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'Tour of Thailand': What that means at the next Next

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[The goal at Next: to transport you to Thailand. | AP photo]

Next, the groundbreaking restaurant from chef Grant Achatz and Co. that has turned many a Chicagoan into desperate, mouse-clicking junkies trying to snag a ticket to dine there, is getting ready for its first facelift.

The debut menu -- the food of Escoffier's Paris, circa 1906 -- is in the home stretch. On July 8, the next Next will open, serving a tour of Thailand.

Achatz and chef de cuisine Dave Beran are interpreting the word "tour" "both socially and regionally," Achatz says -- offering in one sitting what travelers to Thailand would encounter regionally, from north to south. Street food, so integral to the culture, will figure prominently. As will Thai newspapers.

"We want to be like, let's say, you're walking down the street in Thailand and you're noshing on street food," he says. "Then you walk into a more formal restaurant, you sit down, it's more refined, more composed. Then, when you walk out of the restaurant, the final plate is indicative of what you'd get back out on the street, in a more dessert-like fashion."

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To help set the scene, the team ordered "reams and reams" of Thai newspapers online. They'll cover the tables in newspapers, and then serve those first street-food courses on banana leaves set on top of the papers.

For the more formal courses, the papers will be whisked away, replaced by Thai silk runners.

"We wanted to give that theatrical feel to it, the same way we served some of the Escoffier food on antique stuff," Achatz says. Initially nervous that it would come off as "contrived and cheesy," the chef happily reports that after some test runs, "it really feels cool."

Prices are being worked out, but Achatz figures it'll be "comparable to lower" than the Paris menu, which averages $100 a person, excluding beverage pairings.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on June 20, 2011 1:39 PM.

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