Alternative Dining in CHicago
    
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#61
Posted July 8th 2011, 9:29am
TCK wrote:When Nick said a couple months ago that Thai release would be unannounced and at a random time, we decided to write one that would email us when the url changed from /no_purchasing to /slots/find, since all the chrome plugins we found didn't allow that.


Try Auto Refresh Plus, you can choose any URL you want.

TCK wrote:I'm certain though that he said 2,000+ tables released all at once sometime Monday, plus they will continue to do same day sales throughout the season.


Yes 2000 tables will be released Monday.

Darren72 wrote:I followed this at the time. I understand what Nick is saying. The question then becomes does he have the price right and, since they charge more for premium days of the week and times, should they also be charging more for the beginning of the season? If the resale market was more well-developed, we could see how much tickets were going for and how much the market can bear. Would be interesting.


Talking about that, there will be a lot of "sharks" trying to get tickets this Monday, and then resell. Immediately after yesterday release, tickets started popping up on Craigslist (at a pretty ridiculous price for Thai food). This is a bit that I feel uneasy about.
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#62
Posted July 8th 2011, 9:41am
auto-refresh plus is nice but all it does is play a sound and pop-up notification when the requested URL shows up. Our project was to create something that would email you when the requested URL shows up... so if we wanted to leave a computer on all night running the script and not have to sit in front of it.
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#63
Posted July 8th 2011, 10:52am
Wow, I feel like I won some kind of lottery knowing how slim my chances really were in getting tickets. This from the Next Facebook page: "You asked for stats, here they are: ~7,400 users logged in / 450,601 page views / 80 tables held in just under 2 seconds"

Crazy.
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#64
Posted July 8th 2011, 10:59am
An average of 60 refreshes per person, although I'd be interested to know what time-frame those page views were from.
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#65
Posted July 8th 2011, 8:12pm
Here's a cryptic Tweet from Grant, posted just a couple of minutes ago. . . .

@Gachatz Grant Achatz
I can't believe we are cooking Thai food....


:shock:
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#66
Posted July 8th 2011, 10:41pm
Back from Next!!! Yum yum yum. Chef Achatz was there too! Ill have pictures soon. :D
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#67
Posted July 10th 2011, 12:58pm
My wife and I went last night, after having gone to the Paris iteration maybe a month ago. I have seen some chatter elsewhere comparing this to the Paris experience ("Better than Paris," "Not as good," etc.), but I think it is really such an apples to oranges comparison as to border on meaninglessness. I will say Paris stuck with us a bit more in terms of leaving an indelible impression, but I think that is largely due to the novelty of experiencing a menu that, while certainly seen in parts in restaurants today (whether as inspiration for contemporary dishes or as canonical dishes that one still sees, albeit typically without this level of execution), was somewhat unique and unlike anything we had experienced before. The Thai menu, on the other hand, is full of things that anyone who has explored Thai cuisine in a good Thai eating town (one of which is Chicago) or who has visited Thailand has probably eaten. What is different of course, is the sourcing of the ingredients, the technique and execution in the kitchen, the exquisite plating, the beverage pairings, the service, the setting and the course progression.

That said, I suspect this menu will leave some folks who have eaten very good Thai food wanting -- as surmised upthread, there is a lack of funk, not much heat in any of the dishes (although a pleasant and sophisticated mild heat in several of the dishes of the type that builds slowly from the back and is multilayered), and little that would blow one's mind as a novel take on a traditional dish (with the exception of the coconut dessert, which use more modernist techniques to make something absolutely delightful). What you do get is Thai food as done by Achatz, Beran, and Co., chefs with amazing technique, execution, etc. who are not out to reconcept or reinterpret dishes but to do really well-executed versions of fairly common dishes, with some moderate twists (e.g., pork belly in the tom yum as opposed to shrimp, chicken, or whatever) and refinements. I do think it is inevitable some will walk away from a meal here thinking, I can get a better/more authentic version of dish X at Spoon, TAC Quick, Aroy, Sticky Rice or wherever -- or perhaps something, if not as refined, with more depth of funk, heat, or certain flavors. But I think to do so would be to largely miss the point; I don't think the object here is to do the most authentic version of these dishes, but rather to take the diner through a tour of Thai dishes and flavors and different styles of Thai food (both in terms of regional distinctions and varying levers of formality and refinement), with some twists, and overall to create a unique experience -- and in that, I think the restaurant passes with flying colors. But this menu will not be for everyone, and some will fail to see the value proposition (or lack thereof) in getting something that it seems there are more ready substitutes for elsewhere at a fraction of the price.

We, personally, really loved it. The progression from the street food (roasted banana, fermented sausage, shrimp cake, steamed bun, etc.) into a restaurant (tom yum then catfish then beef curry then the really wonderful coconut dessert) back to the street (halved dragon fruit and Thai sweetened iced tea in a plastic bag) evoked a day of walking around a foreign city (I've never been to Bangkok, but have experienced this in a number of other places), stopping in a tapas bar or at a street vendor for a few snacks and drinks, followed by a late lunch somewhere, and then back into the street for a few more drinks and snacks before maybe going back to the hotel to fall asleep and wake up disoriented, wondering if you've missed the dinner hour.

I thought the beverage pairings in particular were wonderful and innovative. I have been to beer dinners, whiskey dinners, and had wine pairings with meals multiple times, but have never had beverage pairings that were so varied. The street food was served with a guava juice punch with rum, cognac, and a sparkling rose that was deliciously drinkable and probably dangerous if you had access to it in quantity on a hot day. The tom yum was served with a cocktail/punch of sorts with London-style gin, chrysanthemum-infused jasmine tea, lemongrass and lychee juice. The catfish was served with an effervescent Basque white wine (the only non-dessert wine of the night) with a pleasant mineral profile and the curry with Hitachino white ale. Apparently the Hitachino will be replaced in the near future by a custom collaboration with Half Acre, which will be a beer brewed with mangosteen and pomegranate. The shot of lemongrass/watermelon ice preceding dessert was a wonderfully refreshing palate cleanser. Dessert wine with the coconut dessert was good but not particularly memorable. And while I am not a huge fan of sweetened southeast Asian iced teas and coffees, this Thai iced tea clearly started with a superior tea and the sweetness, while certainly robust, was not cloying. I enjoyed it. Not sure of the non-alcoholic options, but I think it would be a mistake to do the straight-up wine pairings (the "reserve" option), as I think you would lose part of the "story" and overall feel of the menu just having a more standard wine pairing with each course.

As might be expected with this team and at this price point, service was excellent. The restaurant was at less than capacity the entire time we were there (deliberately so, as they undersold the restaurant for this opening weekend), and they clearly were trying to get a sense of pacing for the servers, kitchen, etc. Our meal was perfectly paced; just under 2.5 hours start-to-finish. My wife and I were amazed at the grasp of the menu (both food and drinks -- from components to techniques) from the main servers to the runners to the manager/hostesses. Although there is very little room for improvement based on what we saw, I imagine things will only get more polished and refined from a service and food perspective as they get further into this version of the restaurant.
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#68
Posted July 10th 2011, 2:36pm
Matt wrote: I do think it is inevitable some will walk away from a meal here thinking, I can get a better/more authentic version of dish X at Spoon, TAC Quick, Aroy, Sticky Rice or wherever -- or perhaps something, if not as refined, with more depth of funk, heat, or certain flavors. But I think to do so would be to largely miss the point; I don't think the object here is to do the most authentic version of these dishes, but rather to take the diner through a tour of Thai dishes and flavors and different styles of Thai food (both in terms of regional distinctions and varying levers of formality and refinement), with some twists, and overall to create a unique experience -- and in that, I think the restaurant passes with flying colors. But this menu will not be for everyone, and some will fail to see the value proposition (or lack thereof) in getting something that it seems there are more ready substitutes for elsewhere at a fraction of the price.


So what is the point then? I have been to Bangkok multiple times and I have eaten through Aroy's, Spoon's, and TAC's Thai menus, so what is the compelling value proposition for me to try Next? Is Next's Tour of Thailand menu then targeted towards those who have passing or limited knowledge/exposure to Thai food? The lack of heat and "funk" seem to be indicative.

Having said that, thanks for the detailed write-up, Matt...for me, personally, it's been helpful to frame my decision-making as to whether I will try my luck tomorrow for the season's release of tables.
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#69
Posted July 10th 2011, 3:40pm
Matt,
We both found your review particularly helpful and informative; thanks very much for a much-appreciated perspective.
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"I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
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#70
Posted July 10th 2011, 3:43pm
fusionfan wrote:So what is the point then? I have been to Bangkok multiple times and I have eaten through Aroy's, Spoon's, and TAC's Thai menus, so what is the compelling value proposition for me to try Next? Is Next's Tour of Thailand menu then targeted towards those who have passing or limited knowledge/exposure to Thai food? The lack of heat and "funk" seem to be indicative.

I don't think the menu is geared towards Thai neophytes or those who typically just order, say, pad thai (although I think there will be more universal acclaim amongst that group, because the expectations are different). I would surmise that the relative lack of heat and funk is probably a practical response to the limitation that there is a set menu that does not change and you must cater in some respects to a lower common denominator. I think the value proposition lies in a couple of areas -- the "tour" (not in terms of the tour of Thailand, but the progression of the dishes) and the story the menu tells, the execution and ingredients in the dishes, the service, the beverage pairings, etc.; basically, this is the Achatz/Kokonos take on Thai food (not in terms of the "Alineaization" of it -- because it is clearly not in that ilk in terms of the techniques used in the kitchen, but instead in the overall approach to technique, execution, plating, service). The value proposition does not lie in "I can't get a dish remotely resembling this version elsewhere." But put it all together and the experience will be worth it to many. At least that's how I see it; I am sure the restaurateurs/chefs have their own view of "What's the point?"

In sum, I really enjoyed it, but I'm admittedly a sucker for any quiet environment where we are well taken care of, with good food and the company of my wife (away from our 6 month-old, 3 year-old, and 5 year-old sons). So maybe I'm an easy mark. I do think it will be interesting to see as more reviews roll out whether there is some measure of tempered enthusiasm as opposed to the near-universal acclaim (with some notable exceptions) for Paris. It goes back to my original point -- you do not walk away from having the Paris menu saying "Man, I can get the diamond-shaped chicken supreme with special gravy at the diner down the street -- maybe not quite the same, but pretty damn close, and for one tenth of the price." But some people will inevitably think/say, "I can recreate 2/3 of the menu at Next Thailand for 20% of the price for me and five friends at authentic Thai restaurant X and there will be funk and spice in spades." Of course, you will not recreate the atmosphere, the experience as a whole, the quality of ingredients, or some of the unique touches/approaches, the feeling of being in good hands and being taken through a specific chef's/team's vision for something -- but for many, all of that extra stuff is probably not worth the extra money. Either way, it's a moot point, because what this team touches turns to gold and they will sell out this current season without problem.

Perhaps one could think of this whole Next experience (in terms of creative side -- theme, menu, execution -- and not the novel ticketing model) as a Cohen brothers-type thing. Sometimes people will watch a Coen brothers movie and say, "Wow, that was a great Western movie, one that will join the pantheon of great Westerns," while other times they will say something along the lines of, "Wow, it sure was interesting to see the Coen brothers' take on a madcap, screwball comedy." And the funny thing is, different people will categorize the same movies/menus in different ways. It may be harder to impress the 40s and 50s film noir buffs with a modern take on the same genre in the same way it may be harder to impress someone who has traveled and eaten extensively in Asia with this menu or that of Hong Kong on the day of the British handover or whatever. But people of a certain type will almost always walk out of a Coen brothers movie thinking there was some point to it and some virtue in it that made it worthwhile (easier to say of course for a $10 per person movie than for a $100+ per person meal, but you get the point).
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#71
Posted July 10th 2011, 4:39pm
Matt, I really appreciate your perspective. I went to Paris 1906 and thoroughly enjoyed it (and consider it one of my best meals of the year so far). I felt that there was a strong point of view and, yes, value proposition, if you may, with that menu: it gave 21st century diners a window into a way of cooking and dining that was not commonplace anymore but which provided the foundation for many of our contemporary culinary techniques. It was an impressively ambitious and ultimately very successful point of view. And the food was really, really good.

That's why I struggle with "Tour of Thailand". The monicker itself connotes a survey, a guided journey, and, at least from this diner's perspective, that creates an expectation of a certain level of authenticity. Thai food is a cuisine that is based on flavors and textures that result from a complex interplay of chilis, fish paste, fish sauce, aromatics, herbs, pickling, etc. (as is the case in most of Southeast Asian cuisine, which I know, having grown up and travelled in the region extensively), a calibration and combination that result out of knowledge of and immersion in the culture and which cannot be readily learned from a cook book or from cooking school. Aroy, Spoon, TAC, etc. are restaurants with Thai chefs who have grown up and lived with these ingredients, flavor profiles, and indigenous cooking techniques. Paris 1906 replicated a specific time period in culinary history; Tour of Thailand, based on the menu and your review, seems to be aspiring to replicate a national cuisine within the Alinea template (exceptional service, thoughtful wine pairings, etc.). And for me replicating a national cuisine requires authenticity.

Having said that I'm sure lots of people will enjoy Tour of Thailand, and that's great. And if their exposure to the cuisine at Next leads to a desire to explore our incomparable Thai restaurant scene, one of the best in the country, then that's even better.
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#72
Posted July 10th 2011, 5:59pm
I'm intrigued as to why a number of people are passing judgement on what the Next "Tour of Thailand" menu is or isn't without experiencing it themselves.
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#73
Posted July 10th 2011, 6:09pm
JLenart wrote:I'm intrigued as to why a number of people are passing judgement on what the Next "Tour of Thailand" menu is or isn't without experiencing it themselves.


Don't you know? That's what the internet is for.
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#74
Posted July 10th 2011, 6:29pm
jesteinf wrote:
JLenart wrote:I'm intrigued as to why a number of people are passing judgement on what the Next "Tour of Thailand" menu is or isn't without experiencing it themselves.


Don't you know? That's what the internet is for.


Good point.

Unlike some folks here I neither am, nor do I claim to be an authority in what Thai food should or should not be. That being said, I did dine at Next on Friday evening and was simply blown away. I personally enjoyed this menu more than the Paris 1906 menu and I do know quite a bit about French food. The first course, a take on Thai street foods was fantastic. The grilled banana, the sweet shrimp, and the shrimp cake were particularly memorable. The soup was spectacular, and the catfish was mind altering. To me each of these did posses the flavors of Thailand (As one poster put it " based on flavors and textures that result from a complex interplay of chilis, fish paste, fish sauce, aromatics, herbs, pickling, etc.") even though the chefs have not spent their lives submerged in Thai culture, which seems to be a requirement to cook good Thai food according to a previous poster in this thread.

I may be an idiot about what Thai food is or isn't, but I do know that the Next "Tour of Thailand" menu blew my mind.
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#75
Posted July 10th 2011, 6:46pm
fusionfan wrote:That's why I struggle with "Tour of Thailand". The monicker itself connotes a survey, a guided journey, and, at least from this diner's perspective, that creates an expectation of a certain level of authenticity. Thai food is a cuisine that is based on flavors and textures that result from a complex interplay of chilis, fish paste, fish sauce, aromatics, herbs, pickling, etc. (as is the case in most of Southeast Asian cuisine, which I know, having grown up and travelled in the region extensively), a calibration and combination that result out of knowledge of and immersion in the culture and which cannot be readily learned from a cook book or from cooking school. Aroy, Spoon, TAC, etc. are restaurants with Thai chefs who have grown up and lived with these ingredients, flavor profiles, and indigenous cooking techniques. Paris 1906 replicated a specific time period in culinary history; Tour of Thailand, based on the menu and your review, seems to be aspiring to replicate a national cuisine within the Alinea template (exceptional service, thoughtful wine pairings, etc.). And for me replicating a national cuisine requires authenticity.


Having been to southeast asia on multiple occasions and loving the food, I did not feel the food at Next lacked authenticity or was a westernized version of thai food at all. 1 dish in particular transported me right to asia, and I dont think i have tasted a dessert like that anywhere else but in asia. You dont need to be born in thailand to know and cook good thai food ( as the Next team demonstrates), but you need to have a profound knowledge respect and intuition for food and ingredients to make good food, and I think that is universal, and that is what can not be learned. Yes I am sure you can get a cheaper version similar to any dish on the menu but I have not had, in the US, thai food that tasted that good. I also respect the courage it took to get out of their comfort zone.
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#76
Posted July 11th 2011, 8:52am
Tentative 3 P.M. release with an hour notice before hand.

I understand the disdain for facebook so I'll try to post again this afternoon for the non-users among us.
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#77
Posted July 11th 2011, 9:46am
Matt, just wanted to thank you for the thoughtful post, I too was waffling about going if I got the chance. You gave me a lot to think about as I regularly eat at Aroy, TAC and Spoon. Upon reflection, I believe I'm actually more interested in this menu than the Paris one so maybe we'll get lucky a second time.
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#78
Posted July 11th 2011, 10:01am
fusionfan wrote:That's why I struggle with "Tour of Thailand". The monicker itself connotes a survey, a guided journey, and, at least from this diner's perspective, that creates an expectation of a certain level of authenticity. Thai food is a cuisine that is based on flavors and textures that result from a complex interplay of chilis, fish paste, fish sauce, aromatics, herbs, pickling, etc. (as is the case in most of Southeast Asian cuisine, which I know, having grown up and travelled in the region extensively), a calibration and combination that result out of knowledge of and immersion in the culture and which cannot be readily learned from a cook book or from cooking school. Aroy, Spoon, TAC, etc. are restaurants with Thai chefs who have grown up and lived with these ingredients, flavor profiles, and indigenous cooking techniques. Paris 1906 replicated a specific time period in culinary history; Tour of Thailand, based on the menu and your review, seems to be aspiring to replicate a national cuisine within the Alinea template (exceptional service, thoughtful wine pairings, etc.). And for me replicating a national cuisine requires authenticity.

Having said that I'm sure lots of people will enjoy Tour of Thailand, and that's great. And if their exposure to the cuisine at Next leads to a desire to explore our incomparable Thai restaurant scene, one of the best in the country, then that's even better.


I think you are missing the point if your evaluation of the restaurant is based on its authenticity. My excitement for Next is based on seeing how one of the world's most creative chef's will work with the palate of Thai foods and flavors. Agreed, if the menu were to simply try to replicate dishes you can get at any of the good Thai restaurants in town, I would consider this version of Next to be a failure of imagination. But to assume that's the objective seems like a failure of imagination on the part of the customer.
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#79
Posted July 11th 2011, 10:19am
Darren72 wrote:
I think you are missing the point if your evaluation of the restaurant is based on its authenticity. My excitement for Next is based on seeing how one of the world's most creative chef's will work with the palate of Thai foods and flavors. Agreed, if the menu were to simply try to replicate dishes you can get at any of the good Thai restaurants in town, I would consider this version of Next to be a failure of imagination. But to assume that's the objective seems like a failure of imagination on the part of the customer.



Good point. I think if you're going looking for TAC or Spoon you'll be disappointed.
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#80
Posted July 11th 2011, 11:44am
Gypsy Boy wrote:Matt,
We both found your review particularly helpful and informative; thanks very much for a much-appreciated perspective.

mbh wrote:Matt, just wanted to thank you for the thoughtful post, I too was waffling about going if I got the chance. You gave me a lot to think about as I regularly eat at Aroy, TAC and Spoon. Upon reflection, I believe I'm actually more interested in this menu than the Paris one so maybe we'll get lucky a second time.

You're both very welcome; glad you found my thoughts (or the collective thoughts of my wife and me, in large part) helpful.
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#81
Posted July 11th 2011, 12:21pm
fusionfan wrote:That's why I struggle with "Tour of Thailand". The monicker itself connotes a survey, a guided journey, and, at least from this diner's perspective, that creates an expectation of a certain level of authenticity. Thai food is a cuisine that is based on flavors and textures that result from a complex interplay of chilis, fish paste, fish sauce, aromatics, herbs, pickling, etc. (as is the case in most of Southeast Asian cuisine, which I know, having grown up and travelled in the region extensively), a calibration and combination that result out of knowledge of and immersion in the culture and which cannot be readily learned from a cook book or from cooking school. Aroy, Spoon, TAC, etc. are restaurants with Thai chefs who have grown up and lived with these ingredients, flavor profiles, and indigenous cooking techniques. Paris 1906 replicated a specific time period in culinary history; Tour of Thailand, based on the menu and your review, seems to be aspiring to replicate a national cuisine within the Alinea template (exceptional service, thoughtful wine pairings, etc.). And for me replicating a national cuisine requires authenticity.


You are massively projecting. Read what the owner said upthread.

This menu is called "Tour of Thailand" and draws from different regions and traditions in Thailand. It is far from comprehensive -- that would be impossible. It is a composition of dishes that go well together and that Dave and Grant were attracted to for flavor, aesthetics, menu flow, and seasonally available ingredients.
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#82
Posted July 11th 2011, 12:50pm
I went Friday night, and was lucky enough to have also been to the Paris iteration in its first week as well. Thoughts below...

Atmosphere/Service/Misc

One of the things I was most impressed with at Paris 1906 was that in just their 3rd or 4th day open, everything was firing on all cylinders. You always expect some kinks in the first days of a new restaurant, and for us, there were none. So we expected the same from the Thai iteration, and were somewhat surprised to find it operating, well, kind of like a restaurant's first night. Which isn't to say that it was a mess, but that there were much longer waits between courses, we were at one point served the wrong pairing with a particular course, etc. It wasn't a big deal, but compared to the flawless service we'd had previously, it was a step down.

Atmosphere - I noticed this both times that I've eaten there, that the vast majority of the crowd appears to be almost the same age. It's kind of bizarre, though makes sense given how the ticketing/fb updates/etc are set up. But seriously, everyone in there seems to be between the ages of 28-45. Most people I'd guess early 30's. Not a positive or a negative, just an observation

Pacing - as I mentioned above, the courses were staggered somewhat inconsistently, sometimes one followed another fairly quickly, other times we waited awhile. And unlike with the previous menu, where the order that dishes were served in was, or appeared, extremely well thought through, with lighter dishes following heavy ones, and where together as a whole they added up to an incredible meal, without each dish vying to be the super star (thinking here especially of the consomme and the salad courses, which were not particular highlights, but absolutely served their purpose in an otherwise very rich meal). Here there was so much food, very rich, very large portions, that I was uncomfortably full less than half way through. The biggest miss was to have a course that essentially consisted of rice with different condiments to add on top, before getting to the two 'main' courses. It was way too filling and not terribly interesting and just seemed... odd... to make its appearance at that point in the meal.

The food -

Thai street food (small bites course) - These were all highlights of the meal for us. In particular loved the sweet raw shrimp with chilis and garlic - all of the flavors were so bright and continued to stand out on their own even as they mixed together. The banana was also a highlight, and for much the same reason - together, everything combined into a flavorful and unique bite, with a good mix of tastes and textures. My least favorite was probably the prawn cake, as it was somewhat greasy (fried) and the lime zest didn't shine through as well as I'd have expected. But that may be a matter of expectations, I'd been expecting something closer to a crab cake. I enjoyed the sausage and bao, not blown away, but enjoyed

Hot & sour soup - deliciously rich and flavorful broth, and the pork belly was wonderfully cooked - it appeared to be pan seared (?), with a good crispness on the outside. I could eat a lot of this.

Condiments course - this was kind of bizarre to me. Following the soup, we were brought a container of rice and four bowls of what were essentially condiments, and told to mix some condiments with the rice and enjoy. One - I believe described in the menu as 'chili, shallot, garlic' was kind of like a Thai ketchup. Somewhat tangy, ketchup-y in texture. Sorry I can't remember much beyond that. The pickled fruits and veggies w/basil were...fine, I guess. Not memorable, and didn't seem to go with the rice particularly well. The preserved duck egg - if that's really what they used - looked a little like scrambled egg w/some other stuff in them -- not what I was expecting. It was a fairly loose consistency and not as pungent as I thought preserved egg would be (have never tried before). Not bad, though. Overall my reaction was 'huh?' to this course, which filled us up and seemed as though it belonged either after the first course or after the last savory course, not in between. Not even sure it belongs in this menu at all.

Catfish course - unless you're a huge fan of celery, you probably won't like this course. I am not a huge fan, so I know that my reaction to the course is different than it would have been otherwise. But the celery was very overpowering, even if you didn't eat it. The flavor made its way through every bite, and overpowered everything else. I could barely taste the caramel. The fish was well prepared and a generous portion, though. I just couldn't get past the celery.

Beef cheek/curry course - I don't eat beef cheek that often, so maybe it is supposed to taste this way, but to me this tasted like over salted chipped beef. I love salt and it takes a lot for me to find something too salty, but this really was. And it also overwhelmed the delicate, not particularly assertive curry it was served with. I liked the curry well enough, and the dish wasn't a total miss, but it felt out of balance.

1st dessert course (corn, licorice, coconut, pickled mango) - THIS, this was the dish I'd been waiting for all night. Totally blew me away for how unexpectedly well everything worked together, the mix of such different temperatures, flavors, textures that came together perfectly. I have no idea if this is something that would ever be served in Thailand -- to me, it seemed the most unique and daring of the courses (yes, I know, the point of the other courses was not necessarily to be unique or daring). I can't even describe how the combination of corn and egg formed into something that had a consistency not unlike the yolk of a hard boiled egg, laid on top of thin strips of pickled mango, with pleasantly gummy (lightly) licorice-infused tapioca balls, and a sort of shaved ice of coconut milk. Incredible. This is the dish I'll be talking about for months.

2nd dessert course - rosewater infused dragon fruit - to me, the rose flavor overwhelmed the dish to the point that it tasted rather like eating perfume...

Overall -

I have a feeling that this review comes across more negatively than I mean it to. It was a good meal, just not a great one. And not one that I'd pay $210 p.p. for again. That said, I'd probably have found it more worth it if I'd gone on a Wednesday at 6, or whenever the meal costs $65 for the menu, instead of the >$100 we paid. Paris was a steal at any of the price points, Thailand, IMHO, only at the lower ones. I would also steer people away from the alcoholic pairings ($58, compared to $48 for Paris) unless you really like sweet drinks. They were overwhelmingly sweet, both the punches and the wines. The beer that was served I saw the next day at Trader Joe's, for $11/bottle.
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#83
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:02pm
Ms.Paris wrote: The beer that was served I saw the next day at Trader Joe's, for $11/bottle.


Did I dream this or did I read an article that they were working with Half Acre to make their own beer for this?

Also the condiments course is strange. I was under the impression that stuff was meant to sit on the table the whole meal and be used with the actual dishes to increase heat and spiciness and whatever else...

Thanks for posting your review (and Matt and others). Right now I am leaning towards skipping the ticket frenzy this afternoon and going for same night if/when my wife and I make up our minds.
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#84
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:05pm
Can anyone comment on the reserve and non-alcoholic pairings?
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#85
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:16pm
TCK -- I posted upthread that they are working on a collaboration with Half Acre to replace the current Hitachino beer. It's probably been mentioned elsewhere as well.

With respect to the "rice course," the way it was explained to us was that the idea was just to taste the rice, to get the sense of the flavors and bouquet of the jasmine rice on its own (because it is such a big part of Thai cuisine) and then try it with the various condiments (nam prik pao, pickled mango/watermelon and other pickles, and a duck egg "salad" of sorts). I will say that this aspect of eating the rice was a bit poorly explained, but we each had just a few tablespoons of rice with the condiments to get a sense of them and then the catfish followed in relatively short order. I suspect the communication or overall approach on this gets worked out a bit in the coming days/weeks. The condiments stay for the subsequent courses, and get replenished as necessary.

To Ms. Paris' post, perhaps just our experience or they worked out some kinks between night one and night two, but the pacing for our meal on Saturday was just about perfect.
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#86
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:17pm
Matt wrote:TCK -- I posted upthread that they are working on a collaboration with Half Acre to replace the current Hitachino beer. It's probably been mentioned elsewhere as well.


Yeah I read upthread after I posted, it was you who I saw it from.
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#87
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:23pm
TCK wrote:Also the condiments course is strange. I was under the impression that stuff was meant to sit on the table the whole meal and be used with the actual dishes to increase heat and spiciness and whatever else...


The sauces did sit around for most of the meal. I actually used the sallot/chilli (my favorite) with the catfish. The beef/curry course was so rich on its own that didnt need anything else added to it.
I agree with Matt that the timing was perfect as well, and I think the quantity of food was very adequate too.
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#88
Posted July 11th 2011, 1:31pm
Tickets on sale at 4 P.M.
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#89
Posted July 11th 2011, 3:22pm
Server has totally crashed.
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#90
Posted July 11th 2011, 3:42pm
claypoolfan wrote:Server has totally crashed.


To me, the behavior of the site implies that whatever database they're using isn't up to the load. According to Nick's comments on Facebook, they've got a massive pipe and a ton of processing power, but that much flow doesn't help if you're user accounts and other structured data reside in the equivalent of a kiddie pool.

I'm not planning to attend Thai night at Next (saving my baht for a visit to Bangkok later in the year), but this debacle combined with the utter failure of a DNS switchover for Paris, I'm pretty confident in saying that whoever the "nerds" are at Next, they are in over their heads.
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