Three Michelin stars, best restaurant in America, and a chef with a death defying, Oprah-worthy-story: Alinea’s everything it should be.
For all that Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas do to set themselves apart from the pack, dinner at Alinea is everything you expect – unbelievable. From the Star Trek sliding front doors to the teasing kitchen view of several dozen cooks to the final course- a peanut butter, chocolate, blueberry dessert plated table side on the table atop a thin rubber tablecloth- every element is just as it should be: thoughtful, thought-provoking, playful, and delicious.
Lacking the pretension or overbearing presence that often comes with many multi-course, haute cuisine meals, the staff seems almost as giddy to be serving each course as the diners are to be enjoying them. With sly smiles and coy descriptions, the presentations arrive on the infamous metal spoons, vials, tiny platters, and delicate ceramic wear of Martin Kastner, the restaurant’s wildly talented service ware designer.
While at times inspirations can seem almost erratic, as you are pulled from country to time period to sensation through the varied menu, each course layers on top of the next, adding an element of surprise, whimsy, texture, and flavor. Japanese finger food (a soy milk skin dehydrated and fried is then wrapped in shrimp and coated in togarashi and sesame seeds, and served alongside a red miso emulsion), Escoffier (service ware from the 1900s is set for the classic Canard a la Cussy, duck and foie gras atop perfect puff pastry) and a study of color (a monochromoatic white plate features halibut and lemon, with teasing undertones of coffee, vanilla, and black pepper) all dance across the table.
Somehow the three-hour meal seems to have started just as it is ending, and yet you are left feeling completely content. Understanding first hand the drive, passion, and hard work it takes to make this kind of restaurant seamlessly work the way it does, and with all the recent press about their Next move, it’s hard to not be in (gushing) awe of these restaurateurs.