I am probably travelling into unpopular territory here, but I ate at Alinea for the first time last weekend and have to say I was a little disappointed.
First off: the presentation was phenomenal and I have absolutely no complaints. Some of the dishes presented will live in my memory for a long, long time.
However, the service left me feeling lukewarm. I've been in formal restaurants and I don't expect the server to be my best buddy, but I do expect them to facilitate our meal.
Some examples: My friend wanted to do the Reserve wine flight- but was told he couldn't since I was doing the regular and it would "detract from his experience" to have a different order. Really?
The servers in general were very harsh and demanding in their instructions, and never even added a please to their requests. Serious, I don't mind...but it probably won't kill you to soften your demands. I'm not freeloading.
If this had been my first time dining at a restaurant of this caliber, I would be turned off fine dining. If this had been my first time dining in Chicago, I would have put it down to a culture change. However, haven eaten at Moto and Schwa recently gives me (I think) a decent enough baseline to chalk it up to Alinea.