As I sit down to write about a restaurant like Next, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. Like the food, the concept is complex, and the dining experience like no other. With famed chef Grant Achatz behind this operation, he’s created a system that requires you to buy a ticket in order to secure a reservation at this exclusive restaurant. Once you’ve got the ticket, it’s a question of what you’re going to eat. The menu changes every few months, always moving on to the “next” theme. The restaurant, which has been open just under a year and a half, has gone through five menu changes, ranging from “Paris 1906″ to “Childhood”. In such a short time, Next has received national recognition and created an allure that drives thousands of people daily to vie for a ticket to enter. That’s why when our friend invited my husband and I to join him and his girlfriend for Next’s Sicily menu, it wasn’t even a question.
As we were seated at our table, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful Italian painted dishes at each place setting, setting the mood for the Sicilian feast ahead. It was clear that, like the menu, the dishes and serveware also rotate.
At a place like Next, be sure to check your food likes and dislikes at the door; be willing to try anything. There were certainly foods put in front of me that would never seek out, but when in Sicily…
The first course was shared plates of Arancine (fried rice balls with lamb), Panelle (chickpea fritters), Caponata (a traditional vegetable ragu), and Carciofi Alle Brace (charred artichokes) cooked behind the restaurant on a Weber grill.
The first pasta course was Bucatini con Bottarga (a salted roe fish in a buttery sauce). The bucatini pasta and sauce were incredible, but I could have done without the fish.
The second pasta course was Gemelli con le Sarde. This is an examples of where I typically wouldn’t have ordered sardines, but tried it simply because of where I was. As expected, the pasta itself was incredible, but I couldn’t get past the fishiness of the sardine.
I absolutely loved the Pesce Spada con di Ceci (swordfish with charred mint in a mint pesto sauce). The fish was meaty, while still being succulent and juicy. Served alongside the fish were chickpeas served two ways, boiled and fried, and topped with romanesco. The chickpeas were so great, my husband who doesn’t like beans, even went back for seconds.
“You have arrived” were the exact words the food runner said to us when the Spalla di Maiale Brasato hit our table. The pork shoulder is a favorite among most diners at Next Sicily. The pork was incredibly tender and packed with flavor, then surrounded by the slow cooked tomato sauce derived from the juices from the meat. Alongside the pork was fried zucchini, which were overshadowed by the main dish.
The palate cleanser of Granita di Arance Rosse – blood orange granita was delicious and beyond refreshing.
For dessert, we enjoyed a slice of the Cassata, a traditional Sicilian sweet cake that was amazing, as well as a tray of Cannolis, Ravioli Fritti, and Cubbaita di Giugiulena. The cake was by far the highlight of dessert.
The night could only be complete with a quick viewing of the kitchen at the end of the night.