Travelogue: Chicagoland: Day 2 (Chinatown & Alinea)

We started the morning with coffee and hot apple cider with caramel (obviously mine).

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Robust Coffee Lounge – definitely hipster, definitely good coffee, definitely people working on MacBooks. The one thing I love about Chicago is the availability of cafes with free wifi and outlets everywhere.

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I had not been to Chinatown before, so since my friends were driving, it was the perfect time to explore. They explained to me that there is an “old” Chinatown and a “new” one, which are adjacent to each other but with different shops and restaurants. We went to the “new” one and ended up at a really good dimsum place: MingHin.

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After our stroll in Chinatown, we went to shoot pool at Lucky Strike. Then we went back to the hotel to change clothes for Alinea, which was one of the main reasons why we went to Chicago.

I first heard about Alinea from a food blogger that I met randomly at a burger joint in DC back in 2012. We bonded over food and he mentioned Alinea as being one of the best meals of his life.

To dine at Alinea, this is a carefully planned effort. First, you must buy a ticket on their website in lieu of reservations. The date you are aiming for opens up about a month in advance. I went on the website as soon as my date opened in order to get the 5pm reservation. After all, this is a 3-hour event and I like to dine early. In retrospect, this was a good decision because there are no barriers between you and other diners in the restaurant. I can see the surprises being ruined for the subsequent diners around me.

Don’t be intimidated by the sleek, modern, minimalist decor and well-dressed servers. Alinea is the first restaurant to have bare tables, and you can see their tables are well-built and the materials used were carefully considered.

I’m not going to go into each dish, because really, you should experience it for yourself. Don’t read too many reviews because trust me — you want to be surprised!

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Passionfruit foam!

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These vapors lasted for a long time. So whimsical.

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They brought out logs for “ambiance”.

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Remember the logs on fire? He cut them up and revealed the wagyu inside, perfect meat…

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This was so refreshing, I loved it! I really appreciated the designs of the plates.

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This was a time-sensitive dish, which meant I was supposed to eat it as soon as it came out, but I was too busy taking pictures and they came out blurry. Hot potato and cold potato. It was only a one bite item but was one of the more memorable ones!

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This was one of my favorite dishes. They don’t tell you what any of these are, and you’re supposed to taste and test and guess.

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Some of these are alcohol!

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Duck. Different parts.

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Dessert #1. Mascarpone, strawberry, black walnut, pistachio…

And then…

balloon

The server brings out the green apple balloon filled with helium! You are encouraged to put your lips on the balloon and suck out the helium and talk like a cartoon character. Loved this. Delicious too.

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The dessert chef came out and spread this on the table. What a show!

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Really wish I could’ve met the Chef, but being able to see the kitchen was a great end to the meal.

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Mission Accomplished.

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