout the evening, my awe was expressed in many ways: chair dancing, jaw to floor, moaning and groaning, and constant eye rolls of pleasure, just to name a few.
There’s no way I can come close to describing with any real accuracy the intricacies of this extraordinary experience so I hope you find my photos and commentaries at least entertaining.
Here are a few highlights:
The table’s centerpiece was a live garden. Yes, let’s start there. A LIVE garden, on a slab, dirt and all, center of the table. We were instructed not to do anything with it initially, but that it would come into play later in the meal. Understood.
First to arrive (that we were allowed to eat) was the steelhead roe with watermellon, kaffir lime and the cutest, teensiest, most delicate little cucumber with the blossom still attached. Adorable.
Then a fried morsel on a vanilla bean. It’s receptical was built specifically for the mad scientist, himself.
Then a massive seaweed platter holding 3 ‘sea’ items. First was an oyster leaf in an oyster shell with a mignonette. That’s right. There was actually no oyster at all. Just a leaf in a shell. Tricky.
Then a raw scallop with an ale and old bay foam. Increadibly more delicious than I can convey.
Then my first ever razor clam also with deliciousness too complicated to describe.
Next was this little stick. It was made from the skin that forms on the top of the ‘whey’ of tofu. They peeled it off and deep fried it, then wrapped it with a wonderfully sweet prawn, rolled it in sesame seeds and stuck it in a fancy aioli. Who thinks of this stuff?
Then the English peas three ways. When this ‘bowl’ arrived, it was hot and cold all at once. You start with the top…
Then open it up to find the freeze dried stuff with olive oil blobs and grapes…
Then remove that section to discover a silky-smooth puree. Unlike any pea soup I’ve ever had…
I got quite excited for the next course when the marked our table with a pair of scissors. I knew I was going to get to snip away at that center piece.
I was right. We added the baby chard, mizuna, thai basil, cilantro and more to our tomato heaven. It was like eating soup and salad at the same time. The flavor of the broth alone may have taken the cake for my fave course, and then add the fact that I get to play with my food by adding LIVE lettuces and herbs snipped from our own table garden?! Whaaaaa?!!!
This is what they like to call “hands-free” dining. It’s one little bite on a skewer that you simply remove with your mouth. Yeah. Fun. Less important were the ingredients: Mackerel, mango, bergamot flower and who knows what else.
Then a little mushroom garden with a cream infused with pine (yes, pine… as in ‘cone’) and a bunch of other interesting ingredients. I think they were going for a forest-in-your-mouth sensation. Success.
Oh! And then there was “hot potato, cold potato”. A warm, creamy potato soup with a mini ‘cold potato’ on which a slice of black truffle rested. There was also a little cube of butter and parm on the mini skewer which melted into the soup upon removing the skewer from its resting place. All carefully dropped into the soup which was then gulped from the little bowl. This one was fun too.
Here’s the fanciest little lamb dish you’ll ever see. I can’t tell you all of the components but I can tell you that this was one to merit the chair dance. Wonderful!
A favorite at the table (and amongst Achatz followers) was the “Truffle Explosion”. A one bite raviolo filled with juicy truffle heaven. It rested on a spoon that sat in a bowl that had no bottom. Yes, a bowl built only to hold a spoon. The garnish is a tiny romaine leaf, black truffle and shaved parm. Ridiculously delicious.
Here’s a whacky one. First, remove the glass plate containing a bunch of little garnishes like blackberry, fermented garlic and olives from its base.
Then construct a devise with the tools provided on which to hang the pasta that was somehow snuck to your table in the form of a second center piece.
Fill the pasta with decadent braised short ribs and strange garnishes of your choosing before wrapping it up and eating it like a taco. See, I told you it was whacky.
You can barely see the little octopus tentacle resting next to a smooth, set eggplant puree with coriander and more. Take the bite then wash it down with the frothiness in the bowl.
This was the intermezzo to clear the palatte. Coconut snow with yuzu. Just don’t lick it directly from the frozen metal or you’ll end up like Ralphy from “A Christmas Story”. Ouch.
I loved this course, too! All kinds of crazy stuff that a normal person would never pair. There were squares of peach puree, basil, balsamic, jasmine, mozzarella, creme fraiche! I was like a kid in a candy store… I had so much fun mixing and matching flavors and textures!
When was the last time you sucked your dessert from a tube (and those crappy ice pops don’t count)? This was a liquid that had a jelly-like plug on one end. It popped out and flavors of lemongrass, dragonfruit, basil and lime all came rushing at you at once. (Again. Who thinks of these things?)
And, finally, some chocolate to finish. But not just any chocolate, of course. This one was frozen in little specks that melted when they touched your tongue. Flavors of red pepper, bitter orange and banana all complimented the main ingredient.
That’s my friend, Vince, who I worked with at Del Posto, in the kitchen, smiling for the camera! Good job, Vince! Thank you for contributing to such an amazing experience!
Yes, Alinea is a true experience to behold. It is true culinary genius from a master mind.
The Short Version (Out of 10)…
Overall impression: 10
Would I go back?
Ummm… What do you think?