Next: Trio

Next is Chef Grant Achatz’ “next” restaurant. Achatz is the creator of Alinea, regarded by many as America’s greatest restaurant, and Chicago’s only 3-star Michelin restaurant.

I approached Next with some trepidation because I’m not a fan of Alinea. I found the atmosphere and service there stiff, and grew tired of the dictatorial way we were instructed to consume each course.

But Next is nothing like that. Service is professional but relaxed, and the servers are happy, informative and passionate about the food they’re serving.

I also like their ticketing system. It was refreshing to have no transaction at the end of the meal. The food, wine pairing and tip are all included, and are fairly priced for the experience you receive.

The unique thing about Next is that the restaurant evolves into something completely new and different every four months. New food, new wine, new decor. Since you’re unlikely to go twice during any given incarnation, you just need to put your trust in the culinary team and expect something special.

That’s certainly what we’ve received on both visits. A month ago Dani and I enjoyed the Modern Chinese menu.

This time Linda accompanied us to enjoy Next: Trio, which was an even more spectacular menu than Modern Chinese. This homage to Chef’s first restaurant ten years ago pulls out some vintage tricks, and reminds us of how cutting edge that restaurant was.

21 courses, many of them home runs. Very lavish ingredients, beginning with a generous serving of Osetra, and two courses using foie gras in completely different ways.

My favorite course was a surprise, the smoked figs was that perfect union of unexpected flavors that turns the whole into much more than the individual parts.

A few of Alinea’s serving tricks were used for some of the courses, but they’re more playful and less pretentious than at Alinea.

As always a convivial staff enthusiastically sharing information and their love of what they’re doing. A great dining experience.

Off to a nice start with a healthy serving of Osetra caviar and a nice sparkling wine.
Rock shrimp on a vanilla bean pod
Mozarella balloon filled with tomato water. This was superb
Doctoring the sparkling wine for the next course to convert it to a peach Bellini
Coconut and crab, and lots of things to experiment with
Savory ice cream sandwiches comprised of olive oil ice cream between parmesan and black pepper crackers. Amazing!
Truffle explosion. Definitely one bite and keep your lips sealed.
Oops. Almost forgot to photograph the duck with lavender.
Tools for picking up the postage stamp…
Lamb, and a gelatinous lamb consume. This course was disappointing.
Honestly, this tasted like a cheddar Goldfish cracker. Not a highlight.
Frozen salad! Dani and Linda loved this.
Raspberry and roses, sucked from the tube. Delicious.
A bit chewy.
Pushed Foie Gras, the second time for this ingredient, and completely different.
Passion fruit and mustard. Very interesting.
Oops again. This was my favorite, smoked fig. Wow!
Lobster with rosemary vapor. Nice.
An Alinea serving trick. Don’t impale yourself. Burnt pineapple and smoked salmon. Excellent.
Short rib with root beer ingredients. Just so-so.
Transparency of Manchebo. Didn’t really work.
Huckleberry soda was the event here, rather than the accompaniments, although the smoked vanilla was fantastic, too.
The only real failure, impossibly hard and sticky chocolate and odd yeast ice cream. We all skipped this.
21 courses, and at least 15 home runs!