Here at Taster.ca, we try to eat at local Windsor-Essex restaurants – but sometimes opportunities arise elsewhere that we cannot miss: in this case, tickets to the winner of the James Beard for Best New Restaurant in the USA in 2011. We happened to be of the lucky few to grab tickets for Next Restaurant‘s Sicily Menu. Yes, tickets. Next operates like a broadway play, selling tickets in advance for tables of 2, 4, or 6. Basically , once you get tickets (if you get tickets), you’ve already paid for your meal, drinks, taxes, and tip. All you have to do is show up. Reservations can’t be made and you have the window of opportunity of an hour to purchase tickets from their website after they announce the ticket release on their facebook and twitter pages.
Next Restaurant is tucked away a few blocks west of the I90 smack in the middle of the up-and-coming Fulton Meat Market. The restaurant permeates exclusivity. Without knowing the exact address or seeing the valet parking sign, Next is virtually impossible to find even when you’re standing in front of it; the restaurant name on the inconspicuous entryway can only be seen from just the right angle at night. A simple black glass door conceals the restaurant interior and the menu is kept top secret. The dining room seats 64 and they serve exactly 128 people every night. Wear your tie and dust off your dress because this fine dining establishment is the place to see and be seen in Chicago.
The service here is amazing. To keep on top of their game, the waiters and hosts track everything from when your food is fired, to where the woman is seated, what hand you use to eat with, what time you left the table so food doesn’t arrive while you are up, and even if you happened to mention that you cannot drink a lot of wine because you’re driving home. The wait staff manage to be attentive without being pretentious and will joke around with you if happen to look friendly.
The menu at Next is prix fixe with a number of courses centred around a theme that changes every few months. An idea that works well since it allows the chefs some creativity and also is a clever way to make diners excited with anticipation of the new menu and to get them coming back to the restaurant a few times a year. The June – September 2012 menu is Sicily so our meal consisted of 13 Sicilian inspired dishes. Executive chef Grant Achatz executes such a delicious meal, and every dish you taste has all of Grant’s technical knowledge that just drives the flavours home all while keeping the flavour and dishes true to the theme. The wait staff delves into the story every dish and wine as they serve it which gives the diners even more appreciation for the work that has gone into each dish.
This really was more than a restaurant it was an experience. Considering the level of service, and the quality of food on the menu tickets to Next are more than worth the money for any food enthusiast. We cannot wait to go back here but our bank account can.
Gemelli with Sardines – This was by far the favourite pasta dish. Crispy fried golden fennel and perfectly cooked sardines with a beautiful sauce was a mouth watering and memorable experience.
Roasted Pork Shoulder – The pork shoulder was so perfectly executed that you’ll wonder how such an incredibly tender piece of meat is even possible. Accompanied by a sauce made of tomatoes and reduced renderings, this dish was incredible.