My first visit to Alinea was about 5 years ago. Then it was the original version. I thought the food overall was fine, but I had found the experience okay. I wanted to like the restaurant a lot more because I thought what the chef was trying to do was very much in line with what I was looking for in a food experience. Since that visit, Alinea has had a makeover with a remodeling of the interior and reformatting of the menu options. It still holds a 3-star Michelin rating. The upstairs Salon rooms offer a multicourse menu to parties of 1 and higher with somewhat staggered reservations throughout the evening. The Gallery Room downstairs offers a longer menu for parties of 2 and higher with a single seating time. In the past, the restaurant did not take reservations for solo diners. They now will take one solo diner per evening in a Salon Room at 8 pm. It turns out that the table is a normal 2-top, but they only will seat one person at that time because they change the room around for the later seatings to accommodate a larger party. Doing so changes the configuration and the service flow through that room such that a 2nd diner at that table would be in the way of the serving staff.
There is no printed wine list. If you do not choose a wine pairings option (they had a non-alcoholic option for only a week), you can order a glass of wine. What is offered changes from evening to evening, so diners have to speak to the sommelier about what they like or want to have, and the sommelier suggests a selection for you. They selected a 2016 Russian River Chardonnay for me.
They opened with caviar suspended in white sesame yogurt inside a cocoa butter shell flavored with spring onions.
The next course was jumbo white asparagus made into an ice cream. This was served with flecks of basil, manuka honey, and pieces of chiffon cake. There was also a piece of cassava-based Parmesan cheese bread. This was a pleasant blend of cold and hot, and sweet and salty with a combination of different textures.
The next several dishes were served simultaneously. There was squid salad with a little green papaya salad.
The light green presentation was young coconut with horseradish cream, bits of cucumber, and succulent leaves (soft and juicy in texture).
This was a lobster parfait with carrot and passion fruit sorbet, topped with anise. In the background was octopus served Korean BBQ style (at room temperature).
The warm soup was shrimp and coconut with red curry.
On the crystal crab dish was Dungeness crab with coconut pudding and mustard seed.
Finally, on the glowing bowl with ice was compressed chilled Japanese melon. This was compressed in its own juice.
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