Monday, June 8, 2015

Road Trip: Chicago--Next (Revisit)

We got an opportunity to go back to Next in Chicago with our foodie doctor friends who have season tickets. We got to go to “Chicago Steak” with them last year and we were really impressed. Next picks a new cuisine to showcase 3 times a year and totally changes up the menu. This time it was Spanish tapas and I was excited because good Spanish tapas are hard to find, particularly in Indy.

I won’t go through everything, because, well, it was tapas and there were a ton of smallish things and it would take me forever. I will say, overall, they were on the fancier side for what I was expecting—more Alinea than Spanish bar snacks, but it was fun to see what was going to come next.

I think we all agreed on some of our favorite courses—we all really liked the crazy tender bits of octopus served with eggplant in a savory, earthy foam. Seriously, those bits of octopus were delicious. With that course, they also served some mussels that they prepared in house and then put into little cans that you popped open. Cute presentation, but the mussels themselves didn’t really do much for us.

One of the more traditional dishes- the Iberico ham (this was jamon iberico de belotta, was one was probably also one of our favorite dishes. They served a large platter of the super finely sliced ham with this cool dish of “pasta” made with shaved asparagus and little lightly fried potatoes (“patatas bravas’) with cheese. They were interesting little plates to eat together, even if the “pasta” seemed a little out of place with the others. The ham itself was pretty spectacular.

I did enjoy the intermezzo course of grapefruit and pinenut shooters with the little walnuts filled with chocolates. That was an interesting course, although sort of a randomly placed sweet one, followed by a pretty meaty one. I guess it was a sort of palate cleanser.

I also enjoyed the more straightforward dish of “chuleton” or ribeye steak in this case, and Next’s version of a Spanish tortilla, which is sort of like an eggy potato quiche. In this case, they explained the eggs were meant to be pretty runny, but you had to scoop them out quickly from the hot pan to keep them that way—or if you preferred them cooked more, you could leave them in. You could then use the pan to further cook your steak if you wanted. Hubby and I pulled the eggs out quickly and enjoyed their softness with the rare beef. It was a tasty, if somewhat simple, course.

One of the first sweet courses was the one that no one at the table liked. In fact, I am pretty sure all of us strongly disliked it. It was a raw shrimp served with strawberry sauce—the body that is. The head was filled with a form of ice cream. Ok, I am game for whatever, but this was just gross. The shrimp had a slimy texture and I don’t know, being coated in strawberry didn’t help. They did give us a big branch of olive to find bars of white chocolate in though—and the white chocolate was tasty.

By the time we got to the last dessert, which was good, I was so full that I could barely try it. It was a Spanish-style cheesecake with this chocolate, blueberries and hazelnuts. The chocolate was in a bowl, and you could kind of smear some on the cheesecake. They both tasted very good, but I wished I wasn’t so full. 

Sadly, our service suffered quite a bit for some reason as well. Tables who came in after us finished before us (and we’re all eating exactly the same thing). It almost seemed we were forgotten sometimes. At one point we worried our server had had a medical emergency. This contributed to the overfullness I think, because we had so much more time to digest all that food, by the time dessert got there, I was done. Like I said, there were many more courses (some of which I have pictured here). The rest were all not bad, but didn’t make it to my favorite list, either as most favorites, or least favorites, so I figured I spare you all the details of a very long meal.

I don’t know, I am torn about Next. The first time, I couldn’t wait to go back. This time, I’m not sure if I want to pass on trying some place new instead. Of course, the menu completely changes every few months, so who knows what the next one will be like?

953 West Fulton
Chicago, IL 60607

charred porkbelly and croutons with romesco
grilled stuffed leeks
El Bulli-style "olives" (served in the actual spoons from El Bulli)
fried egg yolks
brandade with fried cod skin

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