Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trio Menu at Next Restaurant (Chicago)

I've been visiting one Grant Achatz restaurant/bar per visit to Chicago, starting with Alinea, then The Aviary, The Office, and now, finally, Next. As you may know, the menu at Next changes every few months, and we're not just talking seasonal changes but complete, absolute shift to distinct themes. There had been Modern Chinese, Bocuse d'Or, Chicago Steak, and other themes. This time, since it is the 10th anniversary of Alinea, the theme is Trio. This is the restaurant in Evanston that Grant Achatz was working at when he met and subsequently partnered with Nick Kokonas to open Alinea. The menu thus evokes techniques and dishes that he served 10 years ago at Trio.

Our meal started with Osetra,caviar avocado, sugar, lime
This goes back to when they started playing with "neutral flavors" with the hardened sugar chip that adds texture to the dish.

Rock shrimp, cranberry, Meyer lemon, vanilla bean
A simple fried shrimp skewered with a stick of vanilla bean to enhance the aromatic experience.

When we were first seated, we were given a glass of rose. Now, they bring a bottle of housemade bitters that we can add to the rose based on our own taste preferences.

Crab, coconut, ten bridging garnishes
You're supposed to try each garnish with the crab and coconut. I liked the garnish made with mango and allspice, and cucumber with chive oil. For some of the others, I thought the coconut was somewhat overwhelming.

The next course is the soup: Chestnut, baked potato, bitter chocolate, quince
Followed by a savory Ice cream sandwich with parmesan, olive oil, black pepper
I'm a big fan of this sweet-savory ice cream sandwich with its thin and crisp cookies. It reminded me of the cheddar cheese ice cream waffle at Qui in Austin.
 For guests who have not been to Alinea, they'd be excited with the next course, which is a celebrated dish from Alinea: Black truffle explosion. I welcome broth of black truffle infusion exploding in my mouth anytime.

Duck, lavender salt lozenge, foie gras, plum
Another play on aroma, where you're supposed to take some of the lavender lozenge in your mouth before consuming the duck and foie.

Yes, that is a small thin edible paper with "pizza" flavor. It was fun to try, with flavors of mostly tomato sauce and cheese (rather than pizza, it reminded me more of lasagna).

Poached loin of lamb, floral infusion, artichoke, orange
They told us this dish is about marrying flavors. The chilled lamb loin was served with nasturtium while in the glass is lamb consommé that's been gelled into aspic. The dish combines both classic and more modern techniques.

The beverage pairings were actually where I had the most fun exploring.
IMG_8469While the food menu draws from the techniques that were groundbreaking 10 years ago (accordingly with the theme), they are playing with new boundaries with the drinks. There's a juice pairing with this course which was orange and grapefruit juice cold-hopped to mimic beer.

Both wine and juice pairings play on the floral notes of the dish.

"Cheese n Cracker"

"Salad", red wine vinaigrette
Think salad that has been frozen and crushed. Personally I think I'd rather just eat a salad, though.

Raspberry, tapioca, rose, lemon basil
The dessert - layers of rasberry, tapioca, and lemon basil - is served in the tube. Smell the rose before eating the dessert, another play with aroma.

Pushed foie gras, pear, Sauternes gelee, salt-roasted pear sorbet
The foie gras has been run/pushed through a sieve to achieve the separated texture. This was paired with a Moscato d'Asti, a great classic pairing.

Passion fruit with mustard
Because the previous course (foie gras) was on the sweeter side, this course is meant to move you back from sweet back to savory. Here, they are playing around with the difference in how fast sorbet vs sherbet melt. The passion fruit (sweet) hits you first as it melts followed by the mustard (savory).

Since there were three of us, they paired the next two courses with three different white wines, asking us to determine which pairing we liked best.
Smoked figs, endive, pancetta, coffee

Lobster, wild mushrooms, rosemary vapor
The poured hot water over the rosemary in the larger bowl, releasing the aroma. The lobster was succulent and I can't get enough of the aroma of both the broth and the rosemary.

The three different wines

There was a course of Burnt pineapple, smoked salmon, soy, togarashi. I seem to be have forgotten to take a photo of that!

Short rib, root beer flavors
The garnishes and broth of the short rib dish represents deconstructed root beer flavor components. I didn't quite get root beer out of the combination, but I still enjoyed it.

Transparency of manchego
I loved this dish, with the manchego stretched and baked into a thin film over the other components you might normally find on a cheese plate - bread and fruit preserves. It's a fun and unique cheese course.

Another fun non-alcoholic beverage: Huckleberry soda

The first dessert is a series of five mousse and gelees, consisting of (from the right): 
Hazelnut, chocolate, smoked cream, fennel, and thyme 

Maragda Chocolate at 94', flaxseed, yeast, beer
I believe Maragda is from a Spanish chocolatier called ChocoVic.

We finished off with another of Grant Achatz' and designer Martin Kastner's collaborations: Tripod, Hibiscus
The frozen hibiscus tea lollipop sits on a tripod of metal (stainless steel?) wires that collapse when you grab them, turning into a lollipop stick.

My favorite beverages came at the end with the tea and coffee. They're lightly alcoholic. Both the tea and coffee was combined with various spices and liqueurs which I unfortunately neglected to write down (I'll blame it on the wine pairing) but both were amazing. Even if you don't normally drink coffee, you'll love this one anyway.
IMG_8511 IMG_8512

The Trio menu is over, and the current menu is Bistro, which will run until May 2015.


953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858
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