The Aviary- The Culinary Cocktail Experience
I find myself frantically packing to leave for Chicago. Whenever I go to the Windy City I have a one track mind, Grant Achatz. How can I get him to feed me? Not being prepared with a reservation that should have been made months ago, I search through The Aliena Group website, praying and hoping, by some miracle I can get a reservation at any of his places. A 9pm slot opened up and I was not going to miss it! When you are going for a Grant Achatz dining romance, one must never be tardy. You show up 15 minutes before or right on time. Just don’t be late. Think of it as if going to Broadway or the Opera. The Aviary Lounge is so far in the future. Something you dream of but never expect. Grant Achatz has the Midas touch. You choose an experience, it's not just dinner or having a drink. When you walk into one of his establishments, you go inside the mind of a true culinary artist. When you walk out, you are forever changed. The staff and bartenders are so much more than that. Filled with knowledge and detailed instructions for you to appreciate and absorb every moment. They believe in what they are doing not just a job to them. Cocktails are served in the most vivacious way. I started with Loaded to The Gunwalls, served in a glass ship in a bottle, back lit by a candle. This cocktail, inspired by the spice trade, can only be described as drinkable art, presentation is everything. As I sipped on my first cocktail, one can’t help but look at other patrons, intrigued by what they are having. I saw a cocktail in a giant bag filled with lavender aroma called The Rob Roy being served to the guest next to me. When the bag opened their senses were teased even before they had a sip. The look on their faces was so clear, it made them feel emotion, they felt something before even taking sip. Even though it was not mine, I could still smell the heavenly scent and heard the message of the cocktail. For me, The Cranberry was next. This cocktail changes color and flavor as the ingredients infuse, and is served in small glasses, so every pour is a bit different and a bit more luxe. Every drink is served in a uniquely designed contraption to represent a specific theme, with several cocktails and a full drink menu to choose from the only thought you have is just one more.
Grant, after all is a chef. So even though it’s a cocktail bar, the food still bears his seal. I kept seeing these large glistening sculptures that reminded me of Fan Coral, being brought to many tables served in a glass cylinder. Welcome to The Aviary’s Crispy Pork Skin, spiced in vinegar and salt. I had to try it. As you break into it, you hear the crisp snap. When it hits your mouth, you relax into your lounge style chair and the euphoria takes over. Next came Tempura Shrimp with Togarashi spiced Aioli and Yuzu Pickled Pear. It was like cream melting in your mouth. From the moment I walked in I decided to try it all, but now, I was compelled to. This was followed by Black Truffle Explosion pasta parcel, filled with truffle and a slight shave of parmesan resting so elegantly on top. It was served on a wide mouth metal spoon that sat perfectly in a ceramic dish with a hole in the centre custom designed to display it. Simple, elegant and one of a kind! You taste and your eyes close because you feel so lucky to have a gift like this that is just for you. You feel like you are the only person in the world and you’re a god. The Wagyu Ribeye with watermelon, olive sauce and Hawaiian Ogo is beyond. It’s served on a dish which you are instructed not to put on the table hand held only. I am speechless. The menu is not large, but it is on point and as you wonder what to try again, you are given extra gifts, brought to you by the staff that are not on the menu. Butter Scotch Bacon can be seen levitating from a custom contraption which only exists to serve this dish. Something never seen before and will never be duplicated. The oysters with vanilla foam made my eyes fill with tears. It is just that special.
The Aviary by Grant Achatz can only be described as a Cirque De Soilel for your mouth. You sit there in jaw dropping amazement, memorized, as it is brought over to you. Ooh's and Aah’s are heard outloud as you reach for your cell phone to take photos. A cacophony of clicks and flashes are heard from every table. You want it to be documented as a special event in your life. Only then do you sip and eat in silence, taking in every moment. When you get a gift from Grant you have nothing to say! No one to tweet! You want to be “present” and “there” for it all. Grant I salute you. I am forever changed by your edible gifts and we will meet again. I feel a fool for not knowing I was in the presence of royalty, when you served me a Picasso display of dessert with smoking dehydrated chocolate mousse on silicone at Aliena years ago. But I know you now. Next restaurant is his latest venture. I am coming and it’s going to be epic. Thank you for the journey so far, but I know there is so much more to come. This is only the beginning…...