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  • Post #271 - July 25th, 2011, 4:28 pm
    Post #271 - July 25th, 2011, 4:28 pm Post #271 - July 25th, 2011, 4:28 pm
    This is sounding more authentic by the day. I haven't been, but the service and heat issues sound similar to a friend's experience in Chiang Mai.
  • Post #272 - July 25th, 2011, 8:58 pm
    Post #272 - July 25th, 2011, 8:58 pm Post #272 - July 25th, 2011, 8:58 pm
    clogoodie wrote:BTW, I was accidentally given a copy of the 'No Red Meat' menu on my visit. For anybody curious, these were the modifications:

    1st course - Squid replaces fermented sausage


    Interesting. On my visit opening night I was given some kind of grilled strawberry instead of fermented sausage. There was no squid offered.
  • Post #273 - July 26th, 2011, 5:30 pm
    Post #273 - July 26th, 2011, 5:30 pm Post #273 - July 26th, 2011, 5:30 pm
    I haven't had a chance to post my thoughts about Next: Thailand, so instead I'll just link to this blog post by Francis Sadac. It pretty much sums up how disappointed I was with the meal. (Though on the whole, I think I might have liked it even less than he did.) In any case, it is a well-written review, and certainly worth a read.

    --Rich
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #274 - July 26th, 2011, 7:51 pm
    Post #274 - July 26th, 2011, 7:51 pm Post #274 - July 26th, 2011, 7:51 pm
    RAB wrote:I haven't had a chance to post my thoughts about Next: Thailand, so instead I'll just link to this blog post by Francis Sadac. It pretty much sums up how disappointed I was with the meal. (Though on the whole, I think I might have liked it even less than he did.) In any case, it is a well-written review, and certainly worth a read.


    This is a terrific, well-thought out review. I agree with nearly all the sentiments expressed (well, except using Arun's as an example of Chicago's fantastic Thai restaurant scene--though I realize the reviewer is just pointing out that Chicago had one of the first 'white tablecloth' Thai spots). I really don't understand why they didn't play their strengths and put some time of spin (e.g. modern, historic, molecular gastronomy) on the menu. I, too, felt that the coconut dessert was great and an example of how the rest of the menu should have been.
  • Post #275 - July 26th, 2011, 8:29 pm
    Post #275 - July 26th, 2011, 8:29 pm Post #275 - July 26th, 2011, 8:29 pm
    thaiobsessed wrote:
    RAB wrote:I haven't had a chance to post my thoughts about Next: Thailand, so instead I'll just link to this blog post by Francis Sadac. It pretty much sums up how disappointed I was with the meal. (Though on the whole, I think I might have liked it even less than he did.) In any case, it is a well-written review, and certainly worth a read.


    This is a terrific, well-thought out review. I agree with nearly all the sentiments expressed (well, except using Arun's as an example of Chicago's fantastic Thai restaurant scene--though I realize the reviewer is just pointing out that Chicago had one of the first 'white tablecloth' Thai spots). I really don't understand why they didn't play their strengths and put some time of spin (e.g. modern, historic, molecular gastronomy) on the menu. I, too, felt that the coconut dessert was great and an example of how the rest of the menu should have been.

    Knowing your tastes and both of your experiences with authentic Thai food, I can certainly say that I will be going into my Tour of Thailand with lowered expectations, for what it's worth. I purchased tix for August thinking it would give them more than enough time to work out the kinks, and it certainly sounds like there are plenty. I'm not at all comfortable with their decision to leave it to guests to determine - through condiments - how much funk and spice they like. Hot peppers - fine . . . but fish sauce to me is too significant an ingredient to simply choose to provide to diners as a condiment. And a diner paying that much for a meal should not have to keep adding doses of fish sauce to achieve a desired taste. But, I guess I'll find out soon enough as August is coming up quickly.
  • Post #276 - August 1st, 2011, 11:35 am
    Post #276 - August 1st, 2011, 11:35 am Post #276 - August 1st, 2011, 11:35 am
    Just to put in my two cents, I went to Next this weekend and had a fabulous meal, what I would consider the best overall Thai meal I have had. To put that in context, I have had multiple visits enjoying the "secret" menus at TAC Quick, Spoon Thai and Yum Thai, and while I have had amazing dishes at all, I never had a meal that it's sum total would have been equal to Next (although perhaps my second (out of about five) meal at TAC Quick would come very, very close). Then again, I certainly paid a lot more for this meal, and drank more alcohol than I usually would due to the pairings, so that has to be taken into consideration.

    A friend and I actually went with a couple of complete strangers from St. Louis, but one of them was actually from Thailand, so he was a good person to ask about things. He gave us insight into why we got little pink napkins with the appetizers (in Thailand, most places use cheap recycled paper that is dyed pink to hide any impurities). He also said he thought the flavor profile was spot on, although maybe not as spicy as it could be. That being said, he also said he actually does not love it super-hot anyway.

    I honestly thought all of the items were good, with the curry braised beef cheek (which was actually quite spicy) and the coconut dessert being the highlights for me. The weakest dish was the catfish, only in the sense that it just did not have much "pop" in flavors, and so it really did need all of the condiments (particularly the thai chili and fermented shrimp paste) to help it out. Whether that was on purpose or not, I am not quite sure, because the course before basically just introduced the condiments with the rice, almost suggesting that you really need to use these condiments to get the most out of at least the next dish or two. Even the slightly maligned (on this website at least) fermented sausage tasted extremely good to me - I sometimes found the Issan sausage at the local Thai restaurants to almost get overwhelmed in their fermentation. This one had just the right amount of fermented flavor to mix with the galangal, peanut and scallion.

    Service was excellent, and we did get to go back and see the kitchen as well. My friend even bought some of the Half-Acre beers to take home.

    So at least for me, I found the meal worth it, although I think I would have felt much more so had I gone at 9 pm on a Wednesday (when the price is much lower than a weekend date). I am sure many would rather just go to the local Thai places, but I really feel you can have an excellent Thai meal at Next.
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #277 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:37 pm
    Post #277 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:37 pm Post #277 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:37 pm
    Finally going to go to Next tomorrow night, but am wondering about the parking situation in that area. Is there valet? Street? Garage nearby? I'm stuck driving because I'm coming from Evanston (after work) and then back to Berwyn (after dinner).

    Thanks!
  • Post #278 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:45 pm
    Post #278 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:45 pm Post #278 - August 3rd, 2011, 2:45 pm
    tgoddess wrote:Finally going to go to Next tomorrow night, but am wondering about the parking situation in that area. Is there valet? Street? Garage nearby? I'm stuck driving because I'm coming from Evanston (after work) and then back to Berwyn (after dinner).

    Thanks!


    tgoddess, there is indeed valet for...I believe 8 dollars(?), though I've never had an issue parking along either Morgan or Lake, which is not metered.
  • Post #279 - August 3rd, 2011, 3:18 pm
    Post #279 - August 3rd, 2011, 3:18 pm Post #279 - August 3rd, 2011, 3:18 pm
    Just saw this great blog post by Liz Grossman:
    http://elizabites.com/2011/08/03/next-r ... -thailand/
  • Post #280 - August 12th, 2011, 11:02 am
    Post #280 - August 12th, 2011, 11:02 am Post #280 - August 12th, 2011, 11:02 am
    I had my first Next experience last night. Having eaten twice at Alinea, I came away thinking that Next is providing a pared-down Alinea experience; pared down in price, extravagance and length. If you go to Next -- despite whatever incarnation it may be -- for the experience, you will enjoy yourself immensely. As I did.

    If you go ready to pick apart or mentally compare the authenticity of whatever Next is producing, whether it is Thai, French food, or Iceland 2011, you lose. You wouldn't go to Alinea or The French Laundry to focus on whether they're faithfully executing french food; likewise, you don't go to Next to decipher whether Next: Tour of Thailand makes Thai food just like your favorite neighborhood Thai joint. I'm not trying to be apologetic at all, but as with everything, keeping an open mind and good attitude is everything.

    As with Alinea, there's a fair amount of whimsy at Next. Even when you know what the next course will be, the set up -- whether it be a newspaper tablecloth, a stack of small spoons, or the pouring of a cocktail -- is lighthearted. It's meant to be fun. If you didn't think the Thai newspaper and fruity cocktail was a playful homage to eating street food on a hot night, you probably are taking everything too seriously.

    There's no lack of funk. The smell of fish sauce wafts over the room. What you have is a signature deftness in execution. Neighborhood Thai joints are cheap, yes, but the value masks what are all-too-often heavy-handed, or just plain uneven, results. Thai cuisine inherently employs a lot of vibrant flavors (at least vibrant to a Western palate). But I think it would be a mistake to assume that the hottest and funkiest version of a dish is the "best" or the most "authentic" version. As with a corner red sauce Italian joint piling on too much garlic, some of the worst versions of neighborhood Thai stray too far from a balance of sweet, sour, hot and salt. As with every neighborhood restaurant, neighborhood Thai is limited and taxed by kitchen turnover, rush times that pressure the kitchen, or getting slammed trying to balance the economic survival inherent in a delivery/takeout/dining room business model.

    That's where Next comes in. Restaurants like Next attract talented chefs. Chefs like Dave Beran have proven their ability to adapt and execute. The reservations system (for all its flaws) ensures that the kitchen is not going to get slammed. But more than that, the knowledge of classic technique elevates the dining experience. As does the beverage service -- the varied selection of cocktails, wine, beer and rum enhanced every single dish I tasted.

    Two particular courses transcended Next Thai above a neighborhood Thai experience.

    One, the soup. For me, the standouts at every high end restaurant is the execution of soup and sauces. Far from the philosophy of throwing everything in a pot, watering it down and serving it, a great restaurant can be judged by the clarity of a stock that has layers of flavor. The deeply-flavored rabbit consommé I ate at Alinea was easily one of my best bites of 2010. Likewise, the tom yam at Next announced fine dining -- it was a beautifully clarified broth with balanced flavors and a slow lingering heat.

    Two, the relish course. I absolutely loved the experience of taking alternative bites of varyingly funky, sweet, sour and savory umami with sticky rice. (If you thought Next would avoid funk to appease either the young white hipsters or white yuppies, depending upon who you think Next appeals to, take one bite of the duck egg condiment.)

    The servers made an effort to be casual, and were chatty. I talked with one who mentioned the "research" the staff did for Next Thai -- which incidentally (or not so incidentally) included numerous visits to SpACaroy Rice. He mentioned how they begged the kitchens at these places for the funkiest condiments -- one of the owners (I think he said it was at TAC) didn't want to bring out shrimp paste because he was afraid it would make the dining room smell foul. He also made passing reference to Chef Achatz's relunctance toward the funkiest flavors -- I was told that he thought the duck egg condiment finished too strongly, but others disagreed, so there it is, on the table in all its funkiness. In changing Next's theme every three months, the collaborative effort in executing it is obviously that part of the fun. And at the price point, I think it's fair for the restaurant to take some liberties. Some liberties may work, some may not.

    Next Thai is less an introduction to Thai than an introduction to the highest tier of innovative fine dining, the likes of which include Alinea, Per Se, and The French Laundry. If you go expecting that, and allow yourself to be taken along the journey, and focus not whether you can get "better" or cheaper Thai food elsewhere, you'll have a great experience.

    P.S. As for the rosewater-doused dragonfruit -- I think I was the only one who liked this course. But paired with Banks rum, this seemingly motley trio of rose, blandish fruit and hot rum took several bites and sips to enjoy.

    P.P.S. If you don't drink or don't like to drink, and are content to eat Thai food with water or [insert name] beer, then you'll probably miss a large part of this experience. Speaking personally, I greatly enjoyed the beverage pairings and believe that the staff's sometimes unusual choices greatly enhanced the dishes.
    Last edited by aschie30 on August 12th, 2011, 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #281 - August 12th, 2011, 11:09 am
    Post #281 - August 12th, 2011, 11:09 am Post #281 - August 12th, 2011, 11:09 am
    @aschie30. I have already expressed my satisfaction with Next Thai, but I particularly loved your review. I couldn't agree with it more!
  • Post #282 - August 12th, 2011, 11:23 am
    Post #282 - August 12th, 2011, 11:23 am Post #282 - August 12th, 2011, 11:23 am
    aschie30 wrote:you don't go to Next to decipher whether Next: Tour of Thailand makes Thai food just like your favorite neighborhood Thai joint. /takeout/dining room business model.

    I found this quote especially interesting in light of how much of the rest of the post was devoted to exactly the thing you don't go to Next for :wink:
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #283 - August 12th, 2011, 11:42 am
    Post #283 - August 12th, 2011, 11:42 am Post #283 - August 12th, 2011, 11:42 am
    aschie30, it sounds like we're on the same wavelength. I also loved the tom yum soup - it was my favorite course of the night, and I employed all kinds of combinations of bowl tipping & scraping to get to every last drop of soup. I also really enjoyed the condiments "course", but I wish they'd left us alone with the condiments & the basket of rice at least 5 minutes longer so I could've enjoyed trying different combinations of everything.

    However, I think my second-favorite for the night was the very first course, the street food. We both thought the dried shrimp funnel cake was way greasier than it should've been, but loved the funky flavor. I really enjoyed the Isaan sausage (it wasn't as satisfyingly funky as at TAC Quick or Spoon Thai, but it was very well-made & garnished), green curry dumpling (my wife's favorite), and raw shrimp/mint bite... but I thought the grilled banana was just spectacular.

    I ate the banana first, thinking it would be bland, dense & starchy and I'd want to forget it and move on to tastier items. However, when the first bit hit my mouth, I, like Ron Burgundy after jumping into the bear habitat at the zoo, immediately regretted that decision - I realized that I'd inadvertently violated my "best for last" rule. To make matters worse, I liked it so much that I completely forgot to savor it, and devoured it in two bites, and then I was sad. The banana was not at all dense & starchy, and had a subtle sweetness, which played well with the fried garlic slivers and micro-cilantro.

    I also enjoyed the dragonfruit dessert - I thought it was fun to alter its taste by smelling the rose while eating it, chasing it with a nip of the rum, etc.

    My only complaint is that the waiter graciously offered to pack our beef cheek curry leftovers (there was so much, we only ate about 1/3 of it) for us, but when the meal was done we were ushered out & deposited in a taxi with such haste that we left sans beef curry. That sucked, because I was really looking forward to having it for lunch the next day (the waiter said it reheats beautifully).
  • Post #284 - August 12th, 2011, 12:37 pm
    Post #284 - August 12th, 2011, 12:37 pm Post #284 - August 12th, 2011, 12:37 pm
    Must positive reviews of Next Thailand now include criticisms of neighborhood Thai places? I assume it's because the various negative reviews and the consternation expressed before anyone tried Next Thai made the comparison.

    But it's Next that is calling things Thai street food and serving them on newspapers. If this version of Next is a celebration of Thai lowbrow food with high end ingredients and bespoke condiments (no small trick in a condiment-heavy cuisine) I think I get it -- that's a post-modern concept that has been shown to work well in various contexts. Holeman & Finch's cheeseburger comes to mind and is a true, non-ironic tribute. But if part of the Next Thailand mission is to show what can really be done with Thai food when highly trained Western chefs apply superior Western technique, then I get lost again. Technique is something that is far from lacking in the Thai kitchen, but it's Thai technique. And it doesn't seem as if Next Paris's mission focused on improvement. To the contrary, Next went to great lengths to recreate historical conditions down to the duck press, no? Also, from my armchair it sounds as if Next Thailand has both improved over time and become more "authentic" (which might or might not converge) which is unsurprising.

    This has been interesting.
  • Post #285 - August 12th, 2011, 12:42 pm
    Post #285 - August 12th, 2011, 12:42 pm Post #285 - August 12th, 2011, 12:42 pm
    JeffB wrote:
    This has been interesting.



    I agree. I've gone from wanting to go, to not interested, to wanting to go again!

    The comparisons to neighborhood Thai does not bother me, and I'd rather get that data.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #286 - August 12th, 2011, 12:49 pm
    Post #286 - August 12th, 2011, 12:49 pm Post #286 - August 12th, 2011, 12:49 pm
    aschie30 wrote:P.S. As for the rosewater-doused dragonfruit -- I think I was the only one who liked this course. But paired with Banks rum, this seemingly motley trio of rose, blandish fruit and hot rum took several bites and sips to enjoy.

    I'll write a little later on my recent meal at Next, but I was also a big fan of the dragonfruit. By itself, I've always found dragonfruit to be rather boring, but I enjoyed it paired with the rosewater.
  • Post #287 - August 12th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    Post #287 - August 12th, 2011, 12:56 pm Post #287 - August 12th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    Vital Information wrote:
    JeffB wrote:
    This has been interesting.



    I agree. I've gone from wanting to go, to not interested, to wanting to go again!



    Me too. Now I'll just call the place and make a reservation! Oh, wait.
  • Post #288 - August 12th, 2011, 12:59 pm
    Post #288 - August 12th, 2011, 12:59 pm Post #288 - August 12th, 2011, 12:59 pm
    JeffB wrote:Must positive reviews of Next Thailand now include criticisms of neighborhood Thai places? I assume it's because the various negative reviews and the consternation expressed before anyone tried Next Thai made the comparison.


    I think that's correct. But I'm less criticizing the neighborhood places rather than pointing out that they're operating on a different plane than Next.

    JeffB wrote:But it's Next that is calling things Thai street food and serving them on newspapers. If this version of Next is a celebration of Thai lowbrow food with high end ingredients and bespoke condiments (no small trick in a condiment-heavy cuisine) I think I get it -- that's a post-modern concept that has been shown to work well in various contexts. Holeman & Finch's cheeseburger comes to mind and is a true, non-ironic tribute. But if part of the Next Thailand mission is to show what can really be done with Thai food when highly trained Western chefs apply superior Western technique, then I get lost again. Technique is something that is far from lacking in the Thai kitchen, but it's Thai technique. And it doesn't seem as if Next Paris's mission focused on improvement. To the contrary, Next went to great lengths to recreate historical conditions down to the duck press, no? Also, from my armchair it sounds as if Next Thailand has both improved over time and become more "authentic" (which might or might not converge) which is unsurprising.


    I would say none of the above. It's neither a celebration of street food nor an attempt to apply Western techniques in an effort to improve the cuisine, nor is a post-modern tribute to low-brow cuisine. It is simply Next's staging of a Thai dinner, however they see it. Naturally, as Next involves highly-trained [Mid]Western chefs, that will show through at various points during the meal. Whatever Next does next will likewise be their vision of that theme, and reflect the people behind it.

    This is getting to my overall point -- there's a good deal of overanalysis here, especially as regards the Tour of Thailand. When you dine at upper tier restaurants with prix fixe menus, it's implicit that you're giving yourself over to the kitchen, and letting them take you along on a journey, how they envision the meal. The kitchen curates the process. There is certainly a bit of theater at work, to be sure. But I don't think there are larger meanings other than that, every three months, Next takes on a new theme, and the kitchen stretches themselves a bit (and maybe takes some liberties) executing it. Next isn't cheap -- but that it is a fraction of Alinea's prices permits them some latitude and lightheartedness.
  • Post #289 - August 12th, 2011, 1:28 pm
    Post #289 - August 12th, 2011, 1:28 pm Post #289 - August 12th, 2011, 1:28 pm
    Vital Information wrote:
    JeffB wrote:
    This has been interesting.



    I agree. I've gone from wanting to go, to not interested, to wanting to go again!

    The comparisons to neighborhood Thai does not bother me, and I'd rather get that data.


    I went from wanting to go, to not wanting to go, to still not wanting to go. I loved Paris 1906 but I still haven't been convinced this is worth it, from a monetary standpoint at least...

    I'll stop here. I don't want to criticism police to be all over me for talking about a restaurant I haven't been to.
    Last edited by TCK on August 12th, 2011, 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #290 - August 12th, 2011, 1:31 pm
    Post #290 - August 12th, 2011, 1:31 pm Post #290 - August 12th, 2011, 1:31 pm
    Well, Next comes to us from a group with a lot of vision, thought, deliberateness and marketing savvy. I understand and appreciate your interpretation, but I feel as if Next owes its adoring public an explanation -- like the rather more clear one we got about the Paris experiment. Why even say it's Thai? Let it be completely defined by the experience.

    I'm just going to think of this as Achatz and cos.' Hot Dog, the Led Zeppelin rockabilly oddity -- a fun bit of dabbling (but respectful) bravura nodding to works from other branches of the medium admired by the artist. Definitely nothing that should be taken too seriously or read as a mockery (as maybe I did at first).
  • Post #291 - August 12th, 2011, 1:43 pm
    Post #291 - August 12th, 2011, 1:43 pm Post #291 - August 12th, 2011, 1:43 pm
    JeffB wrote:I'm just going to think of this as Achatz and cos.' Hot Dog, the Led Zeppelin rockabilly oddity -- a fun bit of dabbling (but respectful) bravura nodding to works from other branches of the medium admired by the artist. Definitely nothing that should be taken too seriously or read as a mockery (as maybe I did at first).


    I think that's about right. If Achatz, Beran & Co. do El Bulli next, my hunch is that you'll see a good deal more seriousness in the execution of the vision, as that's more in their wheelhouse. Having said that, there are plenty of signature shades of Alinea apparent in the Tour of Thailand that make it worthy of respect and attention (the soup, coconut dessert and dragonfruit come to mind).
  • Post #292 - August 12th, 2011, 1:49 pm
    Post #292 - August 12th, 2011, 1:49 pm Post #292 - August 12th, 2011, 1:49 pm
    I enjoyed my Thai meal at Next very much, though, there were certain courses that didn't entirely please me.

    I loved the 'street food' course, with the exception of the already much-picked-over dumpling, which was a bit heavy and bland. The other items in that course -- sweet shrimp, fermented sausage, prawn cake and roasted bananas -- were all very delicious.

    Other stand-outs were the tender, flavorful and fiery beef cheek, which was, for me, the trump course of the meal. I also loved the Half Acre Horizon Ale with which it was paired. As it turns out, the mangosteen in this brew is being sourced from my company, though I had no knowledge of this until after the initial sale was made. Next is also now purchasing this item from us and even though I'm not really sure how it's being used, I feel that I should disclose this.

    The rice and relishes course was almost equally fantastic as the beef cheek. I don't want to belabor the comparison between Next and "neighborhood" Thai joints but I don't know of any neighborhood spots that offer a similar dish. The relishes were delicious and I appreciated the obvious care and quality of ingredients that went into them. I also really liked the catfish course. It was a very distilled dish but essentially flawless in its execution and so tasty, we asked for more rice so that we could enjoy every last drop of the caramel sauce that was served with it.

    The hot and sour broth was named appropriately in that for me, it wasn't tom yum. As others have said, it lacked the funk and body that tom yum usually possesses. It was sour and delicious, though. And, the brilliantly-cooked and delicious pork belly in the soup elevated it and made me appreciate the kitchen's take on the dish.

    I did not care at all for the dragonfruit and rose water dessert. I really don't like rose water and am not much of a fan of dragonfruit. Combine this with the fact that I was beyond full by the time it was served and it just wasn't something I could really eat. I tasted it, for reference, and that was about it. I enjoyed the coconut dessert much more and ate as much of it as I could before I maxxed out. For me, the highlight of the dessert courses was the icy-cold shot of Banks rum, which is a favorite of mine. It was great to experience it in such an unfamiliar context.

    Like many others have said, I think that comparisons between Next and neighborhood spots are largely irrelevant. They were shooting for something entirely different and I think they hit the mark, while taking some risks getting there. I can't say that I enjoyed Thailand more than Paris (another irrelevant comparison?) but I enjoyed the meal quite a bit and look forward to experiencing it again (invited by a friend for later this week) now knowing what to expect.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #293 - August 12th, 2011, 2:09 pm
    Post #293 - August 12th, 2011, 2:09 pm Post #293 - August 12th, 2011, 2:09 pm
    Has anyone eaten at the kitchen table or know what the additional courses/experiences are?
  • Post #294 - August 12th, 2011, 3:05 pm
    Post #294 - August 12th, 2011, 3:05 pm Post #294 - August 12th, 2011, 3:05 pm
    TCK wrote:Has anyone eaten at the kitchen table or know what the additional courses/experiences are?

    Per Sula's article (linked in a previous post), it sounds like som tum w/ blue crab meat served in a crab shell and pad thai are two extra kitchen table-only courses.

    Instead of a green table runner, you get a horoscope/god tablecloth. Also, while dining with my fellow hoi polloi at a two-top on Wednesday, I overheard a waiter telling another table that the kitchen table gets better serving ware (a silver platter instead of a wooden board for the street food course was the example he mentioned), special gold-rimmed china, and antique flatware. Finally, the kitchen table gets a som tum-making demo.
  • Post #295 - August 12th, 2011, 3:47 pm
    Post #295 - August 12th, 2011, 3:47 pm Post #295 - August 12th, 2011, 3:47 pm
    Thanks.

    And +1 for hoi poilloi. Haven't seen that word used since my high school AP European History teacher. :)
  • Post #296 - August 12th, 2011, 7:06 pm
    Post #296 - August 12th, 2011, 7:06 pm Post #296 - August 12th, 2011, 7:06 pm
    Any ideas how we can score some tix for the Thai menu before it's too late? We're looking for 3 but 2 is OK too. I signed up on their site and all that but haven't figured this all out yet!
  • Post #297 - August 12th, 2011, 9:45 pm
    Post #297 - August 12th, 2011, 9:45 pm Post #297 - August 12th, 2011, 9:45 pm
    j0emv wrote:Any ideas how we can score some tix for the Thai menu before it's too late? We're looking for 3 but 2 is OK too. I signed up on their site and all that but haven't figured this all out yet!

    3 thoughts:

    1) Same day tables are released regularly via Next's facebook page.
    2) I've been told that there are also some tickets sold on Craigs List.
    3) Keep an eye on this thread. On at least 3 occasions recently, LTHers have offered tickets here at face value. Once the tickets sold, we removed the posts.

    Hope that helps,

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #298 - August 12th, 2011, 9:49 pm
    Post #298 - August 12th, 2011, 9:49 pm Post #298 - August 12th, 2011, 9:49 pm
    j0emv wrote:Any ideas how we can score some tix for the Thai menu before it's too late? We're looking for 3 but 2 is OK too. I signed up on their site and all that but haven't figured this all out yet!
    You can only have 2, 4 or 6 (kitchen table). Just to add to what ronnie has said, look at their facebook page, many people sell their tickets there.
  • Post #299 - August 13th, 2011, 4:47 pm
    Post #299 - August 13th, 2011, 4:47 pm Post #299 - August 13th, 2011, 4:47 pm
    I left Next's Tour of Thailand with a smile on my face, but I know that my memories of the meal will fade far quicker than my memories of Next's Escoffier menu. The gougeres, egg with truffle, brioche with foies gras, the sole and crawfish and the sauce that left me wanting to lick the plate, that duck that left everyone talking about the duck press, and finally the lamb. I left Next in April believing I had just had one of the best French meals I had ever tasted. But whereas I enjoyed Next's Tour of Thailand, it was more largely based upon the wonderful service, the terrific cocktails and the friends with whom I had the pleasure of sharing the meal.

    So much discussion of the Tour of Thailand menu focuses on whether or not one should compare the meal with that served at the likes of Aroy, Spoon, TAC Quick, Sticky Rice, and the like. But don't we always make comparisons of like dishes we've tasted? We order a menu item, we remember a restaurant where we tasted the very best version of that dish, and when served a similar version we compare: whether we enjoyed it more, and why.

    It was these type comparisons that left me slightly underwhelmed by the food at Next's Tour of Thailand. Of the street food items, my favorite was the prawn cake and I could have eaten several of them. I loved the flavor and the crispy texture. Was it greasy? Yes, but one thing I learned in Thailand, particularly Bangkok, is that Thais don't seem to at all mind extra greasy fried items. You just need something to wash down the grease.

    But none of the other street food items excited me. The steamed bun looked nice and was plenty hot, but was dry, very doughy and with too little filling to taste much of the green curry. The sweet shrimp was tasty, but a little slimy. And how can I not compare it to the raw shrimp dishes I've had at the local Thai joints? Did Next prepare it in such a way as to make this dish something largely unrecognizable? No. The fermented sausage definitely tasted quite fermented. But unfortunately I didn't get the fatty richness or depth of flavors of the sausages I've tasted throughout Chiang Mai and even in Chicago. Instead, mostly just sour came through. And the roasted banana was a nice treat, but really just fluff in my book and nothing that I'll recall a few weeks from now. The presentation was beautiful and clever, and that was not at all lost on me. But I wasn't oohing and aahing like I was with the Escoffier menu - not even close.

    Then the hot and sour broth with pork belly. I enjoyed this dish, and was impressed by the spicy heat of the broth. Certainly spicier than I had anticipated. My pork belly was not crisp as others have described, but it was still rich and enjoyable, although I can't say that I was wowed by the soup. I also enjoyed the pastes and dips. The duck egg was very creamy, although I would have liked a little more funk.

    The catfish was cooked perfectly, but I found the flavors of the sauce to be a bit too restrained and I found myself adding heat and funk. In that respect, I thought there was a little too much work required of the diner. The beef cheek was so tender and flavorful and I really enjoyed the curry sauce. No complaints here at all. Was it the best curry I've ever tasted? No way, but it was still very good. Again, I added the peppers and fish sauce to the curry.

    The one dish that really floored me with its taste, beauty and overall excitement was the coconut dessert. It was just magnificent - beautiful to stare at, even better to taste. And it was with this dessert where I felt for the first time all evening that the kitchen really put their own unique spin on Thai flavors. Throughout the meal, I felt left to compare the food to similar food I've tasted elsewhere because I did not see dramatic differences in concepts. I couldn't do the same with this dessert.

    And as I noted above, I appear to be one of the few that enjoyed the dragonfruit. I've always been a sucker for rosewater, and I thought it paired well with the otherwise bland (but beautiful) dragonfruit. However, the iced tea finale was a little too sweet for me.

    As for the alcoholic drink pairings, I loved them. And I can't wait to get hold of Half Acre's Horizon Ale when (and if) it is offered to the public. And the entire staff at Next could not be any better.

    But ultimately I was somewhat underwhelmed by the flavors of Next's Tour of Thailand. I wish they had taken more liberties with Thai flavors as they did with the coconut dessert. Too many items seemed like lesser versions of Thai dishes I've tasted in Thailand and Chicago, and I would have appreciated more of an re-interpretation of Thai food, incorporating some or many of the flavors. Was conquering Thai food in so little time just too difficult a project? Did classic French training get in the way? Is the kitchen at Next just not in love with Thai food? These are thoughts that have gone through my head. That's not to say that the food was bad - not at all. I enjoyed the food, but I will not remember it. I will remember the great service and the enjoyable evening. And I'll hope that the food I enjoy at Next this fall will come closer in quality to the Escoffier menu than to the Tour of Thailand menu.
  • Post #300 - August 25th, 2011, 6:32 am
    Post #300 - August 25th, 2011, 6:32 am Post #300 - August 25th, 2011, 6:32 am
    Ended up buying second hand Next ticket with wine pairings. Should I downgrade to alcoholic beverages for a more interesting meal? Appreciate any thoughts.

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