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Alinea: Top US Restaurant, # 7 in World

CNN reports: "S. Pellegrino's annual "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list was released on Monday at a celebrity-chef-studded event in London, England, marking the ninth edition of the much buzzed-about (and hotly debated) catalogue of the international culinary landscape."

Alinea, a restaurant in Chicago, IL, is # 7 of the world's top 50, # 1 in US.

Here's what I wrote about Alinea in 2008:

Alinea: Each Bite - a Paragraph of Mindfulness

Last week on a Sunday night, I had the experiential journey of a 4-hour-and-17-courses-long “tasting” at Alinea, a Chicago restaurant by Chef-Owner Grant Achatz.  I ordered it vegan... Alinea was opened in 2005 and already a year later was named the country’s best restaurant by Gourmet.  Much has been written about Achatz’ culinary innovations in the still evolving genre of molecular gastronomy (“a scientific study of deliciousness,” (Harold McGee)). Not having the savoir-faire of kitchen science journalism, I will only say that this was a clearly exotic tasting experience that I would readily repeat as soon as I can afford to.

I would, however, like to muse on the semantics of the restaurant 's name itself…

The word “alinea” is a typographical character that derives from the Latin off the line and is used as a paragraph sign to mark a new train of thought.

As such, the restaurant name “Alinea” is a logical choice for a bite-sized journey that is Achatz’ cuisine. The restaurant offers two menus – a Tasting and a Tour. Each menu is a stream of gustatory consciousness in which the mind of the Chef takes the pilgrim's palate on an odyssey of fleeting encounters… in which each bite-sized course is a paragraph of mindfulness and a new train of thought…

The resulting experience is that of continuous attention and presence. Alinea is akin to a culinary harem of exotic one-night stands, in which the touch-and-go courses assure that an eater can never bite more than his or her mind can chew… It is a kaleidoscope of subdued Enya-like mood-wafts of taste amidst the uprising thermals of futuristic presentation…

I know, I know – if this sounds poetic, it's because the experience was, indeed, poetry, with each course – nothing more than a stanza; with each course - nothing less than a taste off the line of the Expected – i.e. an alinea.

Alinea – to sum up – is a non-linear eating experience for an open mind.

Congratulations, Chef Achatz!