Thursday, November 2, 2017


Well made documentaries have a way of getting into your head. After watching a few episodes of Chef's Table (a series that profiles a single world-renowned chef in each episode), when we heard that the restaurant Next (by Grant Achatz) was running a "50 World's Best" menu it was merely a matter of when we were going to go, rather than if.

The allure of a short-appearance menu, featuring recreations of brilliant dishes from world-renowned chefs, was too much to pass up. 

We ended up booking the last seating on a cool Friday night, and settled in for a 17 dish extravaganza, getting ever-more sillier as the dinner and wine-match progressed. But my, what a feast and delightful time we had. 

After entering the dark but bustling restaurant, we were given orders not to touch the centerpieces. It soon became apparent why - they had edible components. 

Rose - Quique Dacosta
Our first dish was presented as part of the roses decorating our table. The rose, apple, and pomegranate bite was tart and refreshing, and just a touch sweet. 

This was followed by what seemed like a simple cracker, but really, should be the cracker-style amuse bouche by which all others are judged. 
Jerusalem Artichoke - Geranium
More complex than a potato crisp, this was salty, and crunchy, and the only disappointing thing was that there was only one per person. 

A cold, initially confusing dish was up next.

An Oyster's Frozen Kiss - Mugaritz
The idea here was to bring the ice-ball up to your lips, so that you effectively kissed the ice in order to eat the oyster. Having not made it out to Mugaritz when we were in San Sebastian, we were looking forward to trying this. We were not disappointed. The oysters had a rich taste, and were just a little briny. The radish flower was delicate and pretty to look at, although didn't add anything perceptible to the taste and so didn't take away from the purity of the oysters. Delightful! 

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park
This next dish was fun. Quirky presentation in a little tin can, with bits of ham and asparagus, offset with indulgent caviar, made this the fanciest Eggs Benedict I've ever had. And with the cutest little English muffins too. Perhaps one day we'll make it out to Eleven Madison Park - after all, NYC is only a short plane flight away.

Marine Soil - Central
The next dish was beautifully presented and had me dreaming of pottery classes again. The sea urchin was creamy and custard-like, the razor clams were super sweet, and the jicama was a nice crunchy contrast. Celebrating all things ocean, this was one of my favourite dishes of the night.

King Crab - Noma
That said, this was my favourite dish. Succulent and sweet king crab, with beef garum and rose miso lending a good dose of umami, and hens egg yolk to amp up the creaminess. The smell alone was heady and intoxicating. I never wanted this dish to end (and am considering making a trip to Noma as soon as it reopens). But as always, as showstopping as this was, the show must go on. 

Tartare - Estela

Tartare - Estela
After the headiness of the king crab, this bison tartare didn't quite shine as brightly as it should have. The most filling dish of the night, it was well constructed, and full of flavour, but didn't really pack a punch. 

Badger Flame Beet - Blue Hill at Stone Farms
I'm also all for celebrating the essence of an ingredient, but as heirloom and special as a beetroot can be, and as sweet and earthy as it was, I'm not sure it should have warranted a spot on this menu. Each to their own though I suppose. 

Riso Cacio e Pepe - Osteria Francescana
I was on much happier ground with the risotto dish from Massimo Bottura. Rich with Parmesan, and touched with pepper and not much else, it really was a masterclass in perfectly cooked risotto. Soft grains, with bite, and really just a super-perfected comfort meal. Lovely.

Langoustine - Restaurant Tim Raue
With wasabi, mango, and Thai vinaigrette, this lobster-esque dish was delicate and refreshing. Not what I would have imagined German food to be, but that's half the beauty of this menu - breaking perceptions and spreading globalism, all while sitting at the same table. 

Monkfish - Aubergine
Another masterclass in presentation was this Monkfish dish. Or maybe I just have a thing for blue plates. The fermented peppers were a touch spicy, and offset the sweetness of the white fish. Which are also a hideously ugly species if you're ever inclined to look them up. 

I should mention at this point, the wine pairing was really hitting me, so while I tried to keep critical of the dishes, in honesty, I was having too much fun at this point to do more than just enjoy the experience. 

Vuelve a la Vida - Quintonil
Sweet scallops, rich tender beef tongue, and a slightly tangy salsa to tie it all together. This is what my limited experience would call elevated Mexican food. Which reminds me I do need to travel to Mexico at some point and try real Mexican food, not just tacos and Chipotle.  

All Parts of the Pumpkin - Attica
I really, really, wanted to like this dish. But I didn't. Too acidic and too jarring compared to the preceding dishes, I was hoping for a better representation of Australian fine dining. I hadn't had the chance to visit Attica back when I was living in Melbourne, and this dish hasn't compelled me to try. Which is a shame.  

Squab - Next
What I did enjoy was Next's own dish. Perhaps as a cheeky nod to the fact they're not yet in the 50 World's Best list but thoroughly deserve to be. The meat (pigeon) is tender, with a beautiful delicate herbal flavour from the lavender sauce. I can't wait to see what Next does, well, next. 

Memory - Restaurant Andre
This dish was rich. Foie gras and black truffle - what a combination. Looking like a dessert and tasting like a savoury flavour bomb, it was delicious but undoubtedly heavy. Go hard or go home I guess.

Apples - Relæ
And was immediately followed by something refreshing and light. Some crunchy chanterelles accompanied the classy apple granita, and served as a nice palate cleanser. 

Then came the bold dessert celebration, where all was swept off the dining table, and a sheet laid down turning it all into a giant canvas.

Chocolate - Alinea
An Alinea signature, dessert is a show to cap the end of a long entertaining food journey. Yogurt is treated like paint, with milk chocolate and blueberries adding substance, this is a super fun dish to see being created, and to consume. You are literally eating off the table. 

What a way to end the night.  

Next - The World's 50 Best Restaurants Menu
All in all we had a great night out. Expensive but worth every penny, the menu really did showcase the insane amount of skill possessed by the team of chefs. Served in dark-cool surroundings by super-professional yet friendly waiters, it's an experience I'm keen to return to, time and time again. Which, luckily for me, I can given the regularly changing menu. What a joy of a restaurant!

953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL
Wed - Sun 500am - 1130pm

Next Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato