Partner with Morgan Clendenen (Cold Heaven Cellars) in the Red Wine Program for the 2009 and 2010 vintages), Producers of distinctive Viognier, Pinot Noir and Syrah from Santa Rita Hills and surrounding cool climate AVAs All around food freak since 1980...
Was very lucky to be invited to Next for their friends and family trial run of the new elBulli menu. Normally, I would not think of "reviewing" a restaurant, especially a constantly evolving concept like Next, until they have had sufficient time to practice the menu. I will make an exception here because it was simply amazing in its breadth, depth and creativity. Like any new restaurant (Next is effectively a "new" concept every three months or so) there were some things that will be tweaked as the menu progresses with respect to service, timing, plating and seasoning, but what they delivered on Saturday night, was stunning by any measure. I never had the chance to go to elBulli, which is probably my single greatest culinary regret, so being able to experience Grant and Dave's hommage to Ferran Adria, which spanned many years, was a special opportunity for me. The menu consists of 29 courses and will take about 4 hours or so to experience. It was a good amount of food, but not overly indulgent and very well balanced between lightness and richness, savory and sweet (I am not a "sweet" fan so I am sensitive to this). Some dishes are just a single bite and other more composed and larger. I was definitely full, but I was not uncomfortably so. Molecular gastronomy has a heavy hand in the production of many of these plates, but it isn't noticeable until you start thinking about things like warm jelly still holding its shape or hot aspic or a tempura dish that is both hot and cold in one bite. There is some serious technique being employed here by people who know what they are doing and doing it well. It is not gimmicky at all, whimsy makes some appearances, even some gustatory provocation, but the food is good, recognizable, and very satisfying. I had many favorites on this menu, but two days later, I am still thinking about the spherical olives, coca of avocado pear, anchovies and green onion, the cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint as well as the trumpet mushroom carpaccio (with rabbit kidney). The wine parings are still in process of being finalized, but the cava, montsant and corbieres that were served with our menu were lovely foils for this exceedingly complex menu. I cannot wait to return.
NAP - Fixed Tasting Menu Only
Restaurant: The Bristol
The B is a place I like to call home at least once a week, sometimes twice, when I am in Chicago. Everything about the place is comfortable to me. The food, which is constantly changing, is always artful, flavorful, and comforting. Chef Pandel has a real talent for delicately layering Italian perspectives into his distinctly local fare. His unabashed willingness to use all the parts of the animal make The B a favorite for me. Comfortable room, really nice people, excellent charcuterie, pastas, meats and desserts. Their new pasty chef, Amanda Rockman, is a a Rockstar and her Basque Cake is one of my favorite desserts of all time. While the menu changes, things that are always there and worth it: Scotch Olives, Flatbread, Bone Marrow, Charcuterie, Pan Roasted Chicken and ANY of the house-made pastas. From time to time they will offer a Cote du Bouef, Pig Tail or Goat, which are not to be missed.
Greatest hits from the past: Beef Tongue in Aspic, Beef Heart Tartare, Cote du Bouef, Whole Roasted Fish, Goat Brain Ravioli, Pasta with Botarga, Hangar Steak, Duck Fat French Fries, Vitello Tonnato, Testa and Porchetta, to name just a few....
Restaurant: GT Fish and Oyster
Disclamier - I consider the folks behind this restaurant as my friends.. Went last night for the first time... ordered oysters, fluke, sun fish, trout, and stuffed calamari... The place was packed, too packed and it was very loud but there was very good energy and everyone seemed to be having good time. I really enjoyed the experience and they have done a fabulous job with the decor (though, if they are as popular as I think they will be, they will have to do something about noise dampening, the beautiful tile floors and hard wood planks just bounce noise off the painted-wood paneled walls. The decor is nautical, but very tasteful. All of Guiseppe's food is beautiful and many of the Asian and other influences that find their way into his compositions are excellent and deftly handled. I think the service and the kitchen probably needs to find their groove, but nothing was was problematic, and not usual for a restaurant opened for just one week. A couple dishes could have benefited from a bit more acid (I am an acid freak), but everything was well executed, seasoned and presented. I will definitely go back, and most likely frequently when they open for lunch. I particularly liked the Sunfish Ceviche and the Fluke with Uni as well as the selection of Oysters
Cortes Island and Wellfleet Oysters, Sunfish Ceviche, Fluke with Uni, Trout with Vaudovan Lentils
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