The Other Critics

Ruby Parties at Next; Bruno and Gebert Differ on Perennial Virant

Get ready for a party at Next.
Get ready for a party at Next. Photo: courtesy of YouTube

Jeff Ruby is first out of the gate with an official review of Next. To be honest, it is just a couple paragraphs at the beginning of Chicago Magazine’s latest Dish newsletter. Still, Ruby concludes that if the Paris 1906 menu was a “banquet,” then “Thailand is a party.” Next avoids the decor mistakes of most Thai restaurants, which ultimately means that “the food is all that matters.” The first courses “felt more like a food stall at Bangkok’s Chatuchak market than any million-dollar renovation could have.” Though you may not “experience anything new,” “even Thai pros will find beautiful dishes more deeply flavored than they’re accustomed to.” Only the “salty” braised beef cheek missed the mark. [Chicago Mag]

We should have known this would happen: Pat Bruno has issues with restaurants that serve small plates, especially hyped ones by the Boka Restaurant Group, and he doesn’t waste any time pointing out the faults of Perennial Virant. He thinks the name “just doesn’t make sense,” and then spends an odd paragraph making fun of the “farm-to-table idea,” before pointing out that the restaurant doesn’t use enough fresh herbs. Nearly every dish besides the crispy Carnaroli rice dish had some deficiency for Bruno: the gnocchi was “too doughy”; the short ribs had a “woeful lack of flavor” ; and the spaetzle sprinkled on top was “some of the worst spaetzle I have come across.” [Sun Times]

On the other side of the Perennial Virant debate is Michael Gebert, who writes that the exact same short rib and spaetzle dish was “terrific, like if barbecue had a baby by a German soldier.” He’s particularly impressed with the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere, where he felt that “everything didn’t have to be perfect to make you happy.” Luckily, basically everything did: Ted’s Cornmeal Cake “seemed like decadence on a farm in Iowa,” and the pork pate was “silky.” He points out that numerous restaurants say that they have a commitment to fresh ingredients, but he thinks that Perennial Virant’s dedication to local produce is a “generous, unconditional love.” [Sky Full of Bacon]

Ruby Parties at Next; Bruno and Gebert Differ on Perennial Virant