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.