Friday, February 10, 2012

elBulli at Next

It’s rare that we are able to enjoy something that no longer exists. As a matter of fact, it’s damn near impossible. However Grant Achatz and Dave Beran at Next have managed to bring the world famous elBulli (closed this past July) to Chicago. Next, a revolutionary restaurant that explores world cuisine opened its doors for its fourth menu. We have had the immense pleasure of having dinner at two of the three previous menus (Paris 1906 and Thailand. Sadly we weren’t able to get a seating at Childhood), and the elBulli menu has been the talk of the culinary world since they announced in the fall that they would take on the monumental task of doing a retrospective of Ferran Adria’s 25 years at elBulli.

Scoring tickets to this was tantamount to winning the lottery. Before doing a mass release of tables, they had a lottery for this week only. Twelve seating’s a night, for five nights; over 5,000 people sent emails in requesting one of these coveted tables. For those of us who aren’t math buffs, that’s 5,000 people vying for 60 seats, you have about a 1.2% chance of getting tickets. I would have a better chance running a horse and winning the Triple Crown (8% of horses who’ve run, have won and there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since 1978) While I didn’t get picked, friends of ours did and were kind enough to offer us two of their seats.

We sat for over six hours, dining on 29 magical courses and 12 beverage pairings. The dishes were whimsical, thoughtful and obviously delicious. What Achatz and Beran did was not simply copy the menus from elBulli, they put their spin on Adria’s pivotal dishes.

We had a caipirinha that was hit with nitro and placed inside a frozen lime with a dash of tarragon. It looked like margarita slush, but tasted refreshing and divine. Dishes like smoked foam (water was cold smoked, frozen and then the created a foam from ICE, whaaaat?), Cuttlefish Ravioli (thinly cut cuttlefish wrapped around coconut water (seriously, fish around water?), liquefied chicken croquette (sounds strange, tastes delicious) and simple Jambon Iberco were only a few of the wonderful and delightful dishes.

I could talk about our meal for hours, instead I have pictures. Each has a caption below, explaining what it is.

elBulli was in a town called Roses, every day each table setting had a beautiful red rose in a vase. Next was worried about the amount of space they would need on the table for each of the plates, and so one of the servers suggested hanging the rose from the ceiling. Each table has one red rose hanging down from midair above their heads.
Nitro frozen caipirinha with taragon concentrate

Hot/cold trout roe tempura

Coca of avocado, pear, anchovy and onion

Iberico sandwich

Spherical olives (They taste like olives, but they aren't olives and they explode in your mouth!)

One of these viles changes the taste of your Cava, in order to prepare your drink for the following course

Golden Egg, quail egg, covered in caramel and gold

Chicken liquid croquettes. They look like mini mozzarella sticks, but explode with a smooth water like liquid that tastes like chicken. It's crazy.

One of my favorites! Black Sesame Sponge cake with miso. They cook the cakes in the microwave. This was so delicious, I wish I knew how to make it.

Another delicious drink changer. Added to the Cava that we already placed the previous vile, add 4-8 eye drops and BOOM! Different drink

Smoked Foam with Olive Oil Brioche. As I said before, this foam is just water. It looked like egg whites, it had a buttery consistency from the Olive Oil. Super smokey, super cool

Carrot air with coconut milk and madras curry. The carrot air alone was amazing, tasting sweet like a baby carrot, but when you got down to the bottom, a delicious curry was below.

The Cuttlefish Ravioli. So simple, so amazing.

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding. It tasted like the best gazpacho you have ever had in your life.

Hot crab aspic with mini corn couscous

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce. Delicious mixture of herbs. Each bite with a different herb changed the favor of the dish.

Suquet of prawns

Potato tortilla from makr singla. There are onions at the bottom, the perfect bite had all three laywers of warm and cool. It was heaven
Trumpet mushroom carpaccio with rabbit kidney. You'd think the large thing in the center that looks like a kidney was the kidney. It was not, it's mushroom! The kidneys are small and mixed in with the carpaccio below

This is a steaming bag filled with conch. It smelled like seawater
Mullet 'gaudi'

Bone marrow on eel with nasturtium and sweet cucumber. The flower was so deliciously spicy! They made this dish for the first time two days before we got there

Teaming up with Half Acre to create a beet juice and orange infused beer

Civet of rabbit with hot apple jelly and foie

Gorgonzola globe

Tap, tap, tap with a bit of nutmeg
Foie gras carmel custard. Talk about decadence
Our test for the evening, a spice plate to test your palate
Yeah, I got a 100%
Matty came SO close!

Mind Pond with with mint, turbado sugar, and matcha powder. You crack the center and eat the mint ice. Very delicious palate cleanser

Chocolate in textures

Chocolate donuts, puff pastry web, creme flut. The donuts were liquid in the center. Amazing
Goodbye Hands! You had to figure out which one had the delicious passion fruit marshmallows

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