Showing posts with label grant achatz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grant achatz. Show all posts

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: Grant Achatz' Exclusive Speakeasy, The Office

The Office is the invitation-only 14-seat speakeasy behind a locked door underneath The Aviary. For this last Chicago trip, my friends suggested that I just try to ask for a reservation for The Office. I did, hoping that the fact that they link to my review of The Aviary's Kitchen Table might hold some sway. I guess it must have since they replied back with a reservation at 6pm on a Saturday!!!

At 6pm there was already a line for The Aviary. We went to the doorman and told him we had a reservation at The Office. Soon, they led us inside, down the stairs to an unmarked door in the basement. Just like a speakeasy should be, it's a quiet, small room with leather chairs and sofas. There was one bartender for about 14-15 customers when the room is full.

The Office

I've read about the cocktails and the food at The Office, but their leather bound menu actually also features an extensive collection of whisky, wine, and beers.
The Office
Our friendly waitress suggested that we start with something "light and effervescent" like a sparkling wine or beer. Since we actually have never had quite a few beers on their list, we took up her suggestion. The service is quite personal here and she went through what we might want with each of us, also asking us what we do and where we're from. You certainly won't get this level of service upstairs at The Aviary.

The Aviary had tweeted about Mikkeller beers being the best in the world, so I wanted to try one. I went with one of their lightest, the Mikkeller American Dream Pils, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium ($12). One of the others ordered the Evil Twin Brewing Williamsberg Hipster.
I mentioned that both of those beers had very similar aroma and the waitress told us that the Mikkeller and Evil Twin brewers are actually brothers (we liked the good twin better).

We also tried the Allagash Odyssey; Allagash never disappoints - and we enjoyed embarking on this oak cask-aged beer journey.

Unlike The Aviary, the cocktails at The Office tends towards the more classical. Each cocktail features one type of spirit, which is what you would tell your waitress when you order. Yes, the cocktails are $20 each but with the quality, ambiance, and personal service we'll take it (ok, maybe not every weekend).

The first one we tried was the Cognac, tonka, quassia, smoked black pepper, vanilla bean (note the ice, hand carved into a sphere).

The food menu is succinct. Foie gras terrine. Beef tartar. But this is Achatz after all. Despite the price we had to try the Foie gras terrine w black truffle and chive ($65)
Foie Gras Terrine
served with kumquat preserves, brioches toast, frisee

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Aviary Kitchen Table Experience (Chicago)

Ten cocktails, paired small bites, and over 2 hours of watching The Aviary bartenders and chefs in action inside the kitchen - or as they call it, the cage. That's the Kitchen Table experience at Grant Achatz's new bar, The Aviary.

Since I wasn't able to snag a reservation at Next Restaurant on my last Chicago visit, I opted for the Aviary's $165 10-course cocktail tasting at the Kitchen Table. While the main lounge area featured plush booths and dim lighting, the kitchen table (inside what's dubbed "the cage") is a tall metal table and two stools facing the minimalist kitchen and "bar" (with perfect lighting for photographs, I may add).
Inside "The Cage"
Even though this was a cocktail tasting, they still wanted to start off with a sparkling wine, so Course #1 was an Alsace sparkling wine with strawberry puree, which was paired with Compressed watermelon with soju, topped with sesame seed.
Compressed Watermelon
I had begged my companion to come here with me even though he can't drink much alcohol. I'll drink his share, I said. But when they saw he wasn't finishing his first cocktail, he told them he doesn't really drink, and Aviary decided to do a non-alcoholic version of the tasting for him. In some cases, that just meant water instead of liquor. In others, it was an entirely different drink (that still pairs with the bite).

Course #2: Rhubarb cocktail with Peychaud ice
Rhubarb Cocktail, Peychaud Ice
Instead of adding a dash of bitters, those ice spheres you see contain Peychaud bitters which release flavors as the ice melts instead of diluting.
This was paired with Cantaloupe compressed in champagne and topped with prosciutto, an elevated version of the typical prosciutto and melon.
Compressed Cantaloupe

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


No play-by-play "my take" of the dishes for you, just those that stood out for me. No need for me to play the food critic, who am I anyway?
Alinea's is a meal worth experiencing, and I'm just going to share my experience.

A nondescript door. If it wasn't for the valet parking sign, you wouldn't notice the place. Down the hallway a sliding metal door to your left.

We were led to the second floor and these "flags" of flower-pressed rice paper were placed on our table.
"Don't eat it yet. Just sit and admire them for now."

English Pea (iberico, sherry, honeydew)

Shad Roe (shallot, mustard, bay aroma)
Bayleaf stemmed out of the fried shad roe, but it's only for the aroma. Eat everything else in one bite.

A pair of two shrimp courses:
Yuba (shrimp, miso togarashi) - the shrimp is wrapped around the dried yuba.

Chao Tom (sugar cane, shrimp, mint) - "Chew but don't swallow."

An extra napkin was provided for you to spit out the chewed sugar cane gracefully. Or try to.

Distillation of Thai Flavors
I saw the video about this "flavored water" and totally thought it was an April Fool's joke. No joke. This glass of water was absolutely spiced with thai spices.

This shot of 'water' is just a primer for the next course.

Pork Belly (curry, cucumber, lime) - a DIY spring roll.
This was paired with: Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige 2008.

"Pick up the glass and place it in front of you"
Salt, fried shallots, bananas, basil seeds, cashews, onions, chili paste, etc.
Then we had to arrange the metal contraption and they placed the flower-decked rice paper we've been admiring all this time.
Topped it with deliciously creamy and fatty looking pork belly.
Add all the condiments in (yes, ALL), and wrap.

Lobster (parfait, salad, soup)
Paired with: K Vintners Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington 2008.
The Parfait (chilled lobster consomme, greek yogurt, grapefruit cells, ginger pate de fruit, poppy seeds and pistachio-butter powder, topped with quenelle pistachio ice cream and poppy seed nage).
"Don't touch the bottom part, it'll burn your hands."
Confused (because the parfait is chilled), we asked, what could possibly make it so hot.
"Oh, I can't tell you something like that."

Upon finishing our parfait, the servers lifted the top, revealing, voila! the Salad (Eggplant confit and Poached Lobster).
Sneaky, sneaky.
The server poured lobster bisque over the salad and it traveled down the slits on the bowl. "For aroma," he said.
Again the bowl at the top is removed, this time revealing various spices soaking in the poured lobster bisque.
Lobster bisque meets Masala chai? Yes, please.


Duck (morels, asparagus, chamomile)
Paired with: Casar de Burbia, Bierzo, Spain 2006.

Barhi Date (maple sap, lemon, cognac)

Bacon (butterscotch, apple, thyme)

Kumquat (rye, peychaud's, demerara)

Foie Gras (pear, white wine, allspice)
Paired with: Reinhold Haart 'Piesporter Goldtropfchen' Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2002.
A three-layered dish. The pink/orange crumbles you see on top are the foie gras.
A nice pairing with the late harvest Riesling that cuts the richness and sweetness.

Green Almond (yuzu, wasabi, basil flower)
Sushi rice gelee topped with the above.

Sturgeon (potato, leek, smoke)
Paired with Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, Spain 2008
Smoked sturgeon topped with leeks and potato-sauce-sheet.
This dish was created by sous chef Andrew Graves and apparently the first dish in Alinea history to be introduced on the menu before Chef Achatz being on hand to see the final prototype.

Hot Potato (cold potato, black truffle, butter)

At this point my wine glass was switched out to this gorgeously decorated antique wine glass. This was filled with the wine for the next pairing: Albert Morot Beaune-Toussaint 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune 2006.
The sommelier explained Burgundy has been making "ready-to-drink" wines to compete with new world producers. Though I didn't really think it was "ready to drink" (drink-able, but much too tannic), I'm hopeful for the pairing.

Our next silverware was also noticeably antique.

Filet de Boeuf (godard) - wagyu tenderloin, black truffles, mushroom cap, sweetbreads, cockscomb (yes, cockscomb - see it? right hand side), quenelle of beef mousse.
Alinea has been introducing an "antique" dish, "interrupting" their typical meal with an iteration of a classic recipe from Auguste Escoffier's 1903 cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire.
The pairing ended up working pretty well too as the astringency of the wine and the richness of the dish balance each other out.

Black Truffle (explosion, black truffle, butter)
A ravioli filled with black truffle "tea", topped with a slice of black truffle and butter.
Lots of truffle essence here. Love it.

Squab (charred strawberries, lettuce, birch log)
Paired with: Anima Negra "An", Mallorca, Spain 2005.
Probably the most memorable dish, the heated birch log was emitting this wonderful aroma. We stopped and smelled for a few seconds before proceeding with our food.

Lemon Soda
Since I had to take this in one shot and can't place it on the table, taking a photo was impractical. No photo for you, lemon soda for me :p

Bubble Gum (long pepper, hibiscus, creme fraiche)
"Hold it level, and take it in one go from the red end."

Transparency of raspberry, yogurt

Earl Grey (lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate) - served on a pillow containing earl grey aroma (!)

Chocolate (coconut, menthol, hyssop)
At this point our table is cleared and a silicone cover is placed over it.
The ingredients for our final dessert is placed on the side.
I had seen the chef de cuisine came out and prepared this dessert for another table that night, so it wasn't a total surprise. Still, I was hopeful ... and lucky me, Chef Grant Achatz himself came out to our table and prepared our table-top dessert.

Coconut milk, chewy coconut, menthol cream, frozen coconut mousse, warm coconut mousse.
(by the way, I was also curious why the menthol cream turned into squares on the silicone. Anyone knows? Chemists?)

The clear cylinders were then removed revealing the now-solidified warm chocolate mousse.
And voila. We attacked it and turned it into a Pollock.

So there you have it, the Alinea Tour for $225 per person (and $80 for my "mini" wine pairing that was not so mini after all), a truly unique dining experience.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
Alinea on Urbanspoon

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