Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alinea Tour Menu, July 4, 2010

It's been long enough since we had our memorable dining experience at Alinea. Since I've been traveling I didn't want to just throw thoughts on a page. However, I doubt I can add much to the world of Alinea experiences already well documented. After hearing from everyone else, I discovered for myself why everyone calls Alinea "an experience."

It’s a magic show with food; a cirque du soleil tableside. You might not enjoy the flavors of every course presented (I had a few...), but the experience trumps all. A stop at Alinea is a must for any serious foodie, food lover or people that simply enjoy being wowed. And surprisingly, the value is remarkable. For the amount of time, the number of courses, the quality of service and above all, the quality of the food, you walk out feeling like you got your money's worth.

There are so many reasons why Alinea is the 7th best restaurant in the world and the best in America. The décor is immaculate with equally impressive service. I couldn't figure out exactly how many people were responsible for our table but it never mattered. The table was always perfectly arranged, beverages appropriately filled and the servers knowledgeable and attentive to each course presented. As I mentioned, the food speaks for itself. The wonder and amazement that accompanies each dish is remarkable.

While it would be interesting to write about each dish from our 26 course "tour" menu, I will highlight my favorites from the menu. I have already posted the entire dinner in pictures.

We started the evening with three fruits filled with spirits. It was a fun way to get in the mood for what was in store, and I love a "shot" where I can eat the container as well as the alcohol. The passion fruit contained Ron Botran, Matusalem Clasico and Sailor Jerry. The cucumber had Plymouth Gin, rose and mint, and the kumquat contained Rittenhouse Rye, Peychaud's and demerara.

After the english pea and lobster courses, we were served yuba and chao tom. These were fun to eat and quite delicious. Sucking on the sugar cane to extract the shrimp and mint flavors was something I've never done before. The yuba was in the shape of a pole with the shrimp wrapping around it. Miso and togarashi complimented the flavors in a dipping sauce.

The all-time favorite course of the evening was the make-your-own pork belly spring roll. Our "flags" centerpiece was used as the wrap for our roll. We were presented with the pork belly and plenty of ingredients to make our own. It was my favorite course, not only because the flavors magnificent, but you felt that you contributed to the process. It was also neat how something already on the table was used in the middle of the dinner.

Toward the end of the meal we were served "salad and soup." The dressing of the salad was classic ceasar, but in powder form. The soup was hidden underneath.

A good example of a course where I did not love the flavors, but still loved the presentation was the black truffle. It's a dumpling that explodes in your mouth when bitten, which was clearly instructed to us by our servers.

Finally, the main course (if you can even call it that) was tournedo à la persane. Simply amazing and delicious. I could have ordered 15 more. It was a great way to finish the savory section of our meal.

There were two desserts that stood out, the bubble gum tube and the finalé of chocolate. The bubble gum is presented in a long tube that must be sucked in one motion. It's a fun and childish production that also tastes great.

We know all good things must end, and the end of our meal concludes – as all meals do at Alinea – with the chocolate course. I had heard that Chef Achatz tries to make it to every table, but I was thrilled when he showed up to perform his magic. It takes a few minutes to prepare and I was amazed to watch the artwork in progress. In addition to the dry ice chocolate, there are pieces of menthol, drops of coconut and hyssop all over. I think the pictures do more justice...

It was announced over the summer that Alinea was reducing the menu options to a single 21-course meal for $185. I feel lucky that I got to experience the full 26-course glory that is Alinea. It's worth the time, it's worth the money and it is easily one of the best culinary and artistic performances I have ever seen. If you want to be wowed, make a reservation as soon as possible.

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