My last word on Next - elBulli
Here are the vital stats on Next:
Pairings: 12 or so
Time: Four hours (though a friend who sat down an hour after us was there until almost 2 am — a seven hour meal)
Cost: A car payment (depending on your car)
There was a lot to like here. It’s truly a celebration in that it’s one course from each year of elBulli’s run as one of the best restaurants in the world. I think that conceit hampers them a bit, in that there must have been multiple dishes from certain years they’d have liked to include, and, certainly, the culinary world has moved much since the late 80s (haven’t we all). As with any undertaking of this endeavor, let’s break it down into its constituent parts:
The Food: Flawlessly executed, as you’d hope. The cuttlefish ravioli was simply jaw dropping. There was plenty of foam, for which Adria is known, but it wasn’t used as a crutch. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more textural contrast, and there were fewer “things masquerading as other things” than I expected.
The Pairings: All were spot on in flavor (though we were a little disappointed in the Half Acre offering, even if you cannot beat the French Bulldog on the label), but stingy with the pours — especially at the price you’re paying. Given that they’re not pouring high-end hooch (most of their stuff is available in Chicago for around $20/bottle, there’s really no excuse. I guess you have to find margins somewhere.
The Experience: As always, they really deliver here. The staff knows everything about everything. They’re engaging and smart (important since you’re spending four hours together). At the end of the meal, we were invited to finish our last two courses in the kitchen. We jumped at the offer, of course, and got to watch them run service for a bit. It was impressive to see their organization and preparation. There are armies that are less together. Note our ticket: they observed I was left handed and adjusted accordingly. Ultimately we learned the reason they’d ushered us into the kitchen was because Grant Achatz was waiting for our table. If you’ve got to be displaced, that seems a good reason.
Here’s the upshot. Was it a great meal and a great tribute? Yes. Undoubtedly. I’m thrilled I went. It was an amazing time with fun, good people.
Was it the best meal I’ve ever had? No — probably not in the top five. Probably not the best meal I’ve had at Next.
So what’s your problem, dumbass? Too many to mention, generally, but I felt like the whole menu lacked a point of view, that it was ultimately just someone cooking someone else’s food, however well they did so. The idea of the meal as a “Best Of,” as an edible tour of a museum makes sense. But like too many of those sterile places, divorced of it’s origins, this meal didn’t sing for me.
Let me put it another way:
I love the songs on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, but I’d always rather listen to Blood on the Tracks.
66 Notes/ Hide
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