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Timothy Hollingsworth on Chefs to Watch: Grant Achatz, Alinea

Alinea Lara Kastner Photography

Photo by Lara Kastner Photography

Alinea's candy cap: muscovado, fenugreek and curry.

The Chef: Grant Achatz

The Locale: 1723 North Halsted

Wunderkind: Cutting-edge, molecular ... however you describe Grant Achatz’s acclaimed and outrageously creative food, don’t expect traditional (or recognizable) fare. At 36, Achatz is at the forefront of progressive U.S. cuisine, and he’s consistently hailed as one of the best chefs in America. He perfected his classical cooking skills at French Laundry (his second son is named Keller), but the epiphany that led to Alinea came during a short stint at elBulli, Ferran Adrià’s groundbreaking Spanish restaurant.

Taking Risks: Achatz’s 16-course tasting menu, a progression of delightful surprises and inscrutable menu items that read like poetry—“King Crab, rhubarb, lilac, fennel”—is three hours and about $185. “He’s pushing the envelope, especially in America,” Hollingsworth says.

Incomparable: “Truffle Explosion,” a dish Achatz developed when he was at Trio Restaurant in Chicago, has a cult following. Imagine a rich black truffle “tea” in a thin membrane of pasta, with heady, unexpected notes of Parmesan and romaine.

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