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  • Post #301 - August 25th, 2011, 7:58 am
    Post #301 - August 25th, 2011, 7:58 am Post #301 - August 25th, 2011, 7:58 am
    Marija wrote:Ended up buying second hand Next ticket with wine pairings. Should I downgrade to alcoholic beverages for a more interesting meal? Appreciate any thoughts.


    If I were you, I would definitely downgrade to beverage pairing. Eating street food served on a newspaper while drinking wine is just odd (though I am sure they can pull it off, matching-wise).
  • Post #302 - August 25th, 2011, 8:23 am
    Post #302 - August 25th, 2011, 8:23 am Post #302 - August 25th, 2011, 8:23 am
    Marija wrote:Ended up buying second hand Next ticket with wine pairings. Should I downgrade to alcoholic beverages for a more interesting meal? Appreciate any thoughts.


    If you do change your beverage choice, they will not refund the difference in price. Also, any requests for a different set of pairings are subject to availability.
    best,
    dan
  • Post #303 - August 25th, 2011, 9:09 am
    Post #303 - August 25th, 2011, 9:09 am Post #303 - August 25th, 2011, 9:09 am
    Marija wrote:Ended up buying second hand Next ticket with wine pairings. Should I downgrade to alcoholic beverages for a more interesting meal? Appreciate any thoughts.


    In case you didn't see this, here are some thoughts: viewtopic.php?p=380789#p380789
  • Post #304 - August 25th, 2011, 11:09 am
    Post #304 - August 25th, 2011, 11:09 am Post #304 - August 25th, 2011, 11:09 am
    Went to Next:Thailand last night and had the beverage pairing(which except for the ice from the punch getting spilled on me) was all spot on. Two wines were included in the beverage pairing. One was a Spanish white wine that accompanied the catfish dish. The other was a Moscato that came with the coconut. Some of the other beverage pairings included the above stated punch, "gin and juice"(the servers description of the gin, chrysanthemum, lemongrass and lychee drink) that came with the Tom Yum, and a shot of a blended rum with the dragon fruit course.

    However, the real star of the beverage pairing for me was the 750ml bottle of Horizon, brewed by Half Acre. This ale was brewed with mangosteens and hibiscus and was made specially for Next and paired with the beef cheek curry dish. It was well balanced beer with a slightly floral smell that matched well with the curry dish.

    Our server, obviously noting my satisfaction with the drink, told us that they sell bottles(750ml) of it to diners at Next and at the Aviary for $12 a piece. I picked up two of them and plan on popping one open the next time I get Thai.
  • Post #305 - August 25th, 2011, 11:24 am
    Post #305 - August 25th, 2011, 11:24 am Post #305 - August 25th, 2011, 11:24 am
    Souvenirs ...
  • Post #306 - August 27th, 2011, 11:12 am
    Post #306 - August 27th, 2011, 11:12 am Post #306 - August 27th, 2011, 11:12 am
    My second Tour of Thailand, exactly 3 weeks after the first one, had been fine-tuned on just about every level. As much as I enjoyed the first trek, the second one rose well above the level of my initial expectations. Food and service had both been tightened up noticebly and frankly, as I diner I was better prepared for round 2. My first meal started at 10 pm, an hour about which I was excited. But after the second experience, a 6:30 start time, I realized that perhaps, even for me, a 10 pm launch was too late to fully enjoy the experience.

    Image
    Punch | Batavia Arrack, Szigeti Sekt, guava, mango, papaya


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    Streetfood, Part 1 | roasted banana, prawn cake, sweet shrimp, fermented sausage, steamed bun


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    Fermented Sausage


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    Steamed Bun
    I really "got it" this time. The bun was piping hot and the filling was flavorful and moist.


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    Roasted Banana


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    Prawn Cake


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    Streetfood, Part 2 | Grill Box
    We were told that these grill boxes were given to Next by chef Michael Carlson of Schwa. At our first meal, it seemed more like a showpiece than anything else. This time, the box was throwing some serious heat and the skewers were sizzling atop the grate.


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    Grill Box | squid, chicken heart, strawberry


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    Tabletop
    After the streetfood courses were concluded, the table was re-set with these orange cloths. We were told that in Thai culture, each day of the week is represented by a different God and that each God has its own color. Apparently, Thursday is orange.

    After the table was re-set, we were summoned to the kitchen, where chef Dave Beran demo'd the som tum course for us . . .

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    Chef Beran begins the som tum by creating a paste from chilis and garlic


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    Mise en place


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    Once the paste is properly formed, in a rough mortar, it's set aside


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    Green Papaya is sliced lengthwise and then sliced again into strips


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    Green Mango is handled similarly to the papaya shown above, while Gypsy Boy looks on
    I found it impressive that after we were in the kitchen, our beverages were brought to us to sip during the demo.


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    The fruit and other ingredients (long beans, heirloom tomatoes, etc.) are placed in a second, smooth mortar and bruised
    The bruising conditions the fruit to hold the dressing.


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    The ingredients are mixed together in the final step of salad preparation


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    The Som Tom is placed into the serving vessels; empty crab shells


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    Som Tum | green papaya, green mango, salted crab
    Prager Steinriegel, Federspiel, Wachau, Austria 2008


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    Hot & Sour Broth | pork belly, tomato, ginger
    Itsas Mendi, Hondarrabi Zuri, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain 2010
    This soup was nothing short of glorious this time around. It was tart, sweet, spicy, funky and well-rounded. The crispy, unctuous pork belly was brilliant again.


    Image
    (Rice and) Relishes | salted duck egg, green mango, white radish (front)
    I cannot say enough about this course, which blew me away both times through. I've never had anything like it and the relishes were all delicious, especially when paired with the tender, aromatic jasmine rice.


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    Relish | chili, shallot, garlic


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    Relish | tamarind, garlic, mint leaf


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    Relish | pickles


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    Relish | banana pepper, cucumber, chili, dried anchovy


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    Catfish | caramel sauce, celery, coriander root
    I guess this course is the most polarizing course of the Thai menu in that it's been mentioned that it isn't really Thai. I'm definitely not knowledgeable enough to comment on that but it's delicious in its own right. The inclusion of the coriander root made it special for me. The caramel sauce was addictive and the little onions, which were deftly pickled, provided a nice, acidic counterpoint.


    Image
    Beef Cheek | curry, peanut, nutmeg, kaffir lime
    Half Acre, Horizon Ale, Chicago, IL
    This dish was probably my favorite. I loved the ultra-tender cheek and the curry was fiery, rich and complex.


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    Watermelon-Lemongrass Elixir
    I loved this refreshing sipper, which bridged from savory to sweet.


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    Coconut
    Dessert, soon to be revealed.


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    Coconut | corn, egg, licorice
    Cusumano, Moscato Dello Zucco, Sicily 2007
    Damn! I scraped this coconut half completely clean. This dessert, which I thought had improved greatly since our previous visit, was spectacular.


    Image
    Coconut | sorbet
    Quite refreshing but the "other half" was the star of this course.


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    Dragonfruit | rose
    Beautiful but this is just not my thing. Still, I appreciate the fact that it's being served and being served in a way with which chef has a genuine connection. To me, this dish is a welcome risk that just didn't work for me personally.


    Image
    Banks Rum
    I love Banks and love where it's positioned in the meal. A great call.


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    Tea | rooibos, palm sugar, milk
    Very tasty but since I'm scared of caffeine, I took a sip and called it a night. However, I should have just asked about it because I've since come to learn that rooibos is caffeine-free. Oh well, next time. :)

    My meal was delicious and entirely satisfying. Going a second time brought to light a couple of thoughts. First, knowing what to expect really helped me enjoy this meal more than the first one. The first time through, I was more focused on what course was coming next than anything else. It's just my nature to do that. It's similar to seeing a movie for the first time, when I'm mostly focused on the plot. Upon subsequent viewings, the nuances, craftsmanship and other details come into more clear light. That's when I can really appreciate them. I think that was also true here. I knew what to expect, so I didn't have to focus on that aspect at all. Instead, I was able to concentrate on and appreciate details that went past me on the first visit.

    Secondly, I believe there was some empirical improvement in the meal and service. And why should there not be? It makes perfect sense, especially given the time frame, that in a 3-month run, things will improve later in the schedule. I think the staff at Next will, given the very nature of what it is, live in a state of permanent unsettledness. What an eternal challenge this will be for them. At the beginning of a menu, there are countless details -- both predictable and unforeseen -- that need to be ironed out. Then, just as the service reaches perfection, it's jettisonned for whatever comes next. As others have written, this is the only kitchen that could pull this off. Really, all it takes is an immensely talented and dedicated chef who's willing to work 18-hour days and a team who believes in him enough to follow him into battle day after day. Together, they roll that boulder up the hill over and over again and give their task meaning. In doing so, they distinguish themselves as excpetional in a universe populated by immensely talented people.

    =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 #307 - August 27th, 2011, 11:46 am
    Post #307 - August 27th, 2011, 11:46 am Post #307 - August 27th, 2011, 11:46 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Very tasty but since I'm scared of caffeine, I took a sip and called it a night. However, I should have just asked about it because I've since come to learn that rooibos is caffeine-free.

    Indeed, the rooibos plant is a member of the legume family, and the resulting beverage would probably more appropriately be called a "tisane".
  • Post #308 - August 27th, 2011, 2:59 pm
    Post #308 - August 27th, 2011, 2:59 pm Post #308 - August 27th, 2011, 2:59 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:My second Tour of Thailand...

    After reading your post, I feel like I just had my second Tour of Thailand as well - excellent photos and descriptions!
  • Post #309 - August 27th, 2011, 3:43 pm
    Post #309 - August 27th, 2011, 3:43 pm Post #309 - August 27th, 2011, 3:43 pm
    Great pictures! Some of my favorites on LTH in some time.

    The post brings up a couple of interesting points. One, you enjoyed your meal more having gone a first time, but alas, that sort of tasting curve is out of reach for most folks, for practical and other reasons. Two, you've noticed what my friend noticed with the Paris meal, namely that the food preparation, etc., improved as the menu stuck around. Both observations unfortunately highlight a paradox of the Next model, that the more time we as diners have with the food and the more time the restaurant itself has with the food, the better the food gets. And yet Next is designed to move on each time it hits its stride, which is a bit like self-hobbling and certainly a frustration not faced by conventional restaurants. Not sure how either diner or kitchen benefits from the novelty.
  • Post #310 - August 27th, 2011, 7:48 pm
    Post #310 - August 27th, 2011, 7:48 pm Post #310 - August 27th, 2011, 7:48 pm
    Fantastic photos! My wife and I went on Wed. night and enjoyed the meal immensely. However, it looks like you got a couple courses that we did not. Were you in the chef's table? The 2nd street food course and the som tom were not part of our dinner...
  • Post #311 - August 28th, 2011, 10:47 am
    Post #311 - August 28th, 2011, 10:47 am Post #311 - August 28th, 2011, 10:47 am
    Vitesse98 wrote:Great pictures! Some of my favorites on LTH in some time.

    The post brings up a couple of interesting points. One, you enjoyed your meal more having gone a first time, but alas, that sort of tasting curve is out of reach for most folks, for practical and other reasons. Two, you've noticed what my friend noticed with the Paris meal, namely that the food preparation, etc., improved as the menu stuck around. Both observations unfortunately highlight a paradox of the Next model, that the more time we as diners have with the food and the more time the restaurant itself has with the food, the better the food gets. And yet Next is designed to move on each time it hits its stride, which is a bit like self-hobbling and certainly a frustration not faced by conventional restaurants. Not sure how either diner or kitchen benefits from the novelty.

    I think the benefit is somewhat intangible...the same way art's benefit is intangible. The restaurant is treading on almost entirely new ground and the diners get to experience it, without a net, as it were. They get to experience menus that will never be offered anywhere else. When I used to follow the Grateful Dead, the music was usually excellent and always at least very good but for me, the most compelling part of the experience was that no 2 shows were the same. The set lists varied from night to night and even songs that were played at more than one show on a given tour were different each time. At Next, the same is true. No 2 menus will be the same and once they're gone, they're gone forever. There's little or no chance that these menus will ever be available again or anywhere else, so on that level, there's tremendous value...at least for food geeks.

    The staff benefits from stretching themselves in a way that hasn't really been taken on before. They expand their skills and range of experience. In the end, I believe this will make them better at what they do and will likely lead to smoother transitions between menus in the future. The more they do it, the more adept they will become, and the better they become, the more adventurous they can be in menu-planning. The more risks they can take and the more new ground they can cover, the better the experience will be for the diner.

    Now, all this said, while I think there's certainly benefit in experiencing one of these menus early, if I could only go once, I'd try to go later in the run. This time around I got lucky in that 2 friends invited me to their tables. But if I could only do it once, I'd opt for some time in month 3 of a given menu. Still, as I mentioned above, I believe that the longer Next chugs along, the better the early experiences they provide will be.

    blipsman wrote:Fantastic photos! My wife and I went on Wed. night and enjoyed the meal immensely. However, it looks like you got a couple courses that we did not. Were you in the chef's table? The 2nd street food course and the som tom were not part of our dinner...

    Not at the Kitchen Table but being a loyal, long-time customer of Alinea and a friend of the house, every once in a while we get some off-menu items. From what I understand, the only dish being offered at the KT that we haven't had over our 2 visits is the Pad Thai.

    =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 #312 - August 28th, 2011, 4:05 pm
    Post #312 - August 28th, 2011, 4:05 pm Post #312 - August 28th, 2011, 4:05 pm
    It's unfortunate you compared the restaurant to a band that played without a net and was often terrible, sometimes for years at a stretch. :wink: That said, I'd love to eat at a restaurant operating at a Europe '72 level. Next is more like Dark Star Orchestra.
  • Post #313 - August 28th, 2011, 6:33 pm
    Post #313 - August 28th, 2011, 6:33 pm Post #313 - August 28th, 2011, 6:33 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:It's unfortunate you compared the restaurant to a band that played without a net and was often terrible, sometimes for years at a stretch. :wink:

    Ouch!

    Vitesse98 wrote:That said, I'd love to eat at a restaurant operating at a Europe '72 level. Next is more like Dark Star Orchestra.

    Well, you almost redeemed yourself. :wink:

    =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 #314 - August 31st, 2011, 8:45 am
    Post #314 - August 31st, 2011, 8:45 am Post #314 - August 31st, 2011, 8:45 am
    Does anyone know the price difference in the drink pairings vs. the standard wine pairings?
  • Post #315 - August 31st, 2011, 10:18 am
    Post #315 - August 31st, 2011, 10:18 am Post #315 - August 31st, 2011, 10:18 am
    jfibro wrote:Does anyone know the price difference in the drink pairings vs. the standard wine pairings?


    If memory serves: Non-alcoholic is $38/person. Alcoholic pairings are $58/person. Wine pairings are $70/person.
  • Post #316 - August 31st, 2011, 7:22 pm
    Post #316 - August 31st, 2011, 7:22 pm Post #316 - August 31st, 2011, 7:22 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    Vitesse98 wrote:It's unfortunate you compared the restaurant to a band that played without a net and was often terrible, sometimes for years at a stretch. :wink:

    Ouch!

    Vitesse98 wrote:That said, I'd love to eat at a restaurant operating at a Europe '72 level. Next is more like Dark Star Orchestra.

    Well, you almost redeemed yourself. :wink:

    =R=


    So Next is a (pretty good) cover band? I don't think so. I'd give it more credit than that.
  • Post #317 - September 4th, 2011, 6:04 pm
    Post #317 - September 4th, 2011, 6:04 pm Post #317 - September 4th, 2011, 6:04 pm
    Given the wealth of comments on Next's Thai menu, I will be brief (and begin by noting that because I was in California I did not partake in Paris 1906). The first thing that struck me was how informal Next was. Perhaps this was my misunderstanding, but given the style of service and the space, it seemed a more energetic location than is Alinea say, or even Moto next door. It had the buzz of a more modest place, and as a result the very high quality of the dishes were a pleasant surprise, even if one could see how they lacked the subtlety of Alinea, Trotter, etc. My meal was excellent, even thought I stop short of suggesting that it was transformative.

    It struck me that Next-Thai is the anti Arun (which, contrary to some on this board, I genuinely admire). Arun attempts to upgrade Thai-food to make the claim that Thai food can reach gourmet heights (it succeeds, in my opinion, with the appetizers and desserts in particular), and the atmosphere at Arun has none of the buzz at Next. It is as sedate as any four-star restaurant. But the theme at Arun's is to demonstrate that Thai food can be four-stars.

    Next reverses this. They take four-star cooks and attempt to provide high-grade street food. There is no street food at Arun's. As stellar artists, Chefs Dave and Grant largely succeed - beef cheeks were outstanding, for example. They add their personal touches to a rendition of what otherwise would be modest dishes. In other words, the two restaurants are working in opposite directions. Arun cooks European food with Thai sensibility (the entrees are more upgraded Thai dishes), while Next cooks Thai food with a modernist sensibility. I suspect that Next could only have succeeded because they build off the success and knowledge of Thai food in Chicago. And this in turn is the challenge to Arun's because we in 2011 we now know the possibilities of Thai cuisine, those goals seem less compelling.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #318 - September 12th, 2011, 10:15 am
    Post #318 - September 12th, 2011, 10:15 am Post #318 - September 12th, 2011, 10:15 am
    Just a quick note on the beer pairings -- I visited Half Acre Beer Company (4257 North Lincoln Ave.) on Saturday and they now have "Horizon" available for sampling or 64-oz growler fills. I haven't tried it paired at Next but it seemed like a beer that could stand on its own (though a little fruitier and less assertive than some of Half Acre's other brews). It didn't sound like they had any plans to distribute it anywhere other than Next, so if you want to try it now is probably the time.
  • Post #319 - September 24th, 2011, 1:17 pm
    Post #319 - September 24th, 2011, 1:17 pm Post #319 - September 24th, 2011, 1:17 pm
    We dined at Next last night and I have to say we were all disappointed in the Thai menu. The catfish in particular was just plain bad, and the value just didn't seem to be there. The only real standouts were the coconut dessert, the soup and a few of the appetizers. I mean serving the three condiments as a serperate "course" was inappropriate given the price point. Keep in mind, the same four people all ate the 1906 Paris menu and LOVED the entire experience.

    Worst of all, we were also stuck with a rude and obnoxious waiter who had the worst attitude of any service person I have had in recent memory. When you are paying that much money for dinner, you expect to be treated better then this a-hole treated us. Everything seemed like a bother for the guy and he seemed pissed when we didnt laugh at his lame jokes like "this is our chicken course (when he was serving the catfish)." In cleaning up the table to reset for dessert he literally ripped a spoon out of my wife's hand! It really ruined the meal for us. Not being able to adjust the tip for this poor service was also frustrating.

    We also did not care for the alcohol pairings. Mixing rum, wine, beer and that type of food is not good planning - noone would ever pair beverages with a meal like that in Thailand or anywhere else. All said, I really felt this meal was several steps down from Paris.
  • Post #320 - October 10th, 2011, 10:57 am
    Post #320 - October 10th, 2011, 10:57 am Post #320 - October 10th, 2011, 10:57 am
    I saw the tweet that Ferran Adria was dining at Next when he was in town a couple weeks back. I am curious as to what Ferran thought of his meal there. Did anyone here see anything or perhaps Nick can give us some insight.
  • Post #321 - October 10th, 2011, 7:07 pm
    Post #321 - October 10th, 2011, 7:07 pm Post #321 - October 10th, 2011, 7:07 pm
    If he loved it, he'd say he loved it.

    If he hated it, he'd say (publically) he loved it.
  • Post #322 - October 13th, 2011, 1:34 pm
    Post #322 - October 13th, 2011, 1:34 pm Post #322 - October 13th, 2011, 1:34 pm
    pacent wrote:I saw the tweet that Ferran Adria was dining at Next when he was in town a couple weeks back. I am curious as to what Ferran thought of his meal there. Did anyone here see anything or perhaps Nick can give us some insight.

    While it does not go into Adria's meal at Next, this interview of Achatz and Adria from the Tribune does suggest that El Bulli at Next is a go for beginning of next year.

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