Next, elBulli

Of course we had to go to Chicago and eat at Alinea one night and Next the following.  Next changes the menu every 3 months.  They could be doing Germany 1960 for three months or even China 1850  but the night we went they happened to be doing elBulli, Grant Achatz style. 

The decor is simple and grey creating a backdrop for any kind of food coming out of the back.  It is like having white dinner plates.  The ceiling has this very cool design that looks like a steel structure but it is made of foam and actually helps with acoustics.  Next is located in an area that is a bit desolate.  You could easily walk by and miss the door.  We almost did. 

Dry snacks
With your meal there is an option to have a wine pairing or a drink pairing.  Since we had wine the night before we went with the drinks.  They brought over a bowl of dry snacks for us to begin.  You can order this bowl at their bar next door.  I am a sucker for shrimp toast.  When I went on my semester abroad to London, I basically existed on shrimp toast, ploughmans lunches, beer and Chinese food.  I gained about 10 lbs. These snacks are all made of different things.  Puffed rice black pudding, nori cracker, black olive butterflies, puffed coffee polenta, pulled saffron tapioca, parmesan crackers, lotus flower chips and pork rinds.  All unique and really good.

Caipirinha drink
This was our first cocktail. Each item we had was from a year of menus at elBulli running from 1991-2004.  Nitro caipirinha with tarragon concentrate.  Basically frozen caipirinhas in a frozen lime shell with a dot of tarrragon cream on top.  Brilliant.  Your mouth is now ready to begin.

Troutroe tempura
Hot/cold trout roe tempura.  What we wanted to know is how do they keep the insides of this little gem so cool and liquidy when the outside is light and crispy.  Yum.  We began with a glass of Jane Ventura "Brut Nature" Cava Reserva, Penedes 2008.

Coca of avocados, anchovies and onion
On small crispy pieces of toast was thinly sliced avocado, green onions and just a hint of coca with a marinated anchovy over the top.  A really nice combination of flavors. 

Jambon on bread
We all decided that we could eat more than one of these.  It is called an iberco sandwich.  Thin slices of Spanish jambon wrapped over what appears to be a small baguette but it is a thin crispy bread with nothing but air inside.  So when you take a bite the cracker collapses and mixes into the jambon.  Wow.

Not sure how to describe this.  Spherical olives.  These come in a jar of olive oil. 

The server sets each olive on to a spoon.  The olive is a dollop of gelled olive oil.  Not sure else how to describe it but when you drop it in your mouth the entire things oozes like a balloon that just popped and olive oil just coats your mouth and throat. 

Before we being the next course we are to take one of the small vials and pour it into our champagne that they have refreshed.  It is called Cava with Pineau and Farigoule. We followed the rules.  Quite interesting.

Golden egg.  Literally a golden covered egg.

Blacksesamesponcake and miso
Black sesame spongecake and miso.  The consistency is that of a seriously soft sponge.  We each shoved the entire thing in our mouth and in a millisecond is melts.  Kind of crazy.

Chickenliquid croquettes
Chicken liquid croquettes.  I want to know they do the liquid inside a deep fried ball. 

Here we are to pour another vial into our champagne and also put in 5 drops of this to begin.  The drops are Regeans' Orange Bitters, the vial is the same as before. 

Smoke Foam.  This is super weird.  Tastes like you are at a bbq pit.  Most people don't like it and they expect that.  They came around and quizzed us on it.  When we said we didn't like it they said that it is not meant to be liked. Huh?

Carrot air with coconut milk.  How they make carrots into air is certainly a skill.  The coconut milk gives this a little more oomph as the bottom of the bowl becomes more like a soup. 

Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint.  This was really good.  Butter like cuttlefish made into the shape of a ravioli with a hint of Asian flavors.  Served with Kanbara Junmai Ginjo Sake, Niigata Prefecture.

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding.  I didn't love this.  A pudding on the bottom and the tomato ice on top.  Strange consistencies. 

Hot crab aspic with a mini corn cous-cous.  More strange consistencies.  Served with a Domain Bordatto "Basa Juan" Cidre, Irouleguy 2010.

Cauliflower couscous
Certainly an incredible presentation.  Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce.  A bunch of different flavors around the cous-cous to mix up.

Suquet of prawns.  A nice small bite.  This was served with Emilio Hidalgo "Marques de ROdil" Especial Palo Cortado, Jerez. 

Potato tortilla by Marc Singla.  Not sure why there is a name after this but there is.  Potato pudding served with Nuga "Prado Enea", Rioja Gran Reserva 2004

Trumpet carpacchio.  An entire dish of mushrooms.  All different consistencies.

Out comes a warm bag of shells set in water.  It is pretty cool.  On top they serve a red mullet gaudi.   Served with Gratallops "Los 800". Priorat 2005.

Eel,bonemarrow and cucumbr
A deconstruction dish of eel, bone marrow and cucumber. Really makes for a helluva presentation. Here they served beer.  Half Acre "Sanguis" Ale, Chicago.

Civet of rabbit with hot apple jelly. 

Big white globes that are made out of gorgonzola cheese.  Cold, chalky, sharp and fascinating all at once.

Foie gras caramel custard.  Think flan out of foie gras.  Super strange yet divine. Served with Gonzalez Byass "Apostoles" Palo Cortado, Jerez 

Each spice is set around the plate like a clock.  So 12 o'clock is mint leaf, 1 o'clock is grated nutmeg, 2 o'clock is curry powder, 3 o'clock is saffron stamen, 4 o'clock chopped caradmon pod, 5 o'clock ground szechuan pepper, 6 o'clock vanilla seed, 7 o'clock julienne of confit ginger, 8 o'clock ground cinnamon, 9 o'clock crushed pink peppercorn, 10 o'clock ground star anise, 11 o'clock chopped juniper. Served with Pommeau de Normandie with white tea, lychee and tangerine. 

Mint pond.  It looks like a glass dome but it isn't completely.  The middle area cracks and the spices mix into the shattered glass (obviously not real glass).

Chocolate in textures.  No other description necessary.  Olivares Dulce Monstralli, Jumilla 2006. 

Chocolate donuts.  At this point I don't remember what these little beauties were filled with. 

Creme flutes and puff pastry spider webs.

The farewell.  Passionfruit marshmallow. 

A few things.  The meal took 5 hours.  What is amazing is that we gabbed the entire time.  Perhaps it was the abundance of alcohol but more than likely just good company.  I was hammered by the time we left.  I believe half way through the meal I was beginning for bread because I was hungry and I wanted to sop up the alcohol.  The food does not exactly fill you up…particularly when you think about carrot air. Creative but not something I'd do twice.  I am so glad that we went to Alinea and Next.  Incredible experiences that are just as special as a memorable play or a unique event.  Grant Achatz is just brilliant. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Just thought I’d say hello as it’s been a long time. :)I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of the restaurant posts.. that said, I do admire your patience in taking all these pics and then laying them out with an explanation! Hope you’re enjoying Boston!

  2. Sarahdean

    Fabulous post – I’ve read his book and seen a bunch on Alinea but not on Next.  As usual, amazing food coverage – thanks!

  3. Lock

    Still recovering from this one. Yowza.

    1. Gotham Gal

      took me a good 48 hours. not sure i have been that hung over in a long long time.

  4. Deirdre

    I feel a little tipsy and very hungry after this post.  Looks AMAZING!  I love the creativity of it and would love to watch all this unfold INSIDE the kitchen.  Did you ever get to El Bulli?  

    1. Gotham Gal

      never went. after we finished we walked around the corner to have burgers as we needed something solid in our bellies so as sorry as i am we never got to elbulli…i wonder how we would have driven home thru the windy roads of spain.

  5. TanyaMonteiro

    wow, can’t beleive it gets better, i was blown over by Alinea but this, this seems even more wow

  6. rebeccastees

     Smoke Foam made me laugh.

    1. Gotham Gal

      so gross

      1. rebeccastees

         still laughing.  what did you think when they said you weren’t supposed to like it?    is the good story — good for business?  

        1. Gotham Gal

          the taste, the smell, the whole thing. i think it was the fact that they could make it not that it was delicious. there is something about the whole science of being able to manipulate food into strange ways that is intriguing but doesn’t always make for good eating.

  7. Laura Yecies

    Thanks for all the detail and great photos. Last time I was in Chicago with my husband we had an absolutely fabulous meal at Tru – would definitely recommend it.

  8. William Mougayar

    Oh my…If these pics aren’t food porn, I don’t know what is.Amazing display! Thanks.

  9. michaelgalpert


    1. Gotham Gal

      pretty much