Recently I was lucky enough to eat at Dave Beran’s restaurant in Chicago which is currently featuring foods from The Alps. The restaurant opened on April 6, 2011 in Chicago’s Fulton River District. Next features a fixed menu that changes roughly twice a year. In January 2016 Next began featuring “The Alps” which explores food and wines from various regions along the alps. We were lucky enough to sit at the chef’s table, which offered views of the surprisingly small kitchen.
As we gathered around the table, the centerpiece featured two teapots that seemed to be on the table for decoration. The teapots were filled with several herbs and water. After a few minutes, two servers entered and began telling us a story of a traveler who would make “Stone Soup” while traveling. While telling the story, hot stones are dropped into the teapots. The stones are so warm the water sizzles and pops as the rocks cool. The heat begins infusing the water with the various herbs and spices in the teapot. The soup is then strained into a teacup and drank like tea. It is a nice warm introduction to the rest of the menu.
After the soup, we were introduced to local foods that would be present in a French Farmhouse. This course featured a meat pie, a potato tourton filled with a puree, and a delicious praline gateaux with goat butter.
From the farmhouse, we transitioned to a German town. A metal rack of warm soft pretzels was introduced accompanied with various sausages This was a very hearty course that hinted at the vast amount of food that we would soon consume.
Following the pretzels and sausage we received a short break in the form of thick hot chocolate. The mug was filled with a creamy chocolate with black truffle on the bottom. It was a delicious break to clear the palate prior to being introduced to the most elaborate part of the meal.
Two large smolder logs were then placed directly on the table, while still on fire! The logs were then covered with glass vases and the smoke began filling the vessel. As the smoke built it became increasingly difficult to view the medallions of artic char. The flames are naturally extinguished by the lack of oxygen in the vessels. The logs are then uncovered and the artic char is then placed on a dish featuring cauliflower puree, carmelized cauliflower, poached chanterelle mushrooms, and dabs of chicken jus.
The dish that follows comes in the form of a magic trick. A delicious goulash is revealed from seemingly nowhere. The goulash is heavy and hearty and by this point it had become increasingly difficult to continue eating.
Again, we were given a short break from the heavy dishes with an ice salad. The “salad” is featured above and consists of various fruits. Each bite reveals some sweet and some sour tastes. The dish is served in a honeycomb bowl, placed in a bowl of crushed ice, and garnished with twigs from an apple tree.
The meal ends with various, incredible, desserts. Featured is a five spice ice cream with apple syrup, a delicious apple strudel, and a salzburger nockerl. I wish I had known how tasty the desserts were prior to indulging in the earlier dishes, but they were still absolutely delicious.
In general, I try to avoid restaurants like Next. I often find the experience and the amount of food is simply not worth the price we pay for these extravagant meals. Next is an exception! The experience is fantastic. You are almost always anticipating what is next and occasionally surprised by dishes that somehow appear in front of you. I am sad that I have missed out on 15 prior menus featured at this incredible restaurant, but excited to see what “South America” will bring in the coming months.
Interestingly enough as I write this, news was just released that executive chef Dave Beran has decided to leave Next and Chicago to pursue a new venture in Los Angeles. I am assuming that this will have little impact on the restaurant, but marks the end of a 5 year run. Dave has been the executive chef since the beginning of Next and it will be intriguing to see what the future holds for Next Restaurant.