Good Eats at Next: Become one with nature with “The Hunt” menu at this popular Chicago restaurant
The latest in the revolving four-month menu idea from Grant Achatz embraces nature throughout
Where you’ll find it: 953 W Fulton Market. (312) 226-0858. www.NextRestaurant.com
How to get in: This is the tricky part due to the popularity, and short lifespan, of each menu rotation. Tickets are available on Next’s website, but they tend to sell out in minutes. The best way to get tickets is on the restaurant’s Facebook page, where they frequently post available same-day seating opportunities. Tickets for “The Hunt” are $125 per person, not including beverage pairings.
First impressions: As first-timers to Next, my dinner party and I were grinning like excited school kids, but also hushed and a bit nervous. Should we open the red wax-sealed envelope on the table, or was there some sort of production involved? We were put at ease when our server came to the table to welcome us. The beauty of a restaurant like Next is that, while its food is cutting-edge and decadent, its servers are inviting and down to earth. You would think they’ve been eating duck tongue their whole lives.
The experience: To simply comment on the cuisine at Next would be an injustice. From the centerpieces to the presentation to the drink pairings, Next is more of an extravaganza than a dinner. The first course, Hen of the Woods mushrooms paired with a consommé, was served is a small, glass treasure chest that, when opened, wafted a delicious aroma that made you feel like you were foraging in the damp woods. The next course, Catch of the Great Lakes, included smoked trout and perfectly salted walleye rillettes. A moment later, our server came to the table with silver flasks and told us to imagine that we were in a hunting tree stand and needed a nip or two to keep warm — a perfect drink pairing for the first red meat course. Served on a tree branch were five bites — each better than the last — of rabbit pate, elk jerky, boar salumi, venison heart tartare and blood sausage. A couple courses (cellar-aged carrots and onions, duck tongue with cider vinegar) later, we arrived at my favorite dish of the night: Sturgeon & Caviar. A rich, buttery sauce on such a delicate piece of fish, then toss a spoonful of sturgeon caviar on top, and I was more than tempted when the server told me she wouldn’t judge if I licked my plate clean.
The courses never wavered: Woodcock Jolie, another table favorite, served with truffle and huckleberry; Pressed Squab, the most adventurous dish on the menu; Fallen Leaves & Kidney, which, when served on a piece of birch bark, looked like a meal out of a fairy tale. Another interactive surprise was the Bison & Béarnaise. The server brought out a large, heated rock, which we used to lightly sear our pieces of bison. I wouldn’t normally classify myself as much of a “sweets” person, and now I know why. Before Next, I had never had my dessert served in a bone. The Marrow Brulee was easily the most indulgent course on the menu and was followed by the most fun — the Tire D’erable, created by the server pouring hot maple syrup into a container filled with fresh snow, leaving us to use a stick to make our own maple syrup lollipops.
Recommendations: The execution of Next: The Hunt is flawless. One gets to enjoy the opulence of fine dining with the excitement of wild game. The standard drink pairings are a must, and with The Hunt only available until May, I recommend scouring Facebook for tickets now!