Thursday, November 6, 2014

Next (Trio Menu)

Brook Trout Roe, Avocado, Sugar, Lime

Rock Shrimp Fritter, Cranberry, Meyer Lemon
(Served on a Vanilla Bean Skewer)

Coconut Gelee and Shredded Crab
(Plus 12 Bridging Garnishes)

Chestnut Baked Potato Soup, Bitter Chocolate, Quince

Parmesan/Olive Oil/Black Pepper Ice Cream Sandwich

Black Truffle Explosion, Charred Romaine, Minced Black Truffle

Duck Two Ways, Lavender Salt Lozenge, Foie Gras, Plum

"French Bread Pizza" Stamp

Poached Lamb Loin, Floral Infusion, Artichoke, Orange

"Cheese and Cracker"

Freeze-Dried "Salad" with Red Wine Vinaigrette

Raspberry Tapioca/Rose/Lemon Basil Tube

Pushed Foie Gras, Pear, Sauternes, Salt-Roasted Pear Sorbet

Passion Fruit/Mustard Ice Cream

Smoked Persimmon, Endive, Pancetta, Coffee

Lobster Meat, Wild Mushrooms, Lobster Cream Foam, Rosemary Vapor

Burnt Pineapple, Smoked Salmon, Soy, Togarashi
(Served on a hands-free skewer)

Short Rib, Root Beer Emulsion, Vanilla Gelee

Transparency of Manchego with Various Garnishes

Huckleberry Soda, Five Gelled Flavors

Maragda Chocolate at 94F, Flaxseed/Pistachio/Chocolate Crisp, Brewer's Yeast Ice Cream

The apex of our latest trip to Chicago was the year's final menu at Next, an homage to Chef Grant Achatz's time at the now-shuttered Trio in Evanston.  Chef A. arrived at Trio in 2001 fresh off a tour of duty at French Laundry, during which he became fully schooled in classical cooking techniques, and, by the time he left in 2004 to open what became Alinea, his modernist phase was in full swing.  The Achatz tenure at Trio represents a bridge between these two worlds of cooking (which were distinct then, but are not so separate anymore); indeed, many of the dishes we experienced this night were early renditions of what eventually ended up on Alinea's regular menu.  Perhaps the most well-known creation is the black truffle explosion, a single raviolo filled with liquid black truffle essence to be eaten in one closed-mouth bite (lest the juices fly out and stain your lapel) - this decadent signature is now to Achatz what Oysters and Pearls is to Thomas Keller (his mentor at French Laundry).  Other echoes of Alinea can be seen in the coconut and crab dish with 12 garnishes (a precursor to the now-famous lamb loin with 60 garnishes), the plastic straw filled with raspberry/tapioca/rose/lemon basil (this same tube is filled with bubble gum flavors at Alinea), and the lobster cream dish with rosemary vapors generated courtesy of hot water (vapor aromas typically show up a couple of times at the other place), not to mention the many whimsical metallic serving pieces designed by Martin Kastner.  Speaking of whimsy, a couple of the Trio courses are clearly intended to mess with the diner's mind; specifically, the cracker packet that resembles a pizza bite and is filled with a Cheez-Wiz-like substance (a take on "cheese and crackers") and the postage stamp-sized "pizza" that tastes just like the Stouffer's frozen French Bread variety (apparently, Achatz and I were eating the same junk food during our adolescent years in the mid-80s).  Not all of the dishes were hits - Mrs. Hackknife wasn't impressed by the chestnut baked potato soup, which seemed a little haphazard (and the knob of bitter chocolate didn't really enhance the flavors) and I wasn't a fan of either the freeze-dried salad (which I found over-the-top vegetal) or the short rib-cum-root beer float (the sauce was overpowering in a few of the bites).  Others, like the duck two ways with a lavender salt lozenge, foie gras, and plum sauce, were so good I got shivers (the things that these people at Next do with duck is nothing short of mind-blowing), and the cheese/dessert courses (especially the manchego cheese film layered atop garnishes like Kalamata olive and anchovies and the deconstructed stout beer, featuring yeast ice cream, hot chocolate foam, and flaxseed/pistachio crisp) were terrific.  We never had the pleasure of dining at Trio when it was still around (our interest in the culinary arts was in its infancy at the time), but Mrs. H. and I both feel fortunate that we had this second opportunity to experience the formative cuisine of Chef Achatz at Next (and this may very well be our final visit there, as our tickets are up for renewal soon and we expect to spend that money elsewhere in 2015)...

No comments:

Post a Comment