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Next Restaurant (953 W. Fulton Mkt.) is the the newest venture for Grant Achatz of Alinea.  But Next is not an ordinary restaurant; it operates on its own set of rules.  First, you can’t just walk in to dine.  You can’t even call up a few weeks in advance for a reservation.  Usually months before your dinner you purchase a (golden) ticket for a table online – a task that will require repeated clicks of the refresh button – hundreds if not thousands are trying to get their hands on a table.  However, if you like them on Facebook you can grab last minute tables for night-of dining.

The actual dinner you experience will change every few months.  Next chooses a Place and sometimes Time to inspire the meal.  I attended the Childhood menu which was essentially Michigan 1984 or so.  Delicious modern takes on classic fare such as deconstructed cheeseburger, a walk through the forest and a fun take of fish and chips.  Here are a few pictures from that dinner:
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Chicken noodle soup (top) – the noodles are made out of chicken
Fish and chips (bottom) – as painted by a child
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Walk in the forest.
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Deconstructed cheeseburger
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Adult lunch box. Truffle Oreo, jerky, fruit roll up, etc. and a beverage. (Top)
Sweet potato campfire (bottom)

This trip was Sicily.  It was absolutely delicious.  The service was spot on as expected.  The moment you walk through the nondescript door right next to The Aviary you feel welcome and at home – relaxed and comfortable.  Unlike many fine dining restaurants, it doesn’t take a couple of courses to settle into your seat and really start to take things in.

I have a lot of respect for Next and I wasn’t able to take any sort of notes throughout the meal.  Hence, I’ve decided to let the pictures do most of the talking for this post.

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Two days before the dinner I received a text from a chef friend who came upon last minute tickets for four.  He was taking his father, another friend and was kind enough to invite me.  We were seated at one of the few booths in the dining room and chose to have a non-alcoholic beverage pairing with our meal – the perfect option in all of our opinions in retrospect.  Within moments the meal began.  Enjoy Next: Sicily.
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Welcome. A note from the team.
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honey, chamomile, saffron
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Panelle, Caponata, Carciofi Alle Brace, and Arancine.  Sicilian street food.  Chickpea fritters dusted with cheese, caponata was a little sweet with some cocoa powder in the dish, rice balls filled with tender (local) lamb tongue, and perfectly charred baby artichokes with spoons to scoop out the heart and filling.
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zucchini, Mount Olympus flower
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Bucatini con Bottarga.  Home made pasta with a rich but light cream sauce and gray mullet roe.  The dish tasted just like the sea.  One of my favorites of the night.  Top five pasta dishes all time for me.
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Gemelli con le Sarde.  A different home made pasta with a grilled sardine filet and a tangy almost zesty sauce that included pine nuts, currants, dill and fried baby fennel to top.
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Pesce Spada con di Ceci.  The fish course.  Swordfish and Ceci beans served mashed and fried with romesco.  Melt in your mouth swordfish with a mint puree.  Accompanied by mint leaves that have been salted and charred making them delicious to eat on their own.  One of the better pieces of swordfish I’ve tasted.  The crispier skin bites were my favorite for sure.
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green tomato, garlic, white pepper
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Spalla di Maiale Brasato.  Perfectly slow roasted pork shoulder with a tomato sauce that had been simmering all day long.  Accompanied by perfect tomatoes and zuccini.  The pork fell from the bone and was as flavorful and moist as any shoulder I’ve consumed.  Hard to do the veggies justice.  They were tender, super fresh and surprisingly flavorful.  A great meat course.
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fennel verjus rouge, orange
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Granita di Arance Rosse Cassata.  Blood orange granita.
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watermelon, white balsamic, pinot noir juice.
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Cubbaita di Giugiulena.  Basically Italian Easter cake with marzipan, ricotta and other sweetness.  It was unique and a perfect light cakey way to end the meal.
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Leave the bill.  Take the Canolis.
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Thank you to Michael G. for the invitation and the entire staff of Next.
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