This Is Either the Most Awesome Lamb Ever Served or the Most Pretentious

Categories: Wake Up Call

Lamb 86.jpg

Alinea is one of those restaurants with a webpage that doesn't make it immediately clear whether they serve food or design furniture for Ikea. The type of restaurant that counts a derivatives trader as part of its creative team and partnered with a science equipment manufacturer to create an "Anti-Griddle," which rapidly freezes ingredients into novel configurations.

It's also one of those restaurants helmed by a chef owner who did four years at French Laundry and went on to pull down a series of awards, including a James Beard, so perhaps we should reserve our snark until after we've plunked down $210 to dine at his Chicago-based restaurant.

The dish in this video is called "Lamb 86":


The 86 in lamb 86 appears to be the grid of 86 individual ingredients that are served alongside medallions of what appear to be sous-vide lamb. While the grids are prepared with a cheat sheet underneath to keep things straight, the diners aren't so lucky. Apparently, guessing what all the ingredients are is part of this dining experience.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Sharon Salomon
Sharon Salomon

Haven't had this dish but have eaten at Alinea. Worth every penny, nickel and dime. A full experience from the moment you are greeted at the door until the last morsel is consumed. All your senses are engaged. It's not an every day meal nor would you want it to be but it is special enough to try one time if you can afford it. Even though it's performance art it's also food and tastes like food. Some of the dishes are farther out there than others but the experience is unforgettable both as a social and gustatory experience.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

"...so perhaps we should reserve our snark until after we've plunked down $210 to dine at his Chicago-based restaurant."

No need to hold the snark.  But you should still plunk down the $210.  A rare breed that lives up to the hype.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

So its food as performance art but not in a bad way. 

Between you and Dominic I'm suitably intrigued. 

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

Have you had this particular dish? Or just eaten there in general?

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

Well... it's undeniable that they have a bit of a flair for theatrics, but at heart it's more laboratory than theater.  It's more the true sense of MG, where it isn't inherently about science and toys, but rather about breaking from the notion that the pinnacle of food technique was achieved in early 20th century France.  It's open to the possibility that there are other and/or better ways to do things.  Which, invariably, leads to new technology.  To call it performance art, I think, kind of implies that the food isn't first.  And the food is first.  That's why I love it (as opposed to some other similarly themed Chicago restaurants that rhyme with Photo).  But if they can think of outside-the-box ways of enhancing a dish, they're going to use them.  

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

This dish, no.  But I've eaten there twice.  First time in 2006, and then again in 2010.  I was blown away despite going in mildly skeptical the first time, then amazed that the experience was even tighter and more consistent on the second pass.

I confess that I find this dish a little strange for Achatz.  What I love about Alinea is that unlike so many places that do this kind of stuff badly, his zaniness has purpose.  At most places that employ wild, modern technique, you get the sense that a lot if not most of the time they're doing crazy things because they can. But almost without exception, every time I've had some crazy dish at Alinea, it's obvious that that weird technique has *purpose*... that there's something very specific he's trying to achieve, and that the technique is a means to an end rather than simply existing to serve itself.  And nine times out of ten, the experience he's trying to create is fascinating.  I'm not sure I see what the purpose is here.  Which means that either A) I'm missing it, or B) it's a rare exception.  If the latter, it'd be a tiny blemish in a stellar track record.  

But, y'know, it's lamb with 86 ingredients.  That's gotta be at least a little snarkworthy, no matter how awesome the target is.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

Oh, absolutely.  But it works.  Spectacularly.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

This sounds like an intensely engineered meal but intriguing. 

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

Yup.  Though despite the cool name, the antigriddle has always struck me as pretty tame.  It's just an easy way to snap-freeze things.  I suppose it makes it easier to get certain substances like foams and purees to hold their shape, since they're freezing really, really quickly.  Third dish down:

http://www.skilletdoux.com/200...

Josh has an antigriddle over at Posh, BTW.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

From comments I've read elsewhere it sounds like the 86 ingredients is supposed to be like... 86 tiny meals all centered around a lamb base. That does strike me as cool on a technical level but I seriously struggled with the idea of eating AND enjoying 86 individual nibbles of lamb + X. It strikes me like... I dunno, tiny dishes taken to a logical extreme. 

Did you try any of the stuff off his anti-griddle? 

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...