If you are up for a culinary adventure, Alinea is surely one of the most exciting restaurants in the country. Thirty-three-year-old chef Grant Achatz, previously of the French Laundry, combines haute cuisine, science and art in set menus that change frequently and involve either twelve courses ($135) or twenty-four ($195). The ingredients may be unfamiliar, the flavor combinations unconventional—butterscotch and bacon, quince and foie gras, soy and chocolate—but the result is simply delicious and wholly unforgettable. And the presentations are so exquisite, they’re almost too pretty to eat. Such thought and sheer ingenuity go into making each course a treat for all the senses: At a recent meal, a scallop on a bed of custard was served in a bowl surrounded by another bowl containing long strips of lemon peel and purple hyacinths. The waiter placed the dish before me, then poured a stream of hot water on the lemon peels, releasing a fragrant vapor of citrus and sweet flowers that I inhaled before savoring the contrasting textures of the scallop, seared to a crisp, and the creamy custard. Other memorable mouthfuls: spicy pork belly on soft polenta, navy bean puree with a lemon marshmallow garnish, and Wagyu beef with pomegranate and saffron. The decor is elegant and the service warm and incredibly precise; at one point at a neighboring table, six servers worked in tandem to make sure the six diners were served simultaneously. Allow two to three hours for dinner, come hungry, and reserve at least a month in advance. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Read a profile of Grant Achatz in the New Yorker about the science of taste and Achatz’s battle with mouth cancer
Read Indagare’s Chicago report
It has racked up ten James Beard awards and made its namesake chef a worldwide celebrity, and although it’s been around for twenty years, Charlie Trotter’s is still a wonderful culinary experience. Consisting of three rooms (each with ten tables) in a brownstone, the restaurant has a sedate, dignified atmosphere. The decor may be a bit tired, but the cuisine shines, with dishes that are impeccably prepared and surprisingly light. Diners have a choice of two set menus that change daily, highlight the finest market ingredients and run about eight or nine courses. Particularly delightful is the Vegetarian Menu ($130), which at a recent meal started with a refreshing sweet ice made from Thai basil. The Grand Degustation ($155) menu may feature, for example, roasted Muscovy duck with bitter melon and Szechuan-infused duck consommé. Serious foodies reserve three to four months in advance to snag the six-top in the kitchen, where a member of the culinary team serves and explains each of the fifteen or so impromptu courses. The spot is crowded and noisy but at the center of the action. Seatings are at 6 and 9 p.m.; reserve well in advance and allow two to three hours. Usually closed Monday.
Walking into NoMI, on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt hotel, you are immediately immersed in a sexy, vibrant scene. A young, hip crowd sips martinis and nibbles on sushi in the lounge area. The festive dining room, decorated with wacky, octopus-like Dale Chihuly glass chandeliers, has a wall of windows that tilt out over historic Water Tower Place, which looks almost like a castle when lit at night. Executive chef Christophe David prepares seasonal contemporary French cuisine with a twist: take his cheeky Burgundy truffle appetizer with “Foie Blond” crème brûlée. Dinner may include langoustine risotto with braised hearts of palm and sweet-corn foam; rib eye with smoked cherries and chanterelles; or Hawaiian opah with chorizo-piquillo coulis and glazed summer vegetables.
Search By Keyword
Family vacation can be equal parts learning and leisure when...
New on Indagare
Give the Gift of Indagare The perfect present for travelers: a membership to Indagare. Buy now
Indagare Insider Trips: Cuba, Myanmar and India: We’re planning trips throughout the year. Contact Indagare (212-988-2611) to be added to the wait list.
- Community: Share advice with fellow members asking about your favorite travel discoveries.
- Indagare Insiders: Three-day itineraries for families in London and art lovers in Vienna. Plus, fashion insider Chiara Ferragamo’s picks on what not to miss in Florence, Bonnie Gokson, owner of Hong Kong’s lofty Sevva on Hong Kong, Culinary Insider: Budapest.
- Rant & Rave: Indagare members can share their advice with the community by logging in first, then clicking here: Rants & Raves.
- Give the Gift: Indagare: Give the gift of travel intelligence with a membership to Indagare. For details or to order, call us at 212-988-2611 or click here: Gift Membership.
- Indagare Plus: Remember that hotels marked by an Indagare Plus symbol offer preferential rates and benefits to members.
- Indagare Share Feature: Share articles, postcards and reviews with family and friends on such networking sites as Twitter, Facebook and Delicious. Simply click on the three small dots that symbolize our connect icon, at the end of every article, and follow the link to the networking site of your preference.
- Sample Indagare: With free bi-weekly email blasts on new hot spots and insider tips when you sign up for our mailing list.
- Profile feature: Members share your profiles, comments, favorite articles and IQs. Just click on the Profile tab on the upper right of your screen and look for the Edit My Profile blue tab.
- Indagare means to discover, explore, seek, scout in Latin.