When Next restaurant announced it would pay homage to elBulli for its first menu of 2012, it set off a frenzy with people from around the world wanting to get tickets and a taste of chef Ferran Adria's now-shuttered iconic Spanish restaurant. At the time, one of the only ways to get tickets was to purchase a season pass, that would also include the next two iterations: Sicily and Kyoto.
On May 27, elBulli ends and the restaurant will close down for a few days. Then on June 2, Sicily will kick off, featuring rustic Italian food. Whether that will be true-to-form dishes you'd find on the Italian island or chef Dave Beran's interpretation remains to be seen. Eater sat in on a meeting last week between Beran, Grant Achatz and Next sous chef Rene De Leon as the trio debated how the food would be plated and presented.
They went back and forth, trying to determine the best way to showcase the dishes, that would include fresh pasta, a lot of seafood and more. A decision hadn't been made by the time Eater left the meeting, so the result is still a mystery. Whatever direction they decide to go, Achatz is confident people will enjoy it.
"You have to make a philosophical decision if you want to make it authentic or your version of it, but you have to make that decision. Right now," Achatz, who has spent time in Sicily, told Beran. "There's no wrong answer, but if we frame it as authentic Sicilian rustic cuisine, that's what we need to do. If we do Dave Beran's interpretation, we do that. Either way we're going to win because it's going to be delicious."
What is known at this point is that the menu will comprise approximately 13 courses with at most three pastas. The discussed using a variety of dishes like cheese boards, Sicilian bowls, the duck plate, presumably from Next's Paris 1906 menu. And they've consulted closely with the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School, made famous by the woman whose name it bears and who helped introduce Sicilian cooking to America through two books. Her daughter, Fabrizia Lanza, continues her work and traditions.
Now it's just a matter of finalizing the menu, which includes talk of antipasti, whole fish, caponata, sardines, octopus, bottarga, bucatini, sea urchin, gnocchi and more.
"The vision is there, but we have to lock it down," Beran said. "We're making it our version of a Sicilian home." De Leon added, "There's a lot in front of us, but not a lot nailed down. I think there's a good idea of what we're trying to do."
Once the menu is firmed up, Next will put more tickets on sale. Through the season ticket sales, 50 seats have already been sold per night, according to co-owner Nick Kokonas. They'll eventually put more tickets (totaling up to 90 or 100 seats per night) and announce it, like they have in the past, via Facebook and Twitter. And, of course, they'll hold a number of tickets for same-day sales that will be announced through social media. The Sicily menu at Next will run through Sept. 9 and then Kyoto, for which Achatz and Beran recently traveled to Japan for research, will take over for the rest of the year.
· Want Next Season Tix? You'll Have to Wait a Bit Longer [~EChi~]
· Grant Achatz & Dave Beran in Japan to Prep for Kyoto [~EChi~]
· All Next Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]
· All Grant Achatz Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]