The only Chicago restaurant with three Michelin stars, Alinea is consistently ranked among the upper echelon of eateries by renowned food publications. It took the #7 spot on Restaurant Magazine’s Best World Restaurants list last year, and is the #1 restaurant in the Chicago area as chosen by Zagat’s editors.What makes the experience of Alinea so unique is the avant-garde dish presentations and unexpected combination of flavours dreamt up by molecular gastronomy chefs Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. Each of their 18 tasting menu courses offers a new way to eat that appeals to your taste, sight, touch, and smell.
Unsurprisingly, Alinea is also extremely expensive and hard to get into. The restaurant books reservations two months in advance, and requires diners to purchase a ticket for their seat that can cost up to $285 per person, depending on the day of the week. And that’s without including beverages.
Adam Goldberg, a food lover who takes incredible pictures of his meals for his blog A Life Worth Eating, was lucky enough to dine twice at this world-renowned restaurant. He shared pictures of his second round at Alinea with Business Insider.
Achatz has once again changed his menu since Goldberg’s 2011 meal, but a few of the courses — including the Hot Potato and Steelhead Roe — are still there.
The first course Goldberg ate in 2011 combined warm Dijon mustard with chilled golden trout roe and grapefruit. It made for an unlikely, delicious combination.
Next was this stick of deep-fried tofu skin wrapped with shrimp and sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds. In the bowl was a miso paste for dipping.
Diners then received a fork holding octopus purée, red wine gelée, and coriander (cilantro) that was suspended over a bowl filled with eggplant foam.
In this dish, an oyster leaf (which naturally tastes very similar to an oyster) was presented in a real oyster shell. It was accompanied by a buttery scallop topped with beer foam and a razor clam.
Up next was the first in a three-part course. Here, diners ate sprouting pea leaves growing from a sweet pea soup.
Finally, diners were shown the bottom of the dish, which contained frozen pea purée with green apple sorbet and frozen Greek yogurt. Goldberg said it tasted like a dessert.
The peas were followed by a chunk of deep-fried yellowtail with banana and ginger that was skewered with a vanilla bean and balanced upon a specially-made dish.
This is the Chef's signature Potato course. It's a hot potato topped with a slice of black truffle and suspended above cold potato soup. You slide out the skewer so the hot potato and truffle mixes with the soup and eat immediately.
Two orange flags were placed on the table earlier in the meal. The server said they would come into play in a later course.
A plate of specially-chosen ingredients were laid out in front of each guest. They included smoked salt, crushed blackberry, black garlic, and tobacco pudding, among others.
Those flags turned out to be pasta for a DIY ravioli course! They were set on a specially-made stand to elevate the pasta's corners.
Short rib was then placed in the ravioli, and guests seasoned their own dish before eating it with their hands. Towels were provided afterward.
Next, a single raviolo filled with black truffle stock was presented on a spoon, topped with Parmesan cheese, a lettuce leaf, and another thin slice of black truffle.
This is a 300-year-old dish created from a 100-year-old cook book, August Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire. Lamb sat atop two puff pastries with potato, and it was served on antique dishware.
Next, a bowl of eucalyptus leaves was set at the table for guests to take in the aroma. When the waiter returned, a metal skewer poking through the leaves revealed venison topped with cherry and cocoa nib.
This was a palate cleanser made from liquid nitrogen-frozen yuzu. It resembled an ice cream cone upon arrival, and there was no way to rest the dish until it was finished.
This sweet course was presented on a wood block of aromatic cedar. Sweet potato, pecans, cayenne cotton candy, and bourbon gelée mixed together for a woodsy flavour.
Diners then sucked down a glass tube filled with lemongrass, lime, cucumber, and a chunk of dragon fruit.
And then it was time for dessert. Chef Achatz himself came out of the kitchen to create the dish, served atop a rubber table cloth.
Using small bowls of blueberries, honey, caramel, peanut nougat, liquid nitrogen frozen mousse, and berry sauce, the Chef created what looked like a dessert version of a Jackson Pollock masterpiece.
Guests were then encouraged to combine the ingredients so that each bite was different. Here's the completed masterpiece.
This close-up of the dessert is like looking at an impressionist painting. Food at Alinea really is art.
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