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A Critic Thinks Next’s Latest Menu Isn’t Transcendent

Plus Althea delivers “artful haute veganism”

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Next’s “Silk & Spice” menu is a fine experience but lacks the “transcendent quality, which this kitchen so often delivers,” to rank among the restaurant’s best efforts. Phil Vettel gives three stars to the current iteration that’s inspired by the Silk Road. A tart composition of peasant vegetables, gilded nuts, and seeds is an “enjoyable soup, but concept outpace[s] execution.” A “so-crazy-it-works” parfait features roasted banana puree, mango puree, and caviar, topped with grated Buddha’s hand, while “delicious” pork belly in Oaxacan mole is finished with squares of watermelon radish and raw onion. The final savory course is “heavy on visuals” — a color woven basket is filled with cubes of A5 wagyu and “suspended over the raw spices on a plate of clear plexiglass.” For dessert, curry sorbet is made tableside and served with other sweets showcasing curry ingredients. [Tribune]

A critic thinks diners “hungry for artful haute veganism” should check out Althea, located inside Saks Fifth Avenue. Headed by chef Matthew Kenney, the kitchen puts out cold kimchi dumplings that are “as lovely to eat as to look at,” and “spicy and satisfying” udon with shiitake mushrooms. Joanne Trestrail also says the chickpea curry with grilled flatbread “isn’t fancy but tastes great.” On the negative end of the spectrum, “some dishes have too many ingredients, too many tweezered accoutrements and not enough clear, bold flavors.” They include butternut squash gnocchi with squash that’s “hard to detect,” and lasagna with “hard and refrigerator-cold” tomato slices. Cocktails, though, are “inventively fruity, herby and floral” and available as spirit-free options. [Crain’s]

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953 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 Visit Website

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