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.
Despite what you may have heard, Mako does not serve the best sushi in Chicago. Sure, it is a stunning, special venue. The staff is polished. The branding is slick. There is a well-priced beverage pairing and a decent wine/sake selection to boot. You may even go so far as to say that Mako is one of the better Japanese restaurants in the city. But in terms of sushi?