42 Grams is a five-star experience, where every single one of the courses is "delicious and exciting," according to Amy Cavanaugh. The underground dinners-turned-brick and mortar spot offers a "higher end dinner party" experience with courses like the 'Juniper Jump,' a "refreshing" edible cocktail with cubes of Hendrick's Gin jelly, a cucumber sphere and hibiscus snow.
A soup of "outrageously decadent velvety" puree of potatoes, butter, whole milk and buttermilk is served with a "gorgeous" spoonful of caviar, while a 'Flavors of the Sea' dish is a homage to Charlie Trotter, "play[ing] on the ocean food chain and tast[ing] like you're eating seaside." Flowers and herbs heighten plates, such as bright violas rolled in daikon served with foie gras, and "give the dishes a sense of playfulness in a fine-dining world that frequently feels too serious." In the end, Cavanaugh thinks "the voice coming out of the kitchen is inventive, personal and fresh" and scoring tickets to the restaurant will soon be impossible.
The Brixton is the "kind of restaurant we'd all like just down the street," with "solidly executed food," writes Cavanaugh. The "simplest dishes are the best," like the "delicious" Brussels sprouts bathed in butter with lemon, thyme and nubs of bacon that are downed "like candy" or the "aromatic" mussels in clam broth with butter and star anise.
Entrees are bit less successful: octopus served atop roasted eggplant with potato confit and pork cheek "fail[s] to coalesce" and is "overdone," while risotto served with a poached egg has "a nice balance of textures, but it [is] too salty." For drinks, a 'Sid Malicious' Malort-based cocktail is "frothy with a slight bitterness." [TOC]
The Chicago Steak iteration of Next is well-executed but a "head scratcher," with limitations "hamstring[ing] the kitchen's ability to dazzle in the way it often does." Phil Vettel sits down to "a lot of very good to excellent dishes" like an "unapologetically faithful" shrimp cocktail in a "memorable cocktail sauce" that could "make one hell of a Bloody Mary." Island Creek oysters are a "terrific smoky-sweet briny composition," the salmon coulibiac is a "fantastic creation" and lobster thermidor is "excellent."
As for the ribeye steak, it's "rich with beef flavor and a subtle blue cheese tang," and is a "superb steak but not a transformative one." Desserts cap off the meal and include a Champagne float with brioche ice cream, flamed-tabledside baked Alaska with tobacco-flavored ice cream, and a chocolate mint-parfait. [Tribune]