Chicago: Next: El Bulli (May 2012)
Authors: Victor and Karen
Restaurant: Next Restaurant (El Bulli Menu)
Exec Chefs: Grant Achatz and Dave Beran
Consultant for the meal: Ferran Adrià
Date: May 27, 2012
Victor’s thoughts on the meal:
-This meal was one of the most thought-provoking meals of my life. Kudos to Ferran Adrià for these dishes he has created throughout his time at El Bulli, and kudos to Grant Achatz for recreating them at Next.
-Taste-wise, not every course was as delicious as the courses in, for instance, Per Se would be, but it was just such an experience to see these different textures and flavors utilized together.
-It was the first time I encountered “air”, smoke foam, and a hollow globe made of gorgonzola cheese, and I don’t think I’ll forget that experience.
-This meal was basically a tribute to Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli; Grant Achatz wanted to faithfully recreate a meal that featured different courses El Bulli has served throughout the years, and Ferran Adrià served as a consultant to help him accomplish this.
-Next Restaurant utilizes a ticketing system, and you had to pretty much buy your reservation “tickets” weeks before at a set time. (Tickets generally sold out within 30 minutes.)
-Next: El Bulli ran from February 8 to May 27. I GOT REALLY LUCKY; I managed to get two seats through a friend’s friend on the very last day!
-Each course has a number to the right of it, and that number signifies when Adrià created it. For instance, course #100 means that it was Adrià’s 100th creation.
There was a single rose hanging upside-down over each table in tribute to the single red roses that were always on the tables at El Bulli.
First, here’s the menu!
The first page of the menu had a description on El Bulli.
Aaaaand here’s a list of all of the courses:
2004 nitro caipirinha with tarragon concentrate #967
Sorry about this pic being incredibly blurry :(. The server was taking the dish away, and I spontaneously decided to start taking pictures at the last minute.
2000 hot/cold trout roe tempura #644
2003 ibérico sandwich #859
Jamón Ibérico ham, we meet again!
1991 coca of avocado pear, anchovies, and green onion #105
2005 spherical olives #1095
This was actually my first time trying spherical olives. I’ve tried spherification before (grapes and a few other fruits at Melisse), but it was my first time trying spherical olives. The server described it as “all the good parts of an olive without any of the bad parts”.
Additions for the champagne (they gave us vials a few times):
Throughout the meal, they would give us different liquids to add to our drink pairings to help alter the flavor of drinks. I thought this was pretty cool. Instead of giving us new drinks for each course, they would give us solutions to alter our drinks for a “new” drink!
1998 chicken liquid croquettes #474
2001 golden egg #741
2007 black sesame spongecake and miso #1361
1997 smoke foam #400
-This was one of the really thought-provoking dishes. Taste-wise, I at first thought it tasted like smoke; objectively, it really did. It was just the taste of smoke with the texture of foam! However, my friend then made a comment that this tasted like cigarettes, and the dish suddenly became really disgusting to me.
-I guess Ferran Adrià ‘s goal was to make the customer think about what kind of flavors and ingredients could qualify as “food”, and I think he accomplished his goal.
2003 carrot air with coconut milk #878
This dish is one of my favorite of all time. It was my first introduction to “air”. Taste-wise, it wasn’t as foodgasmic as toro nigiri, YET it was SUCH A DELIGHT to eat this! It was new, and the texture was just so different from anything I’d experienced in the past. I don’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun eating a dish!
Ferran Adrià created this on September 18, 2002. Here’s some background from an NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/10/magazine/a-laboratory-of-taste.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm):
Then he smiled. ”Another day is Sept. 18, 2002,” he said. I looked at him quizzically; that was just two days before. ”Foams are out — for us,” he said. ”I have created something five times lighter than the foams. The new texture that I create is air. In the bathroom there is the bath foam. This is the same texture.”
A few more questions and his discretion dissipated. ”You will be the first journalist to see it,” he said. He asked Castro to make preparations in the kitchen. ”It is only done with the product, nothing else,” he explained. ”For example, the carrot is only carrot juice, nothing else.” When Castro was ready, we went into the kitchen. Like a magician, Adrià had me taste a bowl of celery juice to verify that it contained nothing else. Then he applied an electric mixer. Within a minute, the liquid had turned into bubble bath. He brought it out onto the patio. He beamed happily, his cares temporarily evaporated. I couldn’t decide whether he looked more like a father whose child had uttered a first word or a little boy who finds a bicycle under the Christmas tree. In my mouth, the new ”air” lacked almost all substance, but embodied the essence of celery.
On my visit in June, Adrià served a carrot air with mandarin-orange concentrate — an intensified, gossamer version of chilled carrot-orange soup. The next day, we repaired to the small apartment and office that he keeps on the hill above the restaurant. (His wife lives in Barcelona, where she is an aquarium administrator. They go back and forth between Barcelona and Rosas on their days off.) Pulling photographs out of shoebox-size files, he showed me some of the ”airy” dishes he had made earlier this season. Baby artichokes with pumpkin-seed oil drops on a mandarin-orange coulis with vinegar ”air” looked especially appealing. ”Now that is over,” he said. ”No more little artichokes.” When he says over, he means it. Next year’s menu will consist entirely of new plates.
1997 cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger, and mint #416
1992 savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding #159
2001 hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous #781
2000 cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce #671
1998 suquet of prawns #28
1998 potato tortilla by marc single #491
1989 trumpet carpaccio #52
1987 red mullet gaudi #10
They put this bag on the table first.
They then served the dish on top of the bag.
2007 nasturtium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber #1404
2000 civet of rabbit with hot apple jelly #686
2009 gorgonzola globe #1570
–My iPhone ran out of power around here, so you’re going to start to see more of my friend Karen’s photos. (You should totally take better pictures next time, Karen, hahaha.)
-This was a REALLY fun course. The globe was made of gorgonzola cheese, and you could eat it with your hand! It was a lot of cheese, though. We only eat about half of it before we got a little sick of the gorgonzola; it was really strong :(.
1999 foie gras caramel custard #580
1996 spice plate #367
“Spice Plate” Key:
12 o’clock: Mint Leaf
1 o’clock: Grated Nutmeg
2 o’clock: Curry Powder
3 o’clock: Saffron Stamen
4 o’clock: Chopped Cardamom Pod
5 o’clock: Ground Szechuan Pepper
6 o’clock: Vanilla Seed
7 o’clock: Julienne of Confit Ginger
8 o’clock: Ground Cinnamon
9 o’clock: Crushed Pink Peppercorn
10 o’clock: Ground Star Anise
11 o’clock: Chopped Juniper
2009 mint pond #1647
-In this dessert, one of the chefs dropped different kinds of mints over the center of a flat plate (as you can see in this video)—after, we were told to hit the center of the plate lightly with our spoons.
-The center broke, revealing that the plate had a concave center all along! We were supposed to eat the broken pieces of ice that were flavored with mint. (UNFORTUNATELY, Karen stopped recording before you can see anybody actually break the center of the plate… THAT MAKES ME SAD.)
-In terms of pure taste, this wasn’t super amazing. Still, this was a very, very fun dessert, and I had lots of fun with it.
1997 chocolate in textures #439
26 to 28.
Left, back: 1993 creme flute #225
Left, front: 1989 puff pastry web ##66
Right: 2010 chocolate donuts #1820
2004 passionfruit marshmallow — the farewell #1089
The hand is waving goodbye, and there’s a passion-fruit marshmallow inside each glove. This is basically one last surprise in the meal.