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Alinea now ranked #6 on World's Best List [moved from Chicago]

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Although no other places from Chicago in the top 100, versus 9 from New York City(including Momofuku Ssam Bar, which while fun seems a push as one of the best restaurants in the world). No Vegas restaurants there either, just a handful more from California and DC taking the USA total to 13 compared to 59 from Europe.
My point if this - if the voters are prepared to include 9 restaurants from the only American city most of them ever regularly visit, it makes me wonder how many more would be on it if they spent more time off Manhattan island...and specifically if they hung around in Chicago for longer than it takes to eat at Alinea.

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  1. The one that made my eye balls pop out was Eleven Madison Park at # 24 (# 5 in the USA). Had lunch there last week, very nice place and a mostly excellent meal, but hard to see how they could rank it 32 places ahead of French Laundry.

    Agree with your point about non-NYC restaurants being under-represented.

    22 Replies
    1. re: willyum

      Completely agree with the EMP and the NYC comments above. Was also confused about Ssam Bar being up there. Calling this list the World's Best list requires a very narrow definition of the word "World." Can't bring myself to taking this seriously.

      But congrats to Alinea anyway.

      1. re: willyum

        I feel as much fun as these lists are, the important take away from these is that, just like Michelin or many other awards, by no means are they necessarily true (whatever that means). Have you gone through the voting criteria posted on the San Pellegrino website? As some of these restaurants get increased attention, reservations become near impossible to obtain, making it very difficult to make the requisite visits required for voting. Despite it being its final year as a restaurant, it was interesting to see El Bulli removed completely...

        As a New Yorker I'm still puzzled over Ssam bar being as high as it is. Good to see Ko make the top 100. Regarding EMP, the voters paid much attention to the restaurant since it changed its format and menu. Having been multiple times before/after the change, and I feel it is now among NYC's elite.

        If anyone should complain, I feel it is Asia in general who is vastly under represented in these lists. Congratulations to Alinea on being #6. That's quite an honor and makes me look forward to my upcoming reservation even more.

        -----
        Alinea
        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

          >> If anyone should complain, I feel it is Asia in general who is vastly under represented in these lists.

          Well, at least Asia has SOME representation, with ten restaurants in five (correction: four) countries. Which is ten more restaurants than Canada has on the list!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I guess you are counting Australia as "Asian". BTW it looks like Amber, listed as in "China", is in Hong Kong...which is part of China now - so if Australia is counted in Asia then there are only FOUR countries in Asia on that list: Japan, China, Singapore, Australia.

            1. re: huiray

              >> I guess you are counting Australia as "Asian". BTW it looks like Amber, listed as in "China", is in Hong Kong...which is part of China now - so if Australia is counted in Asia then there are only FOUR countries in Asia on that list: Japan, China, Singapore, Australia.

              No, I was not counting Australia as Asian. However, I was counting India as Asian. (I was looking at the entire list from 1 to 100.) And, since they were listing Hong Kong differently from China, I was counting it separately as well. Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore, India. However, since (as you point out) Amber is indeed apparently in Hong Kong (despite being listed as "China", unlike the other HK restaurants) and there are no restaurants listed in the rest of China, it would make sense to consider them four countries rather than five, regardless of how Hong Kong is considered: Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Ah, yes, I did miss that entry. I just looked it up, it serves Japanese food ("by Morimoto" no less!) in New Delhi. [Heh. Couldn't these voters get good sushi in Japan?] So, OK, two places that serve clearly "Asian" food on the list, four "Asian" countries excluding Australia. This is, of course, just nitpicking...the more important thing is that the list basically is a compendium of restaurants that dwell predominantly on Europe-US locations and Western-style food.

            2. re: nsxtasy

              nsxtasy - As a long-time expatriated Canadian who well remembers some truly spectacular meals in Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto, but who is woefully underinformed on the current dining scene, may I ask which Canadian restaurants come to mind as candidates for this list?

            3. re: TheDegustationAsian

              Yes, the list glosses over Asia and other not-US-or-Europe in general (altho' Australasia is not ignored) - and also non-Western type food. Can't say it is unexpected. The only place in Asia on that list of 100 serving clearly "Asian" food - Kitcho Arashiyama at #90 - serves Japanese Kaiseki. Every other restaurant in Asia, that I can make out, has food in the Western style when it is not outright French food. Bo Innovation, from what I can make out from the menu, looks like Asian/Western fusion. If I am mistaken, please do say so.

              It has been said before that lists such as this, compiled by voters who largely have a Western culinary viewpoint, are not (or are incapable of?) really understanding or appreciating "Asian"/East Asian/SE Asian/"Indian"/etc cuisine. They also could be placing a great deal of value on peripherals like fine porcelain, lavish/elegant surroundings, crisp white tablecloths, staff of thousands, impeccable service, that sort of thing; whereas a lot of absolutely incredible food in East/SE Asia comes without a lot of those extras. YMMV.

              1. re: huiray

                Maybe the best yet is the fact that Hakkasan in the UK is better than any dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong, haha!

                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                  I'll be damned!

              2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                Apparently they consulted Adria Ferran regarding the removal because the restaurant is closing in July, and he agreed. What surprised me was that the French Laundry fell out of top 50. I've never been to the French Laundry, but I had assumed that it would be of similar standard as Per Se, which is at #10. Perhaps people are not responding well to the changes made by the new chef de cuisine?

                I do agree that many Asian restaurants are overlooked. But the judging method of this list essentially makes it a "who's who" list to the limited knowledge of the panel. You can be cooking up a storm, but if you're not known to the panelists, you will be deemed as lesser than places like Ssam Bar.

                This list is fun and generates discussion about food in a global perspective. But per its current scope, I think it is as much a misnomer as the World Series.

                1. re: mountsac

                  Totally agree. Having been to both, I feel both are similar. However, what has struck me re the free fall of The French Laundry is that their current chef de cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth, recently won a James Beard Award while Per Se's new chef de cuisine, Eli Kaimeh, hasn't recieved nearly as much fan fare. In any event, both are still excellent restaurants regardless where they place on this list.

                  1. re: mountsac

                    >> What surprised me was that the French Laundry fell out of top 50. I've never been to the French Laundry, but I had assumed that it would be of similar standard as Per Se, which is at #10 <<

                    Dined at French Laundry in January and Per Se last week and I felt the quality of the food was very similar (some identical dishes, and the Per Se waiter said they get many of their veggies from the French Laundry farm), though overall I would have rated the PS experience slightly higher. For sure I thought FL was better than three of the restos I've dined at that were rated higher on this list.

                    Since this is the CHICAGO board, how do the locals feel about Trotter finally dropping off the top 100 (about time? unspeakable crime?), and should L20 or someone else have scored a spot? Going to give L20 a shot in June when we are in town for our second visit to Alinea (unless we can score Next tix instead).

                    -----
                    Alinea
                    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                    1. re: willyum

                      >> Since this is the CHICAGO board, how do the locals feel about Trotter finally dropping off the top 100 (about time? unspeakable crime?), and should L20 or someone else have scored a spot? Going to give L20 a shot in June when we are in town for our second visit to Alinea (unless we can score Next tix instead).

                      Charlie Trotter's was not on last year's list, either, so this is not news. (I'm not sure whether its most recent appearance was 2009, or earlier than that.)

                      As I've stated elsewhere, as far as I've observed, there's really no consensus among food-lovers in Chicagoland regarding which local restaurant might be second to Alinea. The most frequent nominees are Trotter's, TRU, Everest, Spiaggia, and Avenues. Relative newcomers such as L2O and Ria seem to have garnered mixed reviews at best among those who have been there, but there's always some list from a strange place (e.g. France) that puts some surprising choices among the top slots and ignores other widely-regarded restaurants.

                      Personally, I think that places that have been around for 10-20 years or more (including Trotter's and Everest) are at a disadvantage in some of these lists, because it's not newsworthy enough when such places receive honors; it only seems to make news when a new restaurant does so. However, if you've never been to those places, they are still new TO YOU and they are often far better than the new places that get the hype.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        >> "Charlie Trotter's was not on last year's list, either, so this is not news" <<

                        Sorry for the mistake, I thought they were in the mid-50's to 60's last year but can't find a link now.

                        >> there's really no consensus among food-lovers in Chicagoland regarding which local restaurant might be second to Alinea <<

                        I had asked this Q earlier and it seemed like for every 2 or 3 people touting a place there was one person who had a bad experience there, so I figured there was no clear-cut runner-up and in the end just went for the most Michelin stars. Two more places and I'll have dined at all the Michelin 3*'s in the US, which is good for completeness sake if nothing else.

                        What I found really interesting about all these non-Alinea top restaurants was their user ratings on OpenTable. Most of the top restos elsewhere that I've dined at had 75-90% of the diners rating it 'excellent' (5 * on OT) and less than 10% of diners rating their dining experiences as average or worse (3,2 or 1*). But these Chicago spots had lower % of customers giving 'excellent' ratings and double or more giving average or lower ratings than similar restaurants elsewhere.

                        For example, 4 places I dined at in Arizona or California (all Michelin 3* or Forbes 5*) were French Laundry (5% rated it 3* or worse, 81% rated it 5*), Meadowood (76%, 9%), Kai (89%, 2%) and Addison in San Diego (84%, 5%).

                        In Chicago the four I looked at were L20 (70% excellent, 14% average or worse), Everest (64%, 15%), Trotter (62%, 15%) and Topolobampo (only 59% excellent, 17% ave or worse).

                        Figuring maybe it was a big-city thing I checked Per Se, EMP and Daniel in NYC and those again had about half as many less-than happy dinners as in Chicago (4-7%) and higher rates of dinners rating their meals 'excellent' (75-83%).

                        So maybe this explains why there isn't a clear-cut # 2 if 2x - 3x as many diners in Chicago are not as happy with their meals at these top places elsewhere?

                        -----
                        Alinea
                        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                        Topolobampo
                        445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                        1. re: willyum

                          Interesting. However, neither Everest nor Topolobampo is either a five-star Forbes or a three-star Michelin. In particular, Topolobampo, while great for its creative Mexican cuisine, has never been even close to the top in either ratings, and is not comparable to the other high-end restaurants in any way - not in food, not in price, not in service, not in decor, not in attire, etc. That's why it has never received more than three Forbes/Mobil stars. So including Topolobampo in particular, as well as Everest (currently a four-star Forbes and one-star Michelin winner), makes it an unfair comparison, one that is not "apples to apples".

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            >> However, neither Everest nor Topolobampo is either a five-star Forbes or a three-star Michelin. In particular, Topolobampo, while great for its creative Mexican cuisine, has never been even close to the top in either ratings ... unfair comparison <<

                            nsxtasy, when I made my query post I asked about L20 vs Trotters 'or others' for a 2nd meal after Alinea ... one person (I think ChicagoGail) was very insistent that Topolobampo was where I should go, posting multiple times, even after I mentioned I had no interest. Another person whose opinion I respect suggested I consider Everest over L20 or Trotter since I mentioned liking high-end French (as opposed to Mexican).

                            So I just added those to my data search because of the Chicago 'hound recommendations. BTW I ended up reserving at L20, mainly because I like seafood and because of the 3* rating, even if it won't hold up after the chef left.

                          2. re: willyum

                            That's an interesting observation. And I have no idea what might account for this phenomenon. Somebody should write a dissertation on this topic!

                            I too thought Charlie Trotter's was between 50-100 in 2010, but the website only shows top 50 for past winners, so I can't be sure. Either way, my answer to your original survey is a resounding "it's about time."

                            As to the runner up in Chicago, I'd say either Avenues or L2O (provided that the quality is still the same post-Gras). But I think it's good to not have a clear rank. Great food cities should have several competing number 1 candidates (think Tokyo, Paris). I hope in the years to come, other Chicago restaurants will give Alinea a run for its money.

                            1. re: mountsac

                              >> I too thought Charlie Trotter's was between 50-100 in 2010, but the website only shows top 50 for past winners, so I can't be sure.

                              Nope, they were not on the list in 2010. You can see the entire list from last year, from 1 through 100, at http://prochef360blog.com/worlds-best...

                              Trotter's was not on the list in 2009, either: http://prochef360blog.com/worlds-best...

                              The last time it was on the list was in 2008, when it was ranked 38th.

                              At least they didn't put L2O or Ria on the list, either of which would have been an absolute travesty.

                            2. re: willyum

                              willyum:
                              What was the sample size for each restaurant? If there are fewer respondents for Open Table in Chicago that might skew the results. After Alinea I do think there is no clear-cut #2 in Chicago. Perhaps people are making more comparisons to Alinea than they are rating the restaurants on their own merit. Interesting observation by you.

                              -----
                              Alinea
                              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                              1. re: ChemWork

                                >> willyum: What was the sample size for each restaurant? <<

                                Many had 80-100 ratings (OpenTable only keeps them for 6 months and some of the places only give OT limited bookings, like Per Se), 3 between 100-200, 3 had 450-470 total (Topo, Daniel, EMP).

                                Here's the raw #'s, hopefully it won't lose the formatting and get jumbled up:

                                total 5* 3* or <
                                -- California, Arizona
                                Meadowood 78 59 76% 7 9%

                                TFL 80 65 81% 4 5%

                                Addison 96 81 84% 5 5%

                                Kai 108 96 89% 2 2%

                                -- Chicago

                                Topo 452 266 59% 75 17%

                                Everest 122 78 64% 18 15%

                                CT 81 50 62% 13 16%

                                L20 179 125 70% 25 14%

                                -- New York
                                Per Se 91 71 78% 5 5%

                                EMP 459 380 83% 18 4%

                                Daniel 470 352 75% 34 7%

                                1. re: ChemWork

                                  Crap, the tabs dropped out when posted even though they showed in the REPLY box fine.

                                  Anyway, here is what the numbers mean:

                                  Per Se 91 (total # of reviews) 71 (# of 'excellent' or 5* reviews) 78% (percent of 5* reviews) 5 (# of 3* or lower reviews) 5% (percent of 3* or lower reviews)

                                  These numbers were culled about 10 days ago while I was mulling over the Q of where to go. If you go to OpenTable now you might see slightly different numbers since they drop off any reviews over 6 months old and of course any new ones the past 10 days would be added.

                    2. For those who would like to see the list, the link is www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-w...

                      >> taking the USA total to 13

                      The USA total is now 15.

                      >> My point if this - if the voters are prepared to include 9 restaurants from the only American city most of them ever regularly visit, it makes me wonder how many more would be on it if they spent more time off Manhattan island...and specifically if they hung around in Chicago for longer than it takes to eat at Alinea.

                      I agree. But Chicago is not the only place that should have more representation. A few months ago I ate at three of the top places in Vegas, and I thought Joel Robuchon was better than most of the places I've been to on that list (about half of the U.S. entries).

                      >> Eleven Madison Park at # 24 (# 5 in the USA). Had lunch there last week, very nice place and a mostly excellent meal, but hard to see how they could rank it 32 places ahead of French Laundry.

                      I've had dinner there, and I agree 100 percent.

                      They did do one thing right, though; they finally got around to dropping Chez Panisse from the list.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        I always take these lists with a grain of salt....No big deal. There are places on the list I'd put above another or leave off and put some place else on the list.

                        1. re: HoosierFoodie

                          Well said, I agree!

                          1. re: HoosierFoodie

                            The problem is that this sort of list is slavishly followed by many folks who may not be Chowhounds yet alone folks who may happen to read this thread. The upshot is that these restaurants get ingrained in the "Popular Imagination" (perhaps more accurately called the "Popular Misconception") and get propagated as the places to be seen in and to eat in, to the detriment of those that might actually be more deserving of such approbations.

                        2. I think I have the right to comment here, as Chicago and ALL of Canada are in the same ‘Region’.

                          Based in Toronto, I am within ‘easy’ travelling distance of many of the US cities/restaurants that are likely to be featured in the top 100 list – of course, visiting all of them in the last 18 months (the eligible period) doesn’t apply!

                          ‘Mid West and all of Canada’ has 31 voters who each vote for 4 restaurants within their region and 3 restaurants outside the region. The chair for this region is Steve Dolinsky of ABC7 in Chicago, and HE SELECTS THE VOTERS (there are rules!). [Sadly I’m not one of them – although I do have respect for the only voter I’m aware of (not necessarily in this region so as to protect the innocent)].

                          That gives a maximum of 31 votes for any of the local restaurants from this region (and my guess is Alinea came close to that – certainly it would have had a vote from me). But the remaining 26 regions (each with 31 voters) are REQUIRED to vote for 3 places outside their region. That swamps the local votes, so it is critical to get those ‘foreign’ votes (which include USA East and USA West).

                          Let’s just re-start from a different point – Noma screamed to #1 (in region Denmark, Norway, Sweden) and probably was besieged by many voters who hadn’t dined there. If I went to Copenhagen to visit Noma, I’d certainly try other top places there and, if qualified, they certainly might be eligible to be in my best list. (As an aside I had three meals in Copenhagen that I ranked very close to Alinea). Yet, no other Copenhagen restaurants have placed in the top 100. Noma, for the time being, stands alone.

                          All of the local places mentioned in this thread are worthy of consideration. Alinea deserves to be ranked alone. I’ve tried most of them (have close relatives in Chicago), but none of them rank in my top 4 recent meals; probably my favourite of the ‘Pretenders’ was Schwa (twice in 18 months) – not mentioned above, but always my first call when visiting…and 2nd, and 3rd……(until I get through). Can’t comment on the ‘new’ Avenues – had to cancel when I got a last-minute Schwa opening. But how many ‘outsiders’ will have consumed a meal in Chicago that qualifies for their ‘best 3’ in 18 months (best 2 if they’ve already included Alinea).

                          If AOC and Geranium (in Copenhagen) don’t make it –I don’t think anything else in Chicago is close.

                          And to respond to a different point mentioned higher in the thread – Hong Kong is in a DIFFERENT voting region than China (who cares about politics anyway).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: estufarian

                            Minor edit as more info has surfaced.
                            10 of the Midwest judges are Canadian.

                          2. Link to an article in Time magazine explaining in a bit more detail how the process works. As mentioned it started as a publicity stunt and then got really popular.

                            One noteworthy difference to Michelin is that they request that voters only pick restaurants they've dined at at least once the past 18 months. So it's relatively informal.

                            Couple of quotes:

                            "Many chefs embrace the list, and not only because they (along with food journalists and gourmets) are part of its voting mechanism."

                            "Because the rules that govern voting are few and fairly laxly enforced (jurors are not required, for example, to prove that they ate in the restaurants for which they voted), various forms of lobbying, from the innocent to the not-so-much, take place"

                            http://www.time.com/time/world/articl...

                            1. I saw the list a couple of days ago. I also not too long ago watched a video of a speech/demonstration/lecture given by Alinea's chef-owner. Not impressed. He uses non-food stuff to stimulate the olfactory sense. Gimmick.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: nooyawka

                                you have to be kidding, right? He's probably the most important chef in America. You basically discredit yourself with the previous statement.

                                1. re: dailybread8383

                                  I thought the most important chef in America was the arepa lady in Queens.....