Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alinea Restaurant - Food As Art

My husband recently lost his job, so where did we go for dinner? Alinea Restaurant! Woo Hoo! For that 'let's blow it all' feeling, Alinea can't be beat. The reason I am posting my review on ARTseen Chicago is because my experience at Alinea was not just culinary, but also artistic. Grant Achatz, the celebrated chef and molecular gastronomie visionary, is definitely the Marcel Duchamp of the food world. It was the weirdest food I have ever eaten. This is not to say it was bad, but when you eat a rectangular lump of chocolate pudding larded with marinated pork and you know it's costing you about 35 bills, you lean in to see if you can detect a hint of horse shit. Gladly, I was happy to discover that there were only three missteps throughout the twelve courses. My palette is adventuresome. If a chef claims that they are going to blow my mind with weirdness and deliciousness, I am all over it. I say, 'bring it on' and I'll eat just about anything. I've eaten live baby crabs, fish eyes and baby snails that I picked out of their shells with a toothpick without blinking. But, had I found the baby snails on the wet pavement, I probably would have let them live a long and prosperous life. It's all context. Alinea is focused primarily on the visual transformation of food and the creation of a multisensory experience that not only pleases the eye, but also the palette. This is a very difficult thing to do. The second dish that came out was an homage to the tomato. There were several small jellied orbs of tomato essense that were surprising in their tomato-iness. They had great 'mouth feel', but the actual taste was everything that you love about the tomato. Then there was a freeze-dried tomato thing (lump, spoonful?) that had, again, the essential tomato experience without the tomato. I imagine that this was probably what Stanley Kubrick was going for in 2001 Space Odyssey. Over the top of the tomato treats was a frozen cloud of mozarella foam. It looked good, but it was very cold and tasted more like ice than cheese. All was forgiven because it did look really cool. Since there were twelve courses, it was fun to anticipate the next dish as if I were waiting for the next act in a good play. All in all Alinea can only be described as John Cage and Julia Child's love child. But, don't be fooled. This is food for rich people who are looking for the newest food trend and have the money to try it. I'm not saying it wasn't worth it, but I probably should have paid my daughter's school fees and lunches for the year. No, make that two years. Oh well. Burp.