I had such high expectations for this 44 course "interactive experience" by Chef Marc Lepine, who spent 8 years at Alinea. Those expectations were misplaced.
44 courses is a lot of food. I've done it once before (at Enigma) and the pace is blistering. Even at 4 hours, it's about 1 dish every 5 minutes. They brought multiple dishes at a time, placing each on a QR code which revealed something about the dish. It helped the pacing a bit, but seemed overwhelming to have up to 10 plates of food on the table at any one time.
The QR codes were thin. "Our daily bread course." "Something fresh from our garden." I'm scanning QR codes for that? We gave up on them about 10 courses in.
Service was not up to par in the least. I'll spare you the details but it felt like the minors pretending to be the majors and hoping everyone bought it.
The real problem was the food. The very best dishes were simply...fine. Maybe good. Not a single course made you respond "Whoa. That's really delicious!" As dish after dish proved the same, it began to feel like a ruse, with the commitment to techniques being everything, the flavor of the dish be damned. "Look at this amazing method to produce this!" OK. But it still needs to be delicious.
Even the execution suffered. The lego dish, for example: "Only two of the legos are edible. The 3rd is not." Two of them which were malformed (or melted) and one was pristine. Their big "trick" was easy to see right through, giving you the feeling that this meal was a 3rd grade magic trick and you were obliged to pretend along with them.
And to finish with the balloon? It's Alinea's signature dish! I asked the waiter if it was identical. "Well, they didn't copyright it.", he replied. For anyone who follows the food scene (or watched the Chef's Table episode on Grant Achatz), Atalier's denouement is pure theft. Plagiarism in literal form.
The ruse was fully complete.
This restaurant was a huge disappointment. They can't all be winners, of course. But you'd think at least 1 in 44 might be.
Replying to Steven Smith