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Grant Achatz posts the next "NEXT" menu.

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http://yfrog.com/user/Gachatz/profile

He's been tweeting the thing all night - not a big fan of Thai in general, but looks interesting to say the least.

No word on when tickets go on sale, but since it starts to the public on 7/8 I'd imagine soon.

Would love to join a group for the Kitchen Table as I imagine they could have a lot more leeway with creativity in that setting (as they seemed to with Paris 1906.

http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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  1. Well, if I can actually get those tickets this time ($@#&), I think it'd be interesting to do Next and Arun back to back and compare.

    24 Replies
    1. re: mountsac

      Oddly I was thinking the same thing - there was no one else in town doing pressed duck, but this time he is going head to head with some relatively famous competition locally.

      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

      1. re: uhockey

        Arun's is IMO no better than TAC or Spoon or Sticky Rice: just more expensive. I am anticipating that Achatz takes this to a new level. If it's mundane and familiar (which i thought most of Paris was), even if it's as well-done as they did Paris, for me the bloom will be off the rose.

        1. re: chicgail

          I'll tend to agree - I felt Paris was a rushed experience with good, but not mind blowing food. This is part of the reason I'd like to find a group to do the Kitchen Table as I feel the experience would be more like the "event meal" that NEXT has become due to its owner and demand for tickets.

          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

          1. re: uhockey

            I thought the Paris menu was outstanding food, but not up to the level of Alinea dishes. The service was stellar, however, and the wine pairings and non-alcoholic pairings were great. I'm not sure if you meant the dinner experience was rushed, or just the menu, but we didn't feel rushed at all. We had an almost scotch-like white that I really thought was a fun pairing. The only item I found disappointing was the dessert. The rest was noticeably better food than can easily be found at the $85/pp price point we paid (excluding parings).

            I'm interested in this menu, but I am actually somewhere underwhelmed by some of it. I like Thai food more than French food typically, and this seems to be a somewhat less exciting menu in the genre. I'll still be slamming the refresh button, most likely.

            We went to Aviary for a couple hours prior to Next. I have to say, that was indeed mind-blowing for us. The food was excellent, and the experience was great. I would call it the Alinea of cocktail bars. It cost us roughly the same amount as Next did... my bank account is still bruised. Totally worth it.

            -----
            Alinea
            1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

            1. re: TAsunder

              We went to Aviary after - very much enjoyed it.

              Our meal at NEXT lasted just about 90 minutes and dishes arrived nearly every 10 minutes. Felt very rushed and service was competent, but certainly not on the level of Chicago's best (TRU, Alinea, Avenues, Everest, ect)

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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              Alinea
              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: uhockey

                Agreed -- Alinea is definitely more spacious, quiet, comfy, and luxurious. But it's also twice the price! $210 at Alinea vs $65-110 at Next for non-kitchen table meals.

                -----
                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                1. re: kathryn

                  .....so, one of the four I named.

                  1. re: uhockey

                    I've not been to them so cannot personally compare but I found the differences between Alinea and Next quite striking. The Next dining room seems small and cramped in comparison. Aviary, on the other hand, was much larger than I'd anticipated.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I entirely agree - Next is/was small and cramped, the service was competent but rushed, and overall it just didn't have that "SPECIAL" meal feel, save for the difficulty of getting tickets.

                      Aviary was indeed quite large - and I liked the service there a lot.

                      Next is interesting in its concept moreso than in its execution, IMO, but I'd still like to go back to see subsequent menus.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                2. re: uhockey

                  We felt comfortable with the pace - but that might have been due to already having had 3 cocktails each at Aviary. We had enough time to leisurely drink most wine pairings and refill our glass at least once. So, in other words, fairly hammered by the end of the night due to those 3 aviary drinks.

                  Alinea did seem to be at a luxurious pace the times I went. Yet, it's ~18 dishes in 3-3.5 hours vs ~9 dishes in 1.5-2 hours at Next. But I guess the dish sizes are more substantial at Next so that could be where the pacing was off.

                  As I said, I feel Aviary is much more special than Next. I did like Next quite a bit, however. I am guessing it belongs among the second tier Chicago restaurants below Alinea and the ones you mentioned. I enjoyed it a bit more than North Pond, although each had their strengths. The decor at Next, while nice, certainly doesn't come close to North Pond's.

                  I feel Aviary is a "must experience" and Next is a "nice to experience." The food at Aviary is actually quite delicious as well, though you would go broke trying to make a meal of it since it's $3-4 per small bite.

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                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  North Pond
                  2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                  1. re: TAsunder

                    Some of the bites at the Aviary are $5 or $6, actually, when you go for items like the foie gras or the wagyu!

                    1. re: TAsunder

                      Such an unfortunate comparison - Next is innovative. North Pond is "location." It is comparable to eating at Top of the Rock and places of that nature.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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                      North Pond
                      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                      1. re: uhockey

                        North Pond is absolutely innovative as well, in its cuisine as well as its location. That's why Chef Bruce Sherman has been a finalist for the James Beard Award in this region each of the past five years. It's the most prestigious award in the restaurant community, and is determined entirely by food, not location.

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                        North Pond
                        2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          I am aware of the Sherman's James Beard finalist award, however in my experience, North Pond has its hits and misses food-wise. Innovation is only a good thing when it works. The location, however is beautiful, both in terms of the park and the actual building.

                          1. re: chicgail

                            There are many "finalists" - and also many winners over the years. While being nominated 5x is certainly impressive it is curious he has not won it. I predict Izzard takes one home before Sherman.

                            The Bar area is quite nice, admittedly, but the main room is dark and while the kitchen is "open" it is quite obscured by the design while newer spots really open the kitchen for viewing.

                            Overall it is a competent restaurant - but not a destination. Not saying Next is a "destination" like Alinea, Avenues, or Trotters - but perhaps more of a curiosity like Schwa in part due to the funky reservation system and crazy demand for tables.

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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                            Alinea
                            1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                            1. re: uhockey

                              You've got me wondering, uhockey. So I checked it out. In 2011 alone, there were nearly 100 James Beard finalists (and way more semi-finalists) in 19 categories, including Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard, Curtis Duffy, Michael Carlson, Paul Virant, Rick Bayless and Bruce Sherman. The categories are pretty extensive, ranging from best new chef to best service, best in region, etc. And that doesn't count food writers, broadcasts, wine service, etc.

                              Now none of the detracts from that it is an honor to be named a finalist. It's just that it's not that uncommon.

                              1. re: chicgail

                                While there are lots of categories, the only ones for chefs are the three nationwide categories (outstanding chef, rising star chef, pastry chef) which of course are the hardest to come by because there are only five finalists nationwide, and best in each of ten geographical regions. Sherman has been one of the five finalists for best in region (Best Chef - Great Lakes) for five years running. This year the other four finalists were Virant of Vie, Carlson of Schwa, Duffy of Avenues, and the winner, Young of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. Kahan was nominated for outstanding chef (nationwide). Izard and Bayless were nominated as owners of restaurants in categories of best new restaurant and best service, respectively.

                                I think when someone wins they are no longer eligible for subsequent years. Recent past winners for Best Chef - Great Lakes have included Grieveson of Avec in 2010 (when other nominees included Carlson, Sherman, Young, and Arun of Arun's); Symon of Lola in Cleveland in 2009 (Grieveson, Arun, Sherman, Young); and Nahabedian of Naha in 2008 (Bowles of Avenues, Nahabedian, Sherman, Symon, Young).

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  If I had to name the very best meal I've had at any of these, it was at Lola, hands down. Maybe not for sheer creativity - and even that I should qualify by noting that I had a 3-4 course meal there, so it's probably not fair to compare it with a many-course tasting menu at Avenues. But for the ability to serve one dish after another, every one of which was so darn good it made me want to scream "WOW, this is AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS", it's my top pick of all of these, by far.

                                  Anyone who hasn't been there, it's in downtown Cleveland, and if you're lucky enough to get to eat there, don't miss the braised veal cheeks if they're on the menu.

                                  Lola Bistro
                                  2058 East 4th Street
                                  Cleveland OH
                                  216-621-5652
                                  www.lolabistro.com

                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                    I assume Duffy won't be eligible for next year's Beard awards, since he has announced that he is leaving Avenues to open his own standalone place: www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/...

                                    But it wouldn't surprise me to see him in the running the following year!

                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      This is exciting news! Not only will get a great new restaurant, we will also likely get a great new chef at Avenues.

                                      1. re: mountsac

                                        .....it is interesting - some of the things I heard while at dinner at the chef's counter last month made me wonder, and now it is confirmed.

                                        No idea what will happen with Avenues - they'll probably do okay - but whatever Duffy does next will be another reason to visit Chicago. His talents are quite substantial.

                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Avenues will do fine. They cycle through chefs every two to five years. I'm not in the business, but my impression is that it's the perfect place for an up-and-coming chef who wants to make his/her reputation without needing a whole lot of his/her own financial backing. They work there for a few years, become famous, then go off to open their own place. Graham Elliot Bowles did that a few years ago, and now it's Curtis Duffy's turn.

                                          One of the reasons for this is, I think Avenues is owned by the Peninsula in which it resides - I don't know what the financial arrangements are with their chefs but I'm sure there are incentives so that they have a piece of the action, even if it's not actual ownership. But I can only assume every chef wants his or her own restaurant, rather than being an employee in someone else's.

                                  2. re: chicgail

                                    Correct on all accounts.

                                    And yes you can only win it once.

                                    And having been to Lola under Symon (very underwhelmed,) Naha under Nahabedian (enjoyed a lot) and Zingerman's under Young (fun, good, not great) I can say I enjoyed all but Lola better than North Pond.

                                    Regardless, my guess is Beran wins a Beard before Sherman......Carlson too.

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    -----
                                    North Pond
                                    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                                    Naha
                                    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      uhockey - how did you know you can only win it once? It makes a lot of sense though. Because I always wondered why like The French Laundry wasn't nominated every year, although it's "only" won Best Service and Best Wine Service. But Chef Keller won a couple of awards in the chef category.

            2. http://timeoutchicago.com/restaurants...

              2 Replies
              1. re: huiray

                I watched the trainwreck from work. I couldn't get on because I can't install anything but IE here. But I did laugh.

                Will be there with all the others trying today. :-)

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                1. re: uhockey

                  http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2011/07...

              2. So has anybody been to the Tour of Thailand? I saw so many acocunts of the prior French menu, but precious little about this one so far.
                It has begun, yes?