Alinea about 9 years ago when I was out at a volunteer event. I happened to meet a girl who was a waitress at this new restaurant that had gotten a huge amount of preopening buzz and had just opened. I had seen a little about it but I really wasn't familiar. The girl said that the chef had come from a place called Trio in Evanston which I had heard of, and had heard very good things. I had not gone there but it was on my short list. I did eventually make it to Trio, but by the that time, there was a different chef. It was still very good but it wasn't the chef that opened Alinea. After talking, I decided to investigate and discovered that this was a very high end restaurant that served degustation menus featuring what became known as Molecular Gastronomy. Coming here was going to be an event that had to be planned for. Due to circumstances, it took me 9 years to eventually get here. It could have been sooner but they initiated a ticketing system that made it very difficult for an odd numbered party to go (You have to buy tickets for all seats at a particular table). I find it difficult to ask a friend to spend the amount of money necessary to go to a restaurant like this so it was difficult to make a reservation/buy tickets. Eventually though, a friend asked me if I would be interested in going and I said of course. The restaurant is located in a modern looking charcoal colored 2-flat in Lincoln Park. There is no sign, but there was a guy standing outside in front of the enormous door. He opened the door and I entered into a hallway with dim purple lighting that tapered in width as you walked into the building. I walked back and didn't see anything so I was a little confused until an automatic sliding double door opened in one wall. I walked through to a host's station where I was greeted. I noticed the kitchen to my right (further into the building), a staircase in front of me, and a dining room to my right. As I was telling them who I was, my dining partner came out of a waiting area and we were seated in the small, ground floor dining room which contained 5 two tops. There are also three dining rooms upstairs for a total of about 60 seats. We were seated at a corner which was great because it gave me a great view of the room and allowed me to see the action without turning my head. I was seated against the wall at a dark banquette that had a yellow throw pillow. Our table was dark, as were the other tables, there was a grey carpet on the floor and the walls seemed to be grey as well with several small modern art paintings for decoration. The lighting was hidden in the walls and seemed a bit dim, but was sufficient, for the most part, for photography without a flash. Above all of the tables was a Rhubarb Stem. It seemed a little odd, but we assumed there was a point to it and that it would come into play later in the evening. We started out with some water and some Rose' Champagne before our first course came out. We were presented with a couple of what looked like a couple of goblets with the stem mostly removed. It would roll on its base if the side was pushed. Inside was a light, tart, and savory treat. It consisted of Banana Puree on the bottom which was topped with some Arctic Char Roe, Ginger, and ultimately with Passionfruit Foam. It was fresh, flavorful, and a great start.
Grant Achatz, the Executive Chef and Partner at Alinea, then came out with a round frame and several bottles and dishes and built our dessert on the table which we were to eat off of the table. The course was beautiful and contained Milk Chocolate, Caramel, Butterscotch, Meringue, Violet, Hazelnut, and Blueberry. It also tasted very good and was fun to eat.
I am very glad that I went to Alinea. It is very definitely a world-class restaurant. The food was very good and was fun to eat, the space was clean and modern, and but for an irritation that was not completely there fault, the service was exemplary. I can have a tendency to talk loudly when I get excited and I was told that I was disturbing another diner. I did try to tone things down but I was told a second time. This is not a church or a library it is a restaurant and a very good restaurant. Because of this, people will get excited and might talk with an elevated volume. I was not shouting, so telling me to tone down the volume was an irritation to me. Other than that point, the service was fantastic, I liked my experience, and I would definitely recommend it to those people that might appreciate it.