The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Photos: Grant Achatz And Dave Beran Go Vegan With Next's Latest Reinvention

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 29, 2013 4:20PM

Until last night, we hadn't been to Next since we reviewed Paris: 1906, the very first menu that the acclaimed restaurant from Chefs Grant Achatz and Dave Beran ever put on. We missed the glories of Sicily, Kyoto, The Hunt, Childhood and El Bulli, but when a friend mentioned that he had a few spare tickets to Next: Vegan, how could we pass it up?

First, let's get the obvious thing that everyone has said about the menu out of the way: You don't miss the meat. But that doesn't quite describe the feeling during the meal. It's not that guests are constantly thinking "Hmm, this tastes like meat" or "Hmm, I'm feeling satisfied without being a carnivore." Next: Vegan proves that a meal made entirely of vegetables can wrap you up so completely that thoughts of animal protein never even cross your mind. You don't miss meat; you forget entirely that meat and dairy even exist.

Why is this important? Rather than promoting meat substitutes, this meal made obvious what we have always believed - plant-based ingredients stand on their own, without any need for additives or additions. No, we can't all create fermented apple powder or buy lotus blossoms at our local grocery store, but if Next: Vegan accomplishes one thing, it inspires guests to try more and go further with the bounty of the season, rather than just tossing some bacon in a pan and calling it a day.

The dishes were showcased through a series of innovative presentations, including a beverage ladled out of a tree stump, sprouts fished out of test tubes and, in our favorite twist of the night, toppings and dressing for your salad course spooned out of the decorative centerpiece. If they had told us to start chewing on the edges of the tablecloth, we'd have done it without question by the end of the night.

Dish descriptions are in the photo gallery. A quick note: we had some minor technical difficulties early on in the meal. Stick with it, and we promise that the pictures get much prettier.