Chicagoist food and drink editor Anthony Todd released the first-ever full review of Next, which he minces no words when he said that it "isn't Alinea." He did, however, thoroughly enjoy the meal and experience saying that, "Next takes diners to a moment in culinary history, and uses the perfectionism developed at Alinea to do justice to that moment."
He geeked out on the hors d'Oeuvres, calling them "tiny, perfectly constructed bites each more beautiful than the last, and each with a little surprise," and said he loved the turtle consomme, but wished it had been colder out so he could have "run in and out of the dining room to appreciate it more." But he felt the gratin of potatoes overshadowed the pressed duck and that the Salade Irma was forgettable and possibly nothing more than to give foodies bragging rights that they're eating salad after the meal ... the way the French do. Or did back during the era of Escoffier.
Todd also felt that leaving the bottle of wine on the table, when it wasn't a fresh bottle and was being used for the coursed wine pairings, was a little "jarring," adding, "the last thing a diner needs is access to an all-you-can-drink buffet." When we dined at Next, we actually appreciated this maneuver. We didn't take it as a "hey, it's a wine free for all," but more of "this is the wine I just described to you and if you'd like to look at the bottle, go ahead." Either way, seems like a silly thing to gripe about.
After the meal, Todd and his dining companion were invited across the hall to preview Aviary and have a cocktail. He was impressed with the design of the room and decided to take some photos, as he said others were doing. A server quickly approached and asked him to stop, which he did and he put away his camera. A few minutes later, Grant Achatz came over to him and repeatedly told him to not take photos; Todd felt a little scared he was going to be kicked out.
We're not sure what prompted this; perhaps Achatz had a stressful night. But it left a decidedly odd taste in Todd's mouth after having a great dinner at Next. Initially, Todd wasn't going to post his story, but then felt he didn't have anything to lose, except maybe not being invited back. "I enjoyed my dinner at Next, and I sympathize with the situation. From his point of view, it was late at night, the restaurant wasn't open yet, and some yahoo was taking pictures of the wrong glasses," Todd wrote. "Maybe he was just caught up in the same fever that had caused me to drop everything to try to get tickets to Next." Maybe.
· Review: Next [Chicagoist]
· Foodie Rant: On Hype, Customer Service and the Forces Behind the Restaurant Business [Chicagoist]
· Next Restaurant's Paris 1906 Menu in Pictures [~EChi~]
[Photo: Next's hors d'Oeuvres]