So this post might be a tad self-indulgent, but I feel compelled to ask anyway. I ate at Alinea a night or two ago for the first time (also my first michelin-starred restaurant), and since I knew all the courses pretty well, my experience was a bit less exciting than it was for my dining companion. (The service was amazingly good, by the way.) This didn't bother me too much, but something else left me a bit confused. None of the courses, taste wise, were particularly special. Let me explain! Achatz, at least for my meal, proved masterful with regard to texture, temperature, and general complexity--but I never felt like I was eating anything that wowed me or left me craving more. There wasn't a flaw in the meal, but I was left feeling disappointed (especially considering its 3 michelin stars) in that nothing came close to blowing me away. For example, the "hot potato, cold potato" dish, which people often seem to praise, just tasted like a solid, well-seasoned potato soup--the temperature interplay was cool but the flavor was just "good." The same can be said for the truffle explosion dish, the quartet of shellfish at the beginning of the meal, the otoro dish...well, pretty much everything. It was all solid, well-executed, and interesting (texture, temperature, and complexity-wise), but the flavor left me unimpressed--it was good, occasionally great, but never special. I have my theories as to why this was (unfamiliarity with the taste of certain ingredients, familiarity with the experience which left me less entertained, no reference point from which to assess the food (this, I believe, is the main culprit), sensory overload being there the first time), and so I'm very much convinced that if I went a second time (not that I can afford it), I'd be able to appreciate the food--and flavor!--quite a bit more. My dining companion shared similar sentiments. Did anyone else have a similar experience, or am I just crazy?
(All that said, it was still the best meal of my life!)
I had a similar experience after my dinner at Alinea. I did love the truffle explosion, and enjoyed a few other dishes, but my sister and I, while at first loving the dinner, finished the meal underwhelmed. It was a good meal, but definitely not in my top 10. Definitely not worth the more than an hour hitting redial on my phone, and definitely not worth buying advance tickets with no ability to cancel. BTW, even Ticketmaster offers event cancellation insurance for a few $, maybe Nick should look into offering dinner insurance.
If you're looking for crazy flavor combinations and ingredients that don't seem to work together at least on paper, Alinea isn't the place for that. I've found their flavor combinations to always be on the safer side, compared to, say, WD-50 in NYC.
My experience has been the exact opposite of yours. I, too, had read about some of the presentation techniques, so they were not a surprise to me. But what truly surprised me is that I thought all of the courses - I am not exaggerating, I do mean all of the courses - were amazingly delicious. That was one of the two big surprises for me. (The other was that the entire meal was so much FUN!)
I am not disputing what you experienced; after all, it is your opinion, and we can all feel differently about the things we taste. But my opinion was the exact opposite; the flavors were so delicious - FOR ME - that they left me impressed, amazed, and ecstatic.
My experiences at Alinea have mirrored Nsxtasy's. I have dined there twice and they easily rank as my best and second best meals I have ever had. Such a fun, whimsical experience, top notch service, and amazing food in terms of creativity, presentation and taste.
For anybody wanting to dine there, as an FYI they just posted new information on their website for upcoming tickets sales. September and October tickets will go on sale tomorrow.