Ever since I moved to the Chicago area I have wanted to eat at Alinea. On Trip Advisor it is ranked #1 in the entire city so I knew it had to be special. I also found it on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list at #26. How could we go wrong! After waiting and waiting I finally got us a reservation!
Since I didn't know if I would be able to take pictures (or if they would come out) at dinner, I got some from the internet:
On Wendnesday, November 4th, Josh and I headed to Chicago for our 5:45 reservation! We left early but hit major traffic (rush hour plus construction *shakes fist*)! Anyone who knows me knows I HATE being late! We arrived right at 5:45 and even though we were technically on time I still felt bad. Also, the entrance to the restaurant is hidden and the valet guys were not outside. I jumped out of the truck and headed down the street to find them. We were finally able to get the truck taken care of and our dinner could start. I just felt like the night started a little rough.
When we first got into the restaurant they asked me if I wanted to look in the kitchen. I said, "For reals?!" and they took me to a window where I could see all the chefs cooking away. It was pretty cool. Next, they brought us to our table in this little room that only had four other tables in it.
Our waiter was so great as was the Sommelier. They were both so knowledgeable and it seemed like they loved their jobs!
Our waiter told us how the night was going to work and then every time a course came out he would explain what it was and how to eat it.
They didn't give us the menu until the end of the night (don't want to spoil the surprise!). The Sommelier explained what the circles on the menu mean: the larger the circle the larger the course, the darker the circle the heartier the meal, and if the circle was further right then the course was sweeter (I think...).
After the explanation, the Sommelier mixed us a part of a drink and told us the rest would be coming with the next course. A chef showed up next and dropped off a glass with a small ball on top of dry ice (Course #1). He told us to eat the ball in one bite and to not eat the dry ice. The ball was amazing! You just pop it in your mouth and it explodes with flavor!
Next, the Sommelier showed up and poured the drink she had partly prepared with the dry ice. She told us that it was safe to drink immediately but if we waited the drink would get stronger.
At this time the next course came out: Bocadillo, Gilda, and Patatas Bravas (Course #2). They were just tiny cubes packed with flavor.
The third course then came out: Brook Trout. The fish was served in three pieces with curry and other sauces. I really liked the curry but the others were a little strange.
The forth course was called Graffiti. It was all kinds of mushrooms served all kinds of ways on concrete. I am not a huge fan of mushrooms but this dish was still pretty good.
Course #5 had a lot going on! Fire, eel, corn on the cob, salmon cracker, and barnacles! Yes, barnacles! The salmon cracker and the corn was delicious and I even liked the eel, but the barnacles were a little strange. You are supposed to bite the flesh and then pulled the rest of it out of the shell with your teeth. It was very salty. Reminded me of the sea.
[The corn on the cob came with this amazing butter sauce. I kept dipping the barnacles in it!]
While we ate that course, course #6 (Chicken) was cooking in the fire. The waiter came back and extracted the chicken from the fire, sliced it up, and served it with a Japanese gravy.
After the chicken we were presented with a tiny bowl which contained cold potato soup, a hot potato, and a truffle (Course #7). You had to put the hot potato and truffle in the cold soup and then eat the whole thing quickly all at once. It was so lovely!
At the beginning of the meal, we were asked if we wanted to add truffles to our risotto for an additional cost. I just ate truffles and risotto at Le Cirque in Vegas and I was so excited to have them again! So we said YES!
The waiter brought us out these really awesome plates for our next course (#8). Mine was called "Dragon" and Josh's was "Versace".
Then came the risotto! You could smell the truffles as the waiter was shaving them. OMG! My mouth started watering!
["Dragon" with the creamy risotto and truffles!]
I had to resist the temptation to lick the bowl! This course was exquisite!
The next course (#9) was an olive cake. I don't remember this one and I didn't get a picture :-(
After that came the Lamb Course (#10). This course had lamb prepared four different ways. The bacon and sausage were my favorite. They also served a bread which you had to get out of a plant!
[Josh getting his bread]
Our last dinner course was the Black Truffle explosion (#11). The chef came out and explained what this was and that we needed to eat it all in one bite. Good thing we did because it had a lot of broth on the inside along with the truffle and parmesan cheese!
Next was the first of the three dessert courses (#12). This dish had a parsnip covered with vanilla and burgundy truffles! We love truffles!
Then came the thing I was dreading! The green apple helium balloon (#13)! The balloon is green apple taffy and contains helium. You are supposed to "kiss" the balloon and then suck the helium out of it. I didn't want to do it (I'm not a fan of taffy) so Josh did both of ours :-)
The last course (#14) was one of the best! The waiter came out and placed a rubber-like table cloth down and the laid out a bunch of ingredients.
Then Chef Achatz himself came out and decorated our table! A world famous Chef served us! It was so amazing!
We devoured our last course!
Overall this was such a great experience! I would highly recommend Alinea to anyone who is looking for a great meal with a twist!