Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chicago: Table 33 - Alinea

This is the second part of a three part series on my Alinea experience. The first installment was called "Arriving at Alinea" and the final post will focus on the food ("The Tasting"). In this post, I will walk you though the shock and awe I went through once I opened the doors to Alinea. With no signage out front and no way of knowing where to go and what to do, at least I can help prepare yourself before looking like a complete idiot when arriving here.

Once you open the front doors, you are NOT greeted by a reception desk or foyer. Instead you see this, the entry vestibule. What to do? Walk down this space until you can go no further. To the left, the solid opague doors will slide open, similar to what you'll see from Star Trek. I'm pretty sure it's triggered by a motion sensor.

When you walk through the doors, you are greeted by several staffers in Ermenegildo Zegna suits. One will ask the most important question, "May we have the name of your reservation?" It seemed the staffers memorized my name and reservation time because a reception desk was no where in sight or maybe I was distracted by the uber modern staircase. Apparently, their event host will Google every guest who makes a reservation hoping to learn something about them and anticipate their service needs accordingly.

After walking up two flights of stairs, I arrive at a corner table, Table 33. The table had one chair facing the room which I already knew was meant for me. The staffers are quite attentive and some of them would strike up a brief conversation since I was dining alone.

[Image by Bo]

As I am seated, the first thing I notice was the tablecloth. Alinea doesn't use tableclothes. To keep water from dripping off the glasses and ruining the dark mahogany tables, the staffers check the dewpoint every day and calibrate the drinking water temperature to prevent any form of condensation. At each place setting, there is a single white napkin embroidered with it's "Alinea" mark. The story behind the name and symbol can be found here.

[Image by Alinea]

Since my reservation was set for 5:30pm, I was the first guest in the restaurant. This gave me some time to admire its interior design, which depicts a grand modern home. The luscious chairs were designed by Tom Stringer and can be found here. The capacity of the restaurant is limited to 65 seats which equates to 16,900 diners a year (double the number of spots at elBulli). From my table, I can see what goes on at each of the other tables since each tasting menu is catered to each table. This is similar to what is done at elBulli.

At this point the sommelier arrives with the wine list (more like a book) and so the adventure begins. Look for my final installment called "The Tasting".

1723 North Halsted
Chicago, Illinois 60614


Trisha said...

I have never seen a restaurant so sophisticated nor heard of one so attentive (dew point? googling the guests? no reception desks?)... I don't even think we have that here in Sydney (but I might be misinformed..). Anyway, the cake moulds where bought from a local department store here in Sydney. :)

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