Thursday, May 30, 2013

acadia - chicago, il
1639 south wabash avenue
chicago, il 60616

about the restaurant:
- located on a somewhat desolate stretch of road in the south loop
- chef/owner is ryan mccaskey, who before opening acadia spent time under achatz and tramonto before taking the executive chef position at courtright's in western springs, il
- acadia's cusine is contemporary american, and takes inspiration from mccaskey's time in the state of maine
- one michelin star, three from vettel in the tribune
details of our visit:
5:30 pm. reservation immediately prior to driving back home to st. louis. six course tasting menu with one supplement for each of us. acadia was the last of the current michelin starred chicago restaurants we had yet to visit.
amuse bouche of daikon radish poached in chicken broth with chicken cracklings
yellow fin tuna - jade abalone, summer truffle, yuzu, fiddleheads

lubina - herb oil, tomato emulsion, brandade, ghost shrimp
foie gras - miso cured, grilled, black seasame crumble, umeboshi, pickled asian pear, miso pear butter
biscuits with salted butter
english pea agnolotti - serano ham, pea tendrils, oyster mushrooms

stonington lobster - pommes dauphine, arancini, black trumpet, sour cream pastry, thumbelina carrots, bisque

bone marrow - peeky toe crab, veal cheek, truffle, textures and garnishes 

rabbit - cherrywood bacon, sunchoke, sicilian pistachio, garlic, spring onion

mascarpone sorbet, lychee snow, grilled rhubarb
ile flottante - tropical fruits, acacia honey, espelette, olive oil

whoopie pies
chocolate marshmallow
the gentleman handling our table was around my age (late twenties), and did a great job relating to us while still remaining professional. dishes arrived at a proper pace, and i liked how when i asked for a red wine to pair with the last two courses, our server took the extra step and brought two separate half pours to go with each dish.
everything lived up to the michelin one star rating, with the lubina, foie, and rabbit courses being my absolute favorites. i wasn't wowed by the sweets, but that is pretty normal for me.
overall thoughts:
attractive space, friendly/knowledgeable service, and solid one star food. at the end of the day, however, acadia definitely falls in my "glad i tried it" column, as a return visit is unlikely given the semantics involved.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

alinea (3) - chicago, il
1723 north halsted street
chicago, il 60614

about the restaurant:
see here and here for my first two posts on alinea if you are unfamiliar with the restaurant...
details of our visit:
this was our third meal at alinea and first since the inception of the prepaid ticket system. the decision to make alinea part of this trip was made almost two months in advance, and the only time we were able to book was 9:30pm. on a wednesday night. when we arrived on the big night, i was filled with just as much nervous excitement as the first time around and was surprised to find the famous hallway transformed with a furry carpet and a plethora of glowing vases hanging from the ceiling. we were seated upstairs in the front room (the only area of the restaurant we hadn't seen before), and after being welcomed back to the restaurant and confirming our desire for the wine pairings, the meal began.
osetra caviar, classical
champagne jean lallement 'verzenay, grand cru' brut nv

scallop, mirin, bonito
monchong, banana leaf, sugarcane
hapu'upu'u, lemongrass, star anise
blue prawn, tamarind, mint
shrimp head, togarashi, pincage
onaga, white soy, ginger
pineapple, slush, shot
ginga shizuku 'divine droplets' junmai daiginjo-shu, hokkaido-ken

rabbit, cherry blossom, smoke, wasabi
dr. thanisch 'berncasteler doctor' riesling kabinett, mosel, 2010
artichoke, octopus, eggplant, allium
lopez de heredia, 'vina gravonia' blanco, rioja 2003
veal cheeks, spring bounty
ar pe pe grumello 'rocca de piro' valtellina superiore 2006

hot potato, cold potato, black truffle, butter

chateau musar, bekaa valley lebanon 2004

black truffle, explosion, romaine, parmesan
ginger, five other flavors
the rare wine co. 'boston bual - special reserve madeira

balloon, helium, green apple

strawberry, sorrel, sassafras, pine nut
disznoko '5 puttonyos', tokaji-aszu 2005

raspberry - infused with violet

dark chocolate, chestnut, rye, maple syrup
carpano 'antica formula' vermouth

casual professionalism is the phrase that i think best describes alinea's service style. servers clearly know the dishes inside and out, and are very approachable and open to questions and comments about the food while never taking anything too seriously.

as expected, the meal was completely delicious and also lots of fun. the seafood presentation that filled the table at the beginning of the meal was incredible, and the three spring themed courses that followed were fantastic, with the rabbit dish being my favorite. from there, however, the meal was a bit too similar to our visit last april. six of the final eight presentations were either exact repeats (hot potato, black truffle explosion, ginger, balloon) or similar concepts (duck???!!!, final dessert) from our previous meal. while theses dishes were certainly awesome to have again, i wish that we had gotten to try some new dishes that wowed just as much. i have no problem with the hot potato and bte staying on the menu permanently (i prefer hot potato by the way) as they are too incredible to remove, but i will say that after three services, i am a bit tired of the final dessert (even if the ingredients change).

overall thoughs:
this meal made me wonder where alinea is going from here. is the tray with 60 ingredients now a mainstay? will the balloon be replaced by something equally novel? can chef achatz come up with a finale that tops the tabletop presentation?  at one point, i figured that the restaurant would definitely be a once a year stop, but now i am not so sure. after having two meals over a year apart that were so similar, i can't say that a return next year is inevitable. i still feel alinea is easily the best restaurant in chicago (and maybe america?), but i doubt i will go back until some serious changes to the menu/format are made.