Friday, July 15, 2011

next: paris 1906

i've been waiting for the day when i would step into next restaurant on west fulton st. and be blown away by the creations of grant achatz who is also the genius mastermind behind alinea. and that was exactly what he did with his ode to paris 1906 - escoffier at the ritz menu. it was actually the last day of the french menu before their theme shifts to another place for the next three months: tour of thailand.

while everyone is looking forward to next's new thai menu, i am still raving about the paris one.


i have to admit - i was one of the lucky ones to get one of the coveted tables when next open its doors in april. i signed up months ago before the debut of the restaurant and managed to get the golden ticket without much difficulty. the concept of the restaurant is simple: the prix fixed menu changes quarterly based on a theme and the way to get in is to purchase tickets from their website. getting tickets is a feat in itself because it really is an all out internet purchasing war! no cancellations and if you can't make it, you can try selling at face value or trading them on their facebook page (which is not difficult to do considering these tickets go like hot cakes!) btw, their website only works on safari and firefox browsers but not internet explorer.



ryan couldn't make it so i invited christina who loves food too! i was secretly hoping there would be something special for the diners since it was the last night for paris menu..hehe. i'll have the pictures to tell most of the story and yes they've been instagram-ed.. :)  

the decor was modern contemporary with grey, white and black dominating the color palette. i am guessing they are keeping the decor neutral to accomodate many types of menus offered in the future.




i added wine pairing to one and non alcoholic beverage pairing for the other - the latter was for me.




next: paris 1906 | the menu




hors d'oeuvres | appetizer
non-alcoholic beverage (nb) pairing; ginger, elderflower, pineapple




there were five varieties of these delicately prepared with finese yet flavorful one bite wonders served on the silver platter (no pun intended!). my favorite would be the brioche with foie gras with apricot jam which showcased a balance of savory, sweet, creaminess and softness. yumm..a close second was the oeufs benedictine which was served in an egg shell. brandade of salt cod, light garlic undertones and the earthiness of truffle run through the savory custard which is then finished off with shavings of black truffle. delicious! the other hors d'oeuvres were cracker with pork rillets, mushroom wrapped with leek and poached quail egg with white anchovy.


potage a la tortue claire | turtle consomme
nb pairing: blis elixir xo, sparkling apple cider



i wasn't too sure about tasting any kind of turtle anything but the consomme has deep layers of flavor. it kinda reminded me of vietnamese pho broth but different. surprisingly, i liked it.. a lot. i was so busy with taking pictures that the kind waiter asked me if i wanted an action shot to which i gladly agree. :) plus one for friendly and considerate service!


filet de soel daumont | fillet of sole stuffed with crawfish mousse
nb pairing: carrot, saffron, fennel



after our turtle consomme, they served us soft but crisp small bread roll which eventually became apparent why. the bread came in handy to sop up the plate clean of the very tasty rich and creamy sauce nomande in our next dish. the mild and flaky sole was paired with flavorful crawfish stuffed mushroom and decadent, creamy breaded nugget of sole roe.  the crawfish head was filled with a mixture of crawfish mousse and sole which i thought was the highlight of the whole dish.


supremes de poussin | poached chicken
nb pairing: pomegranate, verjus ti kuan yin


incredibly tender quadrangle shaped chicken breast coated with blanquette sauce fortified with foie gras . i love that it was moist and silky. the other half was the poached cucumbers filled with chicken mousse, wrapped with salt pork and topped with a sprig of dill. the poached cucumbers was soft but still had a mild crunch and is infused with wonderful flavors. the sprig of deal was more than a garnish - it added another layer of flavor to the dish.

caneton rouennais a la presse | roasted and pressed duck served with a reduction of red wine, cognac and duck jus
nb pairing: cherry lapsang souchong, sanbitter


i was waiting excitedly to get to this point of the meal. i love duck and one that is done well is absolutely divine. this duck spelled the definition of divine and was definitely worth the wait. the tender, juicy and flavorful slices duck breast were contrasted with the crisp skin of the confit duck thighs that hid the fall off the bone, melt in your mouth dark meat. the flavors were then intensified by the generous amount of reduced duck jus as a result of the remaining duck carcass and its organs run through the duck press and reduced with red wine and cognac. a memorable addition to one of the best things i've ever had....love!

but wait, the duck was served with a dish that was equally wonderful - potatoes.

gratin de pommes de terre a la dauphinoise | french-styled scalloped potatoes with gruyere


this isn't any ordinary potatoes. this was probably the best scalloped potatoes i've ever had. the decadant of creamy cheese weaving its way through the layers of thinly sliced potatoes that were soft but at the same time had that little bite to it which is crowned with a distinct crunch of the crumbs over top. a play of texture in my mouth and a great balance of lightness and richness. perfect accompaniment to the duck. this duo was definitely the highlight of the night to the point that christina and i are still dreaming about it..


salade irma | salad


as a note to the end of the savory part of the meal, a lightly dressed salad of nasturtium blossom, frisee, asparagus and slices of radish was served as the cleanser. it may sound simple but it was a great display of combining the flavors of bitter, acidic and peppery notes which were intertwined with the different textures.  


bombe ceylan | coffee ice cream, rum and cocoa served with custard and rum soaked cherries
nb pairing: roasted banana tom and jerry

 
finally, the dessert - a dome of rum ice cream surrounding the coffee ice cream within a cocoa shell atop chocolate cookie bottom, sitting upon a light drizzle of creme anglaise and cherry syrup. i especially love the bottom chocolate cookie. i am one to love cherries but these absorbed a lot of the rum to the point that they were a tad potent for me. not my kind of dessert but i know ryan would have absolutely love this. 
 
mignardises | tiny, bite-sized desserts
 
 


a tray of mignardises which consisted of beet pate de fruit, salted caramel and a cylinder of nougat was a great end to just a fantastic and incredible meal. the cube of caramel with a sprinkle of fleur de sel was a great rendition of the classic but the pistachio nougat was probably my favorite - the essence of pistachio shining through with the pleasing soft texture of a nougat.

for the non alcoholic beverage pairings, the drinks were artfully crafted and balanced in taste and it just made my experience at next just a bit more special. i would recommend it. oh, and as for something special for last day diners - they gave us the print out of their menu and the beverage pairings for each course. i was very happy since i always try to get a "memorabilia" for my restaurant wall :)


dining at next restaurant was a lot more than just the food, it was about the experience. their food that was served with precision and finese celebrating complicated layers of flavor was undeniably delicious. but what made it different was that the overall experience was able to bring us to a different time and country to appreciate the french culture as well as its fantastic cooking techniques in good ol' chicago. thank you, grant achatz for such an amazing experience.

it took the staff three times before we got this picture.. third time's a charm right ;)

i look forward to my next visit to next restaurant, that is, if i can find my way to those golden tickets somehow.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

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