Alinea Alinea.
Exec chef Grant Achatz calls the food “ultra modern emotional”
The space is clean and modern, very Tribeca, with comfy seats and a spacious table.

We made reservations about two months in advance and this dinner was highly anticipated. Surprisingly, we came out with such differing opinions that we decided to write this post jointly.

Steelhead Roe
Coconut mousse (?) topped with salmon roe, encased in a candy cilantro tuile. Served on the end of a vanilla bean.

Steelhead Roe

Jessica: This is one of the three that knocked my socks off. As soon as you pick it up (like a lollipop), you get a whiff of vanilla. The thin candy tuile breaks delicately and your mouth fills with the roe juices, mixing with some light coconut.

Lon: This was an exciting presentation that set the bar for the meal. Two bars were set though. The presentation bar was set extremely high. It seemed so delicate yet held together perfectly; it was playful and inventive. The presentation, led smoothly to the aroma, and then finally a mismatch of taste. The second bar, of flavor, was set very low. The overly sweet tuile stuck to my teeth and didn’t blend with the salty roe. I found the dish unenjoyable to eat. However, the technical competence to produce it was remarkable.

Certain dishes were paired with breads, and two types of butter were given: a goat cream-based butter and cow’s cream-based butter with lava salt.


Jessica: I liked both, incredibly smooth and milky. The goat cream butter was more distinct though.

Lon: Both were amazing, I’ve never had any like the goat butter. I preferred the cow butter, particularly due to the salt.

Tomato flavor presented in many textures including gelees, crisps, diced cubes, etc. Served with basil sorbet, frozen mozzarella foam, and olive oil.

Jessica: This was a very interesting play on familiar flavors in unfamiliar textures. The whole thing was very light and airy, refreshing, I’m not sure how we don’t have a pic of this one but it looked like a piece of art with white coral and colored cubes here and there.

Lon: The frozen foam was remarkable: light as air, yet coating my mouth as heavy as cream. It was a dish in and of itself. The playful use of tomato was really enjoyable, even though tomato gelee doesn’t do it for me.

Five coatings (?), three gels, apple soup. A rich apple-flavored soup with various textured elements of cheese, nuts, etc. topped with a super thin sliver of dried cauliflower.


Jessica: This was the second of my three favorites. The warm apple soup was poured on at the table. I imagine it’s so that the different cubes didn’t get soggy. There were nutty ones and cheesy ones, each crunchy on the outside to different degrees, softer on the inside. Little pieces of fried cauliflower and a dehydrated cross section garnish the dish. The simplified way to describe it would be a warm soup with different flavored croutons. It was comforting and just a wonderful combination of flavors.

Lon: This was my favorite dish of the night, I easily could’ve finished a big ole bowl of the soup, especially with a bunch of those various crouton-like cubes of varying tastes in it. The cheese one and the nutty ones were absolutely astounding.

Popcorn essence in a solidified sauce, clarified butter in a sphere, curry accents over nuts and lobster pieces. Mango-Lime gelee with pepper.

Lobster 1 Lobster 2

Jessica: This was described to us as “things that go with butter.” The lobster was cooked perfectly, no complaints, but nothing stood out to me here.

Lon: With the exception of the mango, which seemed odd and out-of-place (but still tasted delicious by itself), this plate was masterful. The sphere of butter was so playful, adding to the whimsy of solid popcorn sauce, which by the way, really tasted like popcorn. The lobster did nothing special, but the various other elements were great. I cleared this plate, and thought that it’s only downside was that there was an unpopped corn kernel on the plate which hurt my teeth.

Wagyu Beef
After arriving frozen via liquid nitrogen (standing as a centerpiece through a few courses), the thawed wagyu slice is placed over a fried maitake mushroom set in a smoked date sauce, then topped with a blis elixir dressing and edible flower.

Frozen Wagyu Defrosted Wagyu

Wagyu Beef

Jessica: First off, I love Wagyu Beef! The only reason this didn’t make my favorites is because Wagyu Beef with mushroom and a vinegary drizzle is pretty familiar.

Lon: This was a fun dish. I’m not sure the wagyu’s arrival and on-table defrosting made any sense, but it was entertaining and did become a conversation topic, as it likely does for every table. I loved the fried (maybe?) mushroom with the beef. The paste it sat upon was incredibly rich, too strong for the dish, perhaps about 1/3rd the amount would’ve been perfect.

Hot Potato
Hot and cold potato pieces topped with a slice of black truffle drop into a pool of potato soup that arrives in a small wax cup, by releasing a pin.

Hot Potato

Jessica: I just don’t like cold soups, especially such rich ones, so this wasn’t for me. The potato p
ieces were cooked perfectly though.

Lon: To me, this tasted like almost raw potato in a pool of cream, which is fine, but nothing noteworthy. This was the first time, that I recall, I ate black truffle, and it did nothing for me. Sorry pigs and dogs. While Justin, Jessica, and I partook from the regular tasting menu, Shayna had the vegetarian tasting. I was upset that they delivered this dish twice as two separate courses to her. She wouldn’t let me complain to the chef about it though.

A cube of salt-diet lamb (raised in Pennsylvania) is plated with a large, fried potato nest attached to it. It sits in a puree of sunflower and is joined by a sweet spice mixture that has sunflower petals, sunflower seeds, and other spices and vegetables.

Lamb 2 Lamb 1

Jessica: The lamb was medium-rare, just the way I like it, pairing perfectly with the texture of puree and chunks of vegetable. Execution was excellent but again the dish was familiar. (BTW, I’m not complaining about perfect yet familiar dishes. I think it’s wise to have a few more recognizable dishes mixed in.)

Lon: The lamb tasted very good, but nothing special (it was just correctly cooked, good quality lamb). What was interesting was how the potato nest was affixed, I can’t even describe it. Somehow the potato and lamb were fused. Similar to my issue with the wagyu dish, the paste (sunflower) under the meat was way too strong, totally overwhelming the dish.

Black Truffle
A single ravioli filled with a black truffle soup sits atop a spoon floating in a hollow plate. A flake of parmesan and cooked romaine rest on top of the ravioli.

Black Truffle

Jessica: Last but not least of my favorites, I’m not even one to gush about truffles, but this ravioli was the most perfect pasta dough. This spoonful was heaven in one bite.

Lon: This was a completely mediocre attempt at fulfilling a soup-dumpling concept. The delivery of the dish was sensational, with the spoon seemingly floating in mid air — just beautiful.

Deconstructed mole dish of duck cube, duck confit, mole, duck gelee, tomatillo, and tortilla dust, served in a glass on a plate. Surrounding the glass are elements of mole (chili, almonds, tortilla, etc.)


Jessica: This dish arrived with an army of scents. I was comforted and relaxed by it and the fall colors were beautiful. We weren’t instructed how to eat this one so I’m not sure if I did it wrong but my first bite, a large chunk was not favorable, overly spiced (not spicy), throwing me off a bit. The shredded confit underneath was much better.

Lon: Let me put it like this: the top half (vertically speaking) of this dish made me want to spit it out; but I forced it down. It was overly nutty and almost burnt tasting. The cube of duck breast did nothing to help. The bottom half succeeded at providing an excellent mole flavor; and it was truly brought to life by the perfect shreds of duck confit.

Concord Grape
Concord grape juice filled in a yogurt-based spherical container, topped with the tiniest mint leaf and in a pool of sauce from long pepper. The container bursts as you bite down on it.

Concord Grape

Jessica: When you break the ball, you get a rush of concord juice, basically liquid candy, which was ok, but then you finish with eating the broken ball, which is like eating wax.

Lon: If you love Welch’s White Grape Juice, you’ll like this dish; unfortunately I don’t drink grape juice.

A sugary sheet made of yogurt and flavored with rose petals and raspberry.


Jessica: The very thin sheet allows for the perfect amount of tangy flavor to melt on your tongue.

Lon: I’d say this was the winner of the evening. A remarkably perfect execution of flavor and texture.

A cube of watermelon, with coriander and tamari (soy sauce) accents and bonito atop floats on the end of a wire bobbing in front of you. It is intended to be eaten off the wire with no hands and in a single bite.


Jessica: I like bonito and I like watermelon, but I guess not together.

Lon: And for me, this was probably the loser of the evening, although closely tied with the pumpkin dish below. The fish and soy flavor simply does not match watermelon. The three of us who ate it seemed to be in agreement on this one.

A single strip of bacon with a zig-zag of butterscotch and shreds of apple and thyme leaves. It arrives dangling from a tight rope.


Jessica: This just wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. The bacon was a little too light and I guess I’m spoiled by Lon’s slow cooked maple basted bacon.

Lon: I’m a bacon fan, plain and simple. I’ve eaten it as a lollipop, covered in syrup, heck even covered in white chocolate. But apparently Alinea couldn’t get it right. This strip of bacon tasted exactly the same as the cheap container of “Bac-Os” from the supermarket.

A large pillow is delivered to the table with smoke, scented with autumn aromas, wafting from it. The wavy plate is placed on top of the pillow with a cylinder of pumpkin mousse, filled with soft gruyere. A smear Blis maple syrup is applied along the plate, along the plate are dollops of various flavors, such as rum.


Jessica: We were told to mix the stuff together, which in over simplified explanation, I’ll call a deconstrcted parfait. Soft smooth pumpkin, cheese, and maple, some crunchy stuff, felt like eating something like a yogurt and granola or cereal type thing. A few bites had some strong rum which were too strong for me. The dish itself would’ve been nothing impressive but it was served on big white pillows that really set an entire atmosphere. You could see the curls of smoke coming up and smell the cabin and fireplace, which turned an ordinary dessert into a fall retreat.

Lon: Ok so this was the loser dish. I could not eat more than two bites. Each flavor was WAY too strong, overwhelming. Justin commented that he ate it by combining all the parts so that they balanced out a bit. I tried that but it seemed a bit like turning up the radio to drown out sirens. It’s still too loud. I left over 90% of the dish and got a nasty look from the waiter when he cleared it.

A soft sheet of ganache, cocoa powder, a fennel (?) ice cream, fruit jams, and a slice of fig. On the other half of the plate is a pool of pine-flavored cream with olive tapanade.


Jessica: My picture does not do justice to how beautiful this plate was, such a piece of art. The flavors were only ok to me. The chocolate ganache sheet, the most prevalent part was a disappointing chocolate to me because it was very regular. The pool of cream with olive tapenade (luckily on the side) was disgusting to me.

Lon: It seems pretty hard to screw up a plate of chocolate, but Alinea did. The ganache was mediocre and the ice cream was nasty (although that was more of a personal preference than an execution issue), and the pine soup was nothing interesting, albeit unusual. I give them credit for producing an absolute work of art, but sometimes it’s better to look at art than eat it.

Dry Caramel
A powder of caramel in a shot glass. As the powder hits your tongue it becomes chewy, salty caramel.

Dry Caramel

Jessica: Interesting but quite salty. I’m not a huge caramel person anyway.

Lon: I had more fun pouring water into the shot to see what might happen, then I did putting the dust in my mouth. Have you had “Astronaut Ice Cream”? This is Astronaut Caramel, nifty for the kids, but not delicious. I’m not a fan of salty caramel.


Lon: Alinea stinks. Sound harsh? It should for the price. I found the service inconsistent: at times down to earth and cool; while at other times snooty and pretentious. The food was beautiful throughout, but totally sacrificed flavor for experimentation. As I repeated throughout the evening to my friends, at the end of the day, taste is the most critical factor in food. Everything else is secondary. This food was not delicious. Weird and experimental: sure. Delicious: no (with the few exceptions I mentioned, such as the great apple soup). My advice to the chef: don’t deconstruct a dish if you can’t put it back together again.

Jessica: Ok, I have to agree that for how expensive it was ($220 per person), I expected more of the dishes to be incredibly delicious and really only a few were. However, this was certainly an experience and I like that the Chef himself describes his cuisine as “emotional”. Like art, each dish carried me through a story, or feeling, or evoked my senses differently. I did also find the service inconsistent so I’m a bit torn about Alinea. I really did enjoy my evening, but for the first time ever, it wasn’t really about the flavors. It was really just the whole experience, like being at Disney World for the first time.

posted by jessica at 06:02 PM Filed under Fusion or Mixed, Restaurants, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.