Thursday, October 11, 2012


A month or so I read about a restaurant swap between Alinea (out of chicago) and Eleven Madison Park and I was instantly interested to learn more. After watching the youtube video of the switch and reading in anticipation, I secured 4 tickets to the last night of the swap. Tickets were expensive, but an event like this was hard to pass up.

Grant Achatz is one of America's most admired and inspirational chefs leading the way in molecular gastronomy. Chef Achatz has worked with top chefs all around the world including Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Napa. Grant brings fun and creativity to dining rooms that would normally seem stiff and robotic. Alinea was ranked number #7 on San Pellegrino's top 50 best restaurants in the world. The only other restaurants to reach the top in the United States are Per Se at #6 and Eleven Madison Park at #10. I was so excited for the experience as I've heard amazing things about Grant Achatz and both of his restaurants: Alinea and Next.

Our reservations were on the last night of the swap, so it took me all self control not to read reviews before we went. I was happy that we had the first seating at 6:00 as early tables really got the full experience. Not that later tables didn't get that experience--its just that the dinner was full of surprises and EMP is an open restaurant so surprises could easily be spoiled.

As I entered the revolving doors at EMP I was greeted and directed to a tub of clanking glasses. The decor and the smell brought me right into fall and that's were I'd stay for the next four hours. I grabbed a glass of apple cider and couldn't help but think of bobbing for apples. The initial apple cider was non-alcoholic but a generous splash of calvados seemed like a no-brainer at the end of your meal on your way out.

We sat down in a comfortable booth in the front of the restaurant. The table was covered with leaves that we would later push off the table. The idea of pushing leaves onto a floor of a 4-star restaurant seemed a bit weird, so we probably could have had a bit more fun with that. But it gave us our first indication that this meal was going to be fun.

We waited for every course like kids waiting for presents on Christmas eve. The meal was very interactive and really made the experience. Excitement filled the room and it truly an unbelievable meal. I think its safe to say it was the best dining experience I've had. Not only fun and inventive; but delicious. And the service was great and not stiff as one might think. My company also made the experience unforgettable.

Pics by Grub Street

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