Next, El Bulli

The frenzy for people clamoring for tickets to one of Chicago's top restaurants, Next, never ends. Yes, I did say tickets. Even before Next officially opened its doors last year, it had already made headlines across the country by reinventing the dining experience where diners purchase tickets to dine at the restaurant. The concept is just like how someone would buy tickets to a concert or football game. Table prices differ based on the day of the week and time of seating. Owned by one of America's genius chef, Grant Achatz, Next features a changing menu that focuses on a different cuisine and experience that change every four months. Next prides itself for not only its exceptional food but the entire experience.

It sure sounds like a pretty doable system except that it is very very hard to get tickets to dine at Next. We were extremely lucky to get tickets for their first menu (Paris 1906) and second menu (Tour of Thailand) and were left extremely impressed. Unfortunately we did not score tickets for the third menu with the theme of Childhood. The fourth time's a charm for us and we were lucky enough to get tickets for the El Bulli menu.

El Bulli restaurant in Spain officially closed its doors in 2011. Run by the legendary Ferran Adria, his restaurant El Bulli made it to the list of World's 50 Restaurants no less than five times in the last ten years. If that wasn't enough credentials, Ferran Adria won the Chef of the Decade award and his restaurant was recognized as the Best Restaurant in Europe in 2009. He greatly influenced the art and science of cooking and dining, hence it was only fitting that there is a tribute to celebrate the best of El Bulli's past 29 years. With Ferran Adria's blessings, the genius Chef Grant Achatz decided that his revolving-themed restaurant, Next, was going to celebrate and recreate the sense of El Bulli. Ferran Adria's sous chef flew to Chicago to meet with the kitchen team at Next to provide advice during the process of Next perfecting the 29-course El Bulli menu which is meant to represent the best dish from each of the 29 years. Though it will never fully recreate the sense of El Bulli, it was nothing short of a very good execution from the Next team. Most importantly, it gave us the opportunity to experience vicariously El Bulli, especially for us who have never been and will never get to.

*Course #1: Liquid nitrogen Caipirinha with tarragon concentrate*

*Course #2: Hot/Cold trout roe tempura*

*Course #3: Avocado pear, anchovies, and green onion*

*Course #4: Olive juice*

*Course #5: Iberico sandwich*

These were added to our drinks pairing for added flavors

*Course #6: Golden egg*

*Course #7: Chicken liquid croquettes*
A bite into the croquette and chicken liquid burst forth

*Course #8: Smoke foam*

A drop was added to our drinks pairing to create another type of flavor

*Course #9: Black sesame spongecake and miso*

*Course #10: Carrot air with coconut milk and Madras curry*
This was what put Ferran Adria on The New York Times Magazine in 2003

*Course #11: Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger, and mint*
Coconut juice wrapped in cuttlefish

*Course #12: Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding*

*Course #13: Suquet of prawns*

*Course #14: Cauliflower cous-cous with aromatic herb sauce*

*Course #15: Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous*

*Course #16: Potato tortilla by Marc Singla*

*Course #17: Trumpet carpaccio*

*Course #18: Red mullet gaudi*
The top of the fish was meant to represent a mosaic pattern as a tribute to the Spanish artist, Antoni Gaudi.

*Course #19: Nastartium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber*

*Course #20: Civet of rabbit with hot apple jelly*

*Course #21: Gorgonzola balloon*
Made out of ingredients that would melt if we did not eat it soon enough, tasted like bleu cheese.

 *Course #22: Foie gras caramel custard*

*Course #23: Spice plate*
Our "task" was to determine each of the spices from taste, ranging from saffron to clove.

 *Course #24: Mint pond*
Dark cocoa, matcha (green tea), and peppermint powder on a layer of ice

 *Course #25: Chocolate in textures*

Alcohol-flavored coffee

*Course #26, 27, 28: Chocolate donuts, creme flute, puff pastry web*

The farewell.....
*Course #29: Passionfruit marshmallow*

953 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

2012 James Beard Nominee for Rising Star Chef, Dave Beran
2012 James Beard Nominee for Best New Restaurant
2011 Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, Grant Achatz
2011 TimeOut Magazine 5 Stars for Next
2011 3 Michelin Stars Chef, Grant Achatz
2008 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef, Grant Achatz
2007 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes, Grant Achatz
2003 James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef, Grant Achatz
2002 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, Grant Achatz


  1. why are there 2 of the crab aspic on 1 plate?

  2. Because of my allergy Tim gets mine.

  3. I thought you are only allergic to shrimps?

    By the way, love your post. It looks like an amazing dining experience :)

  4. Cindy, my crab allergy is iffy because I've not had any problems with crabs but the allergy test results showed positive to Alaskan king crab specifically. A false positive, maybe, but two different tests came back positive for Alaskan king crab. Maybe it's two false positives?