Started the meal off with a gift from the kitchen. Not your typical amuse bouche.
Again, I have been delinquent with my review of restaurants and recipes. My apologies. I had the pleasure of going to NEXT Restaurant a couple weeks ago for their new Fall-Winter menu, entitled Childhood. The basic concept of this menu was to create dishes that evoked memories of childhood foods and tastes, except with a more creative and upscale twist to it. Overall, I thought the meal was very enjoyable — there were some courses that were truly creative and masterfully prepared, while other courses were mediocre and a bit disappointing. However, I’ve heard (from one of my law school professors, coincidentally) that the restaurant continues to evolve it’s menu throughout the season, usually for the better. I am not sure if the meal was worth $130-150 (including tax and tip, depending on when you go) per person, but if you have the disposable income and are looking for a fun, fancy dinner, this is a great place to start your night (dinner runs about 3 hours, so you might spend most of your night here). [FYI -- I would not recommend the non-alcoholic drink pairings, which at $50pp was definitely NOT worth it.]
PB&J — roasted peanut, pomegranate, tempura [having to "unwrap" a box to get to your food was a really cool concept. as for the actual food, there was creamy peanut butter inside the tempura shell, but I didn't taste any "jelly." the peanut crumble was also a bit too salty for my tastes.]
Chicken ‘Noodle’ Soup — carrot, onion, parsley [nothing too special about this dish; just a chicken soup with some vegetables and a few small strands of noodles]
Fish -n- Chips — meyer lemon, malt, walleye [certainly nothing wrong with "playing" with your food by drawing something out. the "chips" here were the memorable part of this dish. the fish lacked flavor and was a bit cold (not sure if that was intended or not)]
Mac & Cheese — various toppings [a creative dish in terms of providing various toppings around the mac and cheese, and also tasted great -- al dente pasta with a creamy, rich cheese]
Autumn — variety of vegetables [easily my favorite dish of the night. the presentation was amazing, both in sight and smell (leaves under the glass plate are set on fire to evoke a smoky, campfire like smell). the vegetables were prepared in a variety of ways to provide great texture and flavor to the dish. I wish I knew more about this dish, but it was great.]
Hamburger — short rib, ketchup, sesame bun [a "deconstructed" hamburger with all of the fixings. the short rib tasted great -- only thing I didn't like was that there wasn't enough short rib!]
School Lunch – beef jerky, apple leather, truffle oreo, onion chip, pudding, mixed berry drink [this course was more about presentation (getting an old-school lunch box filled with snacks and a note from "mom & dad") than about the taste of the contents inside. the snacks were generally not very good -- only thing that I would actually want to eat again would be the apple leather (think, fruit roll up)]
“Foie”sting — older donuts, foie gras, cinnamon [generally, any dish that has foie gras in it is something I will like. this was no exception. foie gras was blended into the frosting, and the donuts were sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. yum.]
Campfire — sweet potato, marshmallow, bourbon ice cream [not sure if any dish I've ever had rivals with this dessert's presentation. the "logs" in the campfire are made from sweet potato, and the logs are actually lit on fire and brought to your table. not the best tasting sweet potatoes, but such a creative dish. bourbon ice cream was great.]
9 course meal if you count the first “gift” from the chef. Definitely more than enough food to fulfill your appetite, although, part of that is due to the pacing between the courses (my friends and I were still hungry till about halfway through the meal). Looking forward to the El Bulli menu during NEXT’s upcoming season.
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Winston’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars (for the Childhood menu)