Well, so we have been to Moto, when we visited Chicago in september.
I was very eager to try this place since I have read so many great things about the place here and on eGullet as well.
But boy, oh boy, what a huge disappointment in every regard.
Looking back I should have seen it coming, because in a way it already started when I called to reconfirm my reservation and the lady checked back on the 2-3 (!) dietary restrictions (apple, wal- and hazelnuts) I gave them via e-mail, saying something like "Oh, as I see I have a whole list (...?!?) of restrictions here, that I have to give to the kitchen " in a repoachful tone as if she wanted to say "man, it might be difficult to cook for you since can virtually eat nothing...".
The restaurant itself is a nice place, intimate, yet the tables have enough distance, decor is nicely reduced and modern. But the small size of he dining room was a huge problem that night, because there was a group of 12-14 people at one table, that was so extremely loud and vulgar (skrieking laughs and "conversations" from end of the table to another - all at once) that it was virtually impossible to have a decent conversation without shouting at one another. As a result all other diners (mostly couples obviously looking for a "romatic" dinner) looked pretty pissed. I mean: If I go to a restaurant of that category I don't expect something like that. And I expect a restaurant to avoid such situations (by not taking groups that size) or to take care of the problem right away. I thought about telling one of the waiters - but they were so into this group, even pushing their "party"-feeling with jokes and quips, that it seemed like they were friends of the house or something. As a result, service for the other diners was non-existent at times...but I'll get to that later.
The noise didn't really bother us (3 diners) at first, because after all, we told ourselves, we were there "for the food".
But unfortunately the food was just not good. (We had the 10-course-menu.)
The problems were quite simple: apart from the desserts and one savory course, every dish was either over- or underseasoned. Some preparations seemed to have no salt at all, others way too much. Many dishes tasted either "mexican" in some way or downright artificial.
The "gags" didn't make any sense, either. Iam definitely familiar with and a friend of "avant garde" techniques and "decontsructed" dishes etc.
But at Moto it just didn't make culinary sense - and that is, in my opinion, the worst you can say about an "avant garde" restaurant. Where is, for example, the sense in serving the diner ordinary pig's belly with ordinary baked beans and, oh wow!, shaved ice cream that is supposed to taste like coleslaw salad ? Presented as "our take on a barbecue dinner", the pig and beans weren't any better than at any given barbecue (in fact, I had way better barbecued suckling pig in sardegna, where this is the traditional specialty). And the (very salty) ice cream didn't add any complexity either. A total miss.
Moto's main goal seems to be to take traditional dishes and "transform" them in some way: turning coleslaw into ice; turning greek salad into some crunchy chip and some liquid; turning the seasoning for the squab (I think it was) into some powder that the diner has to lick from a tiny sheet of paper...
But where is the sense in doing that if you have nothing to add? It is just showing off some "new techniques". Triviality on a plate.
The one good tasting dish was the "roadkill" - Iam a huge friend of "dark" humor, but nevertheless I have to ask: why this silly presentation, which is just a wannabe provocative, juvenile and tasteless joke for it's own sake. From a culinary perspectve it doesn't add the slightest bit.
But the lack of thoughtfulness at Moto maybe shows best in those silly forks that have some herbs attached to them: in our case it was (not-so-fresh) cilantro - cilantro!! A herb that hardly has any smell to it, even when you hold it right to your nose (you have to rub it to ge a nice smell). This shows very well that at Moto they just don't really think about what they are doing - the just do something, anything, whatever...
To make the disappointing experience complete, the service was probably the worst I have ever had in such a "high class" restaurant.
First, it took endlessly until we got the (oversalted) edible menu (admittedly a nice joke!). Then it took endlessly (even for european standards) until someone came to take our order.
I had the wine pairing - but the 2nd pairing was already forgotten. As was the one glass of wine that my fiancee had ordered at the beginning. When I told a waiter about the forgotten pairing (in a very friendly way!), he apologized and said that as a compensation he would pour a pairing for my fiancee on the next course, as well - which, of course, did not happen.
On several occasions our waters glasses were empty for quite some time - and no waiter in sight; on one course we had no silverware when the dishes were served; on one course the sommelier started saying something about the wine, but then the dishes arrived and he just disappeared, leaving it unknown to me what wine I was having in my glass; and then they had one waiter who had some kind of "homeboy" attitude when explaining the dishes, gesticulating with his hands like a rapper, thereby getting so extremely close to the plates with his fingers that he almost touched our food (in some cases we were really not sure) - but after a while this was just funny. In fact we tried to take the whole mess with humor.
Oh, and: When they finally realized that they kind of "owed" me one more wine, I was told that they had "of course" not fogotten it. And then, with the last dessert, I was suddenly presented with two different dessert-wines at once (?!?)...one of which, according to the menu, would actually have been the pairing for my first dessert, if I had taken the Grand Tour Moto with wine pairing.
This mistake showed one more time how little care they actually take in the stuff they serve, despite all the pretense (waiters running around with headsets...).
Usually, despite my european descent, Iam a quite decent tipper (20% at least, mostly more).
This time I wanted to give 15%, not a cent more. But guess what: they added an 18%-tip to the bill themselves...*
So if the question is "Alinea or Moto", my vote is clear...
*PS: this was only topped by the terrible, terrible head-waiter at Kienzes Chop House, who even added 22%...
PPS: On the positive side I have to say: I left some critical notes on the survey you can fill ot at the end of your meal - and one day later I got an e-mail, where they apologized for the disappointing perfomance and invited me to come back any time for the GTM. I doubt I will be able to make this, nor am I very eager to. But I appreciate the gesture.