I don’t do restaurant reviews. That’s not my thing. There’s something maddening about people blogging about their experience, hurling superlative after superlative – “mind blowing”, “forward thinking and innovative”, “absolutely amazing”, etc. Actually I have two favorite overused quotations. One is a phrase like “completely unique”. The word ‘unique’ cannot have a modifier. Either it is unique or it is not. There are not grades of uniqueness. The other is “quite possibly the best meal I ever had”. I love how the word “possibly” is always used. Just a little hedge. You know, not to offend anyone else who’s cooked for you in the past. Your mother-in-law might be reading, after all.
Writers can be especially annoying when critiquing dinners dish by dish at the top establishments in the world. Quibbling over details over this or that flavor or texture seems petty. It reminds me of a bunch of guys hanging out dissecting a fashion show of bikini models. “She could be more stacked.” “Her ass isn’t quite what I’m into.” Like you could even score a coffee date with one of them. Please.
So, if you’re expecting an epic play-by-play of the evening, with an extended essay on my notion of childhood, its culinary homage by Chef Achatz and how I was affected, you’ll need to keep surfing – I’m sure one will turn up. I suppose I’ve read too many “I Ate At elBulli” pieces. I’m jaded.
I do have some photos, though.
I didn’t take pictures of all the dishes. I went with an old friend from high school and we got caught up in conversation and then would go “Oh, I should’ve taken a picture of that!” So take that as a good sign to a great meal.
If you are going to go to Next and enjoy the Childhood menu at some point, please note: SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not keep reading if you wish to retain surprise and wonder. But you probably watched their YouTube video already, so what the heck.
Childhood Dish Pics
The “I Had A Drink At Aviary” Piece
I requested if there were a couple of seats open at their bar, Aviary, next door after we were finished. They did have a couple of seats available, so even though I was stuffed to the gills, we waddled over and got ourselves the cider, their pretty much already iconic drink. It sits in custom serviceware and slowly darkens in color as the fruit and herbs infuse the liquid over the course of the time you consume it.
As we were leaving, we passed by the ‘bar’, or more appropriately, ‘liquor kitchen’. I called out for the bartenders, or more appropriately, chefs, to say cheese, and one happily obliged.
The “I Ate In Chicago” Piece
I wasn’t in Chicago for very long, but haute cuisine isn’t the only game in town. Of course I had to try some other Windy City classics. And that would be, of course, deep dish pizza and a hot dog.
Windy City Wrap Up
So, really, what is there to say? I ate the Childhood menu on opening night at Next Restaurant. Do you really want a review? OK. If I had to describe it…I guess I would say it was mind blowing. It was forward thinking and innovative. It was absolutely amazing. It was
completely and totally unique. And quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had.