Saturday, February 28, 2015

Next Restaurant - Bistro

2015 brings in a whole new theme at Next. The first of the season's theme is Bistro, which is Grant Achatz's take on a French Bistro. It is a distance from its usual theme as Bistro takes on an actual restaurant theme from being a tasting menu theme. 

To start off the night, we are offered bread from La Boulangerie in Lakeview area. I love the bread as it's crunchy, has a nice texture and can soak up alot of sauces (which is instrumental for later courses) 

Oeuf a La Beran - Egg custard with crispy chicken skin and chives

For our first course, we have an egg custard with crispy chicken skin. The custard is smooth, silky, and savory. The chicken skin adds a nice crunch to the dish. Excellent start.

Torchon au Foie Gras - Foie Gras with brioche toast points, huckleberry, murray river salt, and black pepper

The next course is a foie gras torchon. The foie is creamy, smooth and not too salty. The flavor of the foie is able to come across nicely and not overwhelm you.

Tete de Pore en Gelee - pig head terrine with pork aspic, watercress, and cranberry

The terrine is a bit on the lighter side. The best part of this dish is the gelee as it's light and mild but surprisingly flavorful. 

Aile De Raie Meuniere Avec des Capres et des choux de Bruxelles - skate wing with capers, brown butter, lemon and brussels sprouts

One of my favorite dish of the night. The skate wings offers a nice crunchiness and exceptional flavor from its flavorful skin. The fish meat is nicely cooked and not flaky. Along with the well seasoned brussels sprouts, the fish dish is definitely a great bite.

Pintade Roti Avec Des Radis Braises et Pommes Anna - Guinea Hen with Thyme, braised radishes, radish tops and pommes anna

Before we were served the guinea hen, we were presented it. The chicken is cooked surperbly as its meat is juicy, tender and delicious. We were also offered a gravy from the hen and it intensify the chicken flavor.

Champignons Sausvages - Wild Mushroom
Carotes Roties - Roasted Carrots
Cassoulet avec des leoulouse - Toulouse style sausage and duck casserole

Our final course is a duck casserole, along with some carrot and mushroom. The casserole is great as it has a really rich flavor of the duck, sausage and all the vegetable cooked with it. This dish feels like I'm eating at someone's home and not at a restaurant. The roasted carrot and mushroom were nice side dishes to go with this casserole. 

Baba Au Rhum - Baba Rum

The baba rum is sweet, has a nice cakey texture and as my dining companion mentioned, "boozy". I like the combination of the boozy flavor and cake. 

Blood Orange Tart

Our last dessert of the night is a blood orange tart. It carries a nice tart flavor along with the citrus sweet from blood orange. My favorite part is the actual tart as it crunchy and provides a nice base to go along with the blood orange filling.

All in all, I enjoyed Bistro. It's definitely different from a tasting menu of smaller bites. I actually can't finish all the food this time, which is surprising because I usually clean out dishes. It's a nice concept and I think this can be a nice trial run for Grant Achatz's less casual restaurant that will open next to Next.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Next - Trio

The last theme dinner at Next of 2014 is Trio, which is the first restaurant that Grant Achatz opened in Evanston, Chicago. It was a prelude to the modern day Alinea and quite a bit of technique are carried over the current restaurant.

Brook Trout Roe - puree avocado, sugar, lime foam

The first course of the the night highlights the level of technique used at Trio. The dish consist of lime foam, sugar and Trout Roe, which creates a harmony of citrus, brininess and sweetness. Not a bad start for the night.

Rock Shrimp - Cranberry Meyer Lemon, Vanilla Bean (stick)

Similar to a course I had at at Alinea, the tempura shrimp is one of my favorite. The rock shrimp was flavorful with flaky batter. The scent from the vanilla bean makes this a nice dish from the flavor and scent perspective.

Crab - Coconut, Ten Bridging Garnishes (avocado, mango, cucumber, ginger, fennel, coconut)

The white sphere has coconut cream embedded in it and allows the coconut cream to the mix in with the crab, which was quite tasty. I like the mix of different garnishes, my favorite is the coconut meat and the avocado with pepper as they both highlight the crab.

Chestnut Soup - Baked potato ice cream, bitter chocolate, quince, bacon

When the dish came, I had no idea what it is. It turns out to be a soup. The baked potato soup with bacon is bold with "hearty" flavor. Surprisingly, despite the heavy ingredients, the soup is really light and not overwhelming. 

Ice Cream Sandwich - Parmesan, olive oil, black pepper

A rather interesting dish of the night. We have an olive oil ice cream sandwich. The "cracker" portion is Parmesan based and it goes really well with the mild flavored ice cream. It's refreshing and creamy. Definitely a good dish after the hearty soup.

Black Truffle Explosion - parmesan

A stable at Alinea and one of my favorite. The truffle explosion is a ravioli that holds the exploding truffle cream inside. It's earthy, flavorful and explodes up in your mouth. 

Duck Breast, Rillette & Foie Gras - Lavendar Salt Lozenga, plum

The duck 3 ways is composed of the breast, rillette and foie. We were instructed to eat the lavender salt first then onto the duck. I had the breast first and it was perfectly cooked, tender and succulent. It's flavorful and juicy. The rillette was tender and superbly seasoned. The foie is my favorite as it wasn't too salty and has a nice duck flavor to it. 

Pizza - super thin size

A tiny piece of pizza paper. It definitely tasted like a well seasoned pizza. A fun little pallet cleanser for our taste bud.

Loin of Lamb Sous Vide & Consume - floral infusion, artichoke, orange

The lamb was used for two things, a consume and meat by itself, both presented with the same ingredient. I like the artichoke mousse to go with the lamb. The sous vide lamb was tender, but was a bit tasteless and I find myself needing the sauce to make the lamb edible. The consume was a bit weird and wasn't my favorite as it tasted like chunks of flavored gel.  

Cheese 'n Cracker

This little dish is fun because the cheese is encased in the cracker and it squirts out when you bite into it. This reminds me of the truffle explosion, but with cheese and cracker. 

"salad" - romaine, arugula, red wine vinaigrette

With the amount of meat we had, it's natural to have some green. So we have a romaine and arugula slush with red wine vinaigrette slush. It's really refreshing and earthy. I wouldn't recommend eating too much cuz it feels like a juice cleanse. 

Raspberry - Tapioca, rose, lemon basil, vanilla creme fraiche
We have our second pallet cleanser in a raspberry tapioca form. The raspberry jello carries a clean, floral, raspberry flavor along with chewy tapioca. The "clean" flavor is also amplified by the lemon basil. This is a good refreshing bite.

"Pushed" Foie Gras - Pear, Sauternes, Salt-Roasted Pear Sorbet
Our second Foie Gras course is a classic combination of pear and mousse. The foie is smooth, mild, not too salty and pairs really well with the pear, which is mildly sweet. In addition, the whole dish is quite light, which is something I like. 

Passion Fruit sorbet - Mustard ice cream

Our intermezzo is a fruity passionfruit sorbet with creamy mustard ice cream. This combination is really nice as the fruity flavor goes well with the mild mustard flavor.

Smoked Persimmon - Endive, Cripsy Pancetta, coffee

Our next course is a Pancetta course. The crispy pancetta offers a nice bite as it creates a textural difference with the endive. I do like the persimmon as it's quite mild and not too sweet. However, the dish is a bit light and I felt like as if I was eating a salad.

Butter Poached Lobster - wild mushrooms, rosemary vapor

One of the best dishes of the night. This butter poached lobster is superbly cooked and flavorful. Combined with earthly mushroom, you just can't stop eating it. The cool part about this is before you start, hot water is added around the dish to add rosemary fumes to the dish. Definitely satisfying both our smell and taste buds.

Burnt Pineapple - smoked salmon, soy (sauce foam), togarashi

A small bite before our last savory course. This fun little pineapple combined with smoked salmon and soy foam is deliciously prepared. The little sweet from pineapple and the ocean-y sweet from salmon makes this a great little bite.

Braised Beef Short Rib - Root Beer Flavors, Mashed Potato, Salsify, Fennel
To wrap up the night, we have a braise short ribs. Our short ribs is fork tender and juicy, combined with the root beer flavor sauce, makes this a nice bite. The mashed potato is creamy, along with the salsify, makes this a very good way to wrap up the savory courses.

Transparency of Manchego - olives, Manchego cheese, crouton, olive oil jam, white anchovy

Instead of a traditional cheese course, we have a melted cheese course. Along with crunchy crouton, olives and anchovy. The manchego cheese tasted delicious, it reminds me of a more delicate pizza cheese. 

Huckleberry Soda with five flavors gelled - Thyme, Fennel, Smoke Cream, Chocolate, Hazelnut with Huckleberry Jam

Our first dessert course is huckleberry soda and jelly to go with five different other flavors of jelly. The thyme jelly is herby and mildly sweet, fennel jelly is a bit more grassy than sweet, The smoke cream jelly is smooth and creamy, while the chocolate jelly offers a nice chocolate bite. To wrap it all up, we have a hazelnut jelly, which reminds me of light version of nutella. Each section of the jelly offers a different flavor and they are all very tasty.

Maragda Chocolate at 94 degree - Flaxseed, Yeast Brioche Ice Cream, Beer Gel

To wrap up our meal, we are offered a fantastic chocolate course. The Maragda Chocolate is warmed at 94 degrees, which makes the chocolate almost melted but it allows the chocolate to keeps its form. The chocolate is rich but not too sweet. Along with a flaxseed base, which provides a nice a crunch with the almost melted chocolate, makes this a nice way to close the night. The yeast ice cream is a nice finishing touch to the dish as it's mildly sweet and milky.

Out of all the next dinner I've been to, I have to say Trio is probably one of the strongest if not the strongest showing of Grant Achatz's style of cooking. Going to its root is always a good thing and this dinner definitely highlights all the technique, flavor and skills prior to Alinea. I am glad this is the last dinner of 2014 at Next and I am looking forward to 2015.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Next Restaurant - Chinese

Next has always been fond of playing with different ethnic theme, such as Kyoto. Now, they've moved to Chinese and I am curious on what they'll serve. Unbeknownst to me, my reservation landed on the last day of this series, hence, I get to wrap this series up.

"Hot & Sour" Soup - Pressed Okra, Cilantro, Peppercorn

To start off our meal, we were serve a pressed "soup" of Chinese okra with cilantro and peppercorn. To my surprise the soup is neither hot nor sour, it's actually more sweet and peppery. Regardless, it's actually a good soup as it's refreshing and tasty.

Bamboo Shoot & Lily Bulb - Crispy tofu chip with citrus, swet corn puree and sorrel, pickled bamboo and lily bulb, and burnt corn husk gelee

The bamboo shoot is fun to eat as it's a bit crunchy and the lily bulb is quite tasty. However, I didn't quite understand the rest of the dish.

"Dim Sum Trio"

After our tofu dish, it's a trio of "dim sum"!

Congee as a Hot Foam with Pork Floss

The first of the dim sum is a congee in foam form. This congee foam is quite delicious as it carries a nice taro flavor, with a little pork and apple to balance out the heaviness from the rice with textural difference and sweetness.

Scallop Dumpling with Watercress and White Fungus

One of my favorite of the night, a nice little dumpling with scallop at its center. This little dumpling carried the scallop's sweetness with an earthy tone from the watercress and fungus.

Pork Dumpling with Jujube and Cuttlefish

The pork dumpling is an interesting dish as the meat feels more like a meatball instead of the softer dumpling meat. 

Sturgeon with Leek in a Roasted Spine Broth

Another one of my favorite of the night, the sturgeon is beautifully cooked; tender, moist and light. It's complimented with a well seasoned broth, which has a bit of heat to go with it. 

Crab with Green Chili Paste and Fresh Coconut, Mushroom

Another one of my favorite of the night. This coconut salad  is mixed in with a chili paste that carry a nice lemongrass flavor with it. The mushroom and crab mixture provides a nice "meaty" texture to this dish. It definitely reminds me of a nice "tom yum" soup.

Skate Chops in the Style of Muslim Lamb

This skate wing is also another winner of the night. A nice tender fried skatewing coated and paired with a variety of spice, Szechuan spice included, which numbed my tongue. Although, it's spicy, it carries a nice flavor to it. 

Tiger Salad with Cold Skin Noodles and Seitan

A little salad to comes after the spicy wing, I enjoyed the noodles the most as its a little chewy to go with the fish sauce that comes with the salad.

Tingly Squab with Tarragon and Sumac with Sichuan peppercorn

A playful version of popcorn chicken. This little squad has a nice texture and is juicy at the same time. The Sichuan peppercorn definitely adds in a nice heat to this dish. It's probably one of the best Asian style popcorn chicken I've ever had.

Lettuce with Spicy Shrimp Ju

An interesting pallet cleanser before our next course. Tasted like light mayo.

Shrimp in a Salted Duck Yolk "Sand" - Fried Head and Sashimi body

Another one of my favorite of the night, the shrimp head and tail are fried while the body is sahimi. The sashimi portion is definitely tasty; light and sweet. The duck yolk is flavorful and is a nice compliment with the sashimi. My favorite part is the crunchy head and tail. It's nicely seasoned and it lets you taste the shrimp's sweetness from another angle.

Beef & Broccoli in Liquid and Solid State (Jerky & broth)

A playful version of beef & broccoli. The soup is a nice beef stock that's really beefy, while the Jerky is really light and tasty. My favorite part is the little fried broccoli, it's light, crunchy and flavorful. I can eat a whole bag of these easily.

Duck in Layers

Our main Duck course has multiple components.

Steamed bun stuffed with duck rillettes, fermented beans and prune

A nice little steamed bun with duck rillette in it. The bun is light and fluffy to go with tasty duck meat.

Poached duck egg on a bed of walnuts, charred scallion, braised red cabbate and chives

A interesting pairing to the main duck course. It's a nice vegetable dish with walnut in it.

Smoked duck breast

My absolutely favorite of the night, this smoked duck breast was juicy, flavorful and delicious. It was light, and I had no problem eating all of these.

Red plum jam with Fresno chilies

A sweet little jam to go with the duck.

Pickled Green

A nice little pickled green to help cut into the duck's fatness.

1) Passion fruit Vinaigrette (iced)
2) "Pulling Threads" with Sweetbreads, Taro Root, and Plantain

One of the most fun course of the night, we were instructed to dip the sweetbread, taro root and plantain into the ice cold passionfruit juice so the sugar coating can stick,which create a nice exterior with warm interior of sweetbread, taro root and plantain. 

Frozen Rice Soup with Legumes and Whipped Vinegar - Puffed Jasmine Rice, English Peas

An interesting dessert as the puff rice has a nice "peanut butter" flavor to it. I like the crunchiness that comes with the puff rice and peas though.

Dragon's Beard Candy with a Pressing of Honey - Cashew, Black Sesame, ice cream

Another "nutty" dessert, the dragon's beard candy is a stringy, nutty candy. You combine the cashew, honey, sesame to go along with this. Flavorful, sweet and nutty. It's a nice way to end the meal.

Giant Fortune Cookie

How can you step away from a chinese dinner without fortune cookie! We were gifted a giant fortune cookie as parting gift. It's a nice vanilla and honey cookie, which makes it that much more delicious.



I actually had a different expectation coming into the chinese menu since I don't know which style they would use. However, Next did an excellent job creating a modern version of a chinese meal. There's definitely alot of great dishes that I truly enjoy but there's also some that fell flat. Given the complexity of chinese food, I would say this meal has exceeded my expectation. I'm looking forward to coming back to the last menu of the year.