Creation of an exquisite meal takes place in silence. All the buzzing and whirring kitchen appliances are put out of sight deeper in the restaurant premises, while the calm and well-concerted work process of Alinea cooks can be observed in an open style kitchen.
Tokens of world-scale recognition, like St.Pellegrino, Michelin and other awards, are placed modestly behind the scenes as well - in the administration's office. There is nothing redundant in Alinea's décor either - just a clean and elegant space, free of kitsch.
You'll find only a folded napkin, a glass and a pillow-shaped pad for tableware on the otherwise vacant table surface. Later on, a glass lens-shaped implement appears, intended to hold a used fork or spoon. Branches of fig tree with real fruit adorn the dining room while its guests bask in constant spotlight of servers' intense attentiveness. An individual sommelier, taking care of wine inspired ambiance of each dining room possesses perfect knowledge of rich and specific collection of the restaurant's wine cellar.
Do not expect any bombastic introduction to this remarkable gastronomic adventure - there is no signboard outside Alinea. No one meets you as you step inside either, not before you have covered all the length of a narrow, crimson-lit hallway with a mirage-like metallic artwork, flickering at the very end of it. Turning around the corner, you finally find yourself in an amazing world of Alinea. Not a single mass production item is to be seen there - from tableware to furniture, everything is exclusively custom-made.
Food is delivered in a very particular manner and special service-ware is created for each dish. Every item is made to order by a sculpture/designer in Prague and presents a harmonious co-creation akin to a piece of music that would emerge out of a perfect cooperation between a poet and a composer. Indeed, the vividly expressive in colors, shapes and composition, Alinea food seems to lack only sounds and melody. Its menu presents miniature artworks representing tiny sceneries from nature - meadows, woods and waters.
Let's have a glimpse into an evening program made up of 24 delicacies.
A variety of mushroom flavors can be savored through a miniature forest model on your plate, with trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Perhaps it triggers a recollection of your last walk in the woods, picking mushrooms. The plate is placed on a small air-pillow, which gradually deflates, while you are eating, exuding a delicate and unobtrusive cured aroma.
A tiny piece of venison, submerged in leaves of eucalyptus and exuding its fresh aroma, seems like emerging from underneath of water-lily carpet.
Playing around with fermenting processes, cooks have obtained soya milk skin that is rolled up in a shape of straw, fried and now holds shrimps with miso. This treat is served grilled on a peculiar small plate filled with sauce.
To keep it warm, broth is presented with a heated black stone submerged in it. Aside from a divine taste, it looks like a fragment, stolen from wild nature.
An oyster leaf leads you into an artful delusion - it's a rare mignonette plant tree, in fact, that has acquired a very genuine taste and aroma of oyster.
Some dishes at Alinea are supposed to be savored only using silverware while others require more active involvement, using peculiar implements and individually constructed devices for filling polenta or wrapping springrolls. And again, the Czech designer has come up with unique food presentation solutions while Alinea cooks demonstrate their highest mastery! The secret of black truffles and parmesan exposition is somewhat borrowed from French Laundry, yet nevertheless it's like a whole symphony of tastes in your mouth, infinitely rich and colorful.
Then follows a composition of nine forks assembled on a white plate, each enticing with a tiny bit of a delicious treat - duck breast, foie gras, rhubarb, strawberry and other dainties.
A thin slice of bacon, hanging suspended by a thin wire, resembles some sort of acrobatic food performance.
Dessert in the culinary world has always provided a vast space for artistic and aesthetic expression. In Alinea version, it's a colorful composition of pumpkin mouse decorated with a cloud of fairy floss, served on a heated and slightly charred cedar plank.
Yet another surprise come in the shape of a cool glass test tube, filled with a fluid and refreshing mix, containing dragon fruit, finger lime and lemongrass.
The dessert finale is an artwork that is created right on the entire table surface. Dessert cooks use variety of ingredients, deftly forming flowers of fireworks. The edible masterpiece is complemented with drops, dots and squares of caramel, melted chocolate and sweet sauce. Liquid nitrogen frozen chocolate mousse bursts into pieces, wrapping the table into fine mist.
It's interesting that, before leaving, Aliena guests receive its menu as a keepsake and a proof that the fantastic meal has actually taken place and hasn't been just a fruit of imagination. It also contains all the names of wines that have been served with each dish.
Be sure to make a reservation at least three month ahead, or else, the only hope to secure a table is a very lucky last minute cancellation.
Keywords: restaurant, restaurants, Chicago, US