***** (5 stars)
I’m pleased to say that the 2016 reinvention of Alinea has been a phenomenal improvement. So much so, in fact, that it now is again a serious contender for best restaurant in the US.
First of, the complete redesign of the space has resulted in a comfortable, sedate environment where the food and wine are the focus. The new furnishings are cozy and the ambiance is quiet, with no loud soundtrack. As a result, conversations tend to be muted and the communication with the servers is enhanced.
And certainly there are no better servers around than those at Alinea, where everyone is well trained on the components of each complex dish, and the accompanying wine pairings.
Best of all, the new menu has placed the focus squarely on the food. While each course is presented in meticulously chosen dinnerware–from gorgeous dishes fashioned of hand crafted ceramic to ephemeral bowls of ice–the spotlight is on the food in those bowls, not gimmicky utensils or serving platforms.
The didactic instructions of exactly how to eat each course are gone, and now you are invited to experiment and explore with the flavors on your plate.
In this new incarnation, feedback is actively solicited as they find their way to the favorite dishes. Certainly the first five courses were absolute knockouts, and the wine pairings that accompanied them pure genius. It’s a bit hard to count the courses, because the menus is an avant-garde map, and many courses consist of multiple dishes, but trust me, you won’t leave hungry, whether you chose the upstairs salon experience or the more elaborate downstairs experiences. I felt the salon offered more than enough fine dining, and ten great wine pairings, all at a very fair price.
If you haven’t been to Alinea for a while, or you are looking for a stellar dining experience in Chicago, there can be no better place to start.
1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614