The dark days of the pandemic–a reality managed, throughout the meal, unerringly by Alinea’s team–have led the restaurant back towards the fountainhead of its inspiration. No “smoke and mirrors,” just creative cooking–just the drama of the table. Alinea “3.0” is the return to the source from which Achatz–during the decade he helmed Alinea 1.0–made his name.
Like children staring up at Rainforest Cafe’s artificial night sky (or shaking from the booms and quakes of its fake thunderstorms), Alinea’s customers are served an illusion. They are led to believe that a food’s trappings are valuable even when divorced from satisfying flavors, from nature, or from nostalgia. They are tricked into thinking that a restaurant which denies dining’s transcendent, human dimension has any value as a conjurer of culinary gibberish. They are, ultimately, suckers who are being sold a future where a restaurant’s quality grows with how “Instagrammable” the experience is.
In the final analysis, it is hard not to look back at all four events you attended as a mere cash grab, driven by branding Alinea as the “sort of group” that puts on “wine dinners” in a weak market where they, as usual, will escape any meaningful criticism.
It has taken you quite some time to appreciate Alinea, and, in many ways, it still confounds you as a restaurant. You will admit that you long harbored a slight grudge against the establishment…