Chicago: Naha

We took advantage of Restaurant Week by making Friday lunch reservations at Naha.

Timing was key. After a few tense seconds where it seemed like my professor might go into overtime, class ended at noon on the dot when it was supposed to and I sprinted out of the law school to get home, change my shoes, drop off my backpack, pick up my friend and my roommate, and then catch the L that would get us to Naha around our 1:00pm reservation. Thanks to some fast walking that left us a little breathless, we made it to the restaurant a little after 1:00:



The interior of Naha was simple and clean:



I was particularly amused when I observed a server quickly iron the newly changed tablecloth on an adjacent table. I guess I shouldn't have expected any less from a 1 star Michelin restaurant.

To start off, we were brought 3 kinds of bread:



Don't ask me what they were. I honestly have no clue, but I can say for certain that they were all fluffy and delicious.

We were all very impressed by the Naha menu. Restaurant Week menus tend to be on the sparse side, with generous restaurants offering 3 choices at most per course. Naha allowed us to choose one of 5 appetizers, 5 entrées, and 4 desserts. As usual, we each ordered something different and shared everything. Between the 3 of us, we managed to cover quite a lot of ground.

Our first appetizer was the BBQ glazed veal shortrib "lollipops" "enrobed" in bacon, with sorghum, chestnuts, and sage:



I could smell the smokiness of the bacon the moment the plate touched the table.

Second was the delicata squash soup (poured table-side) with pears, spaghetti squash, and toasted pumpkin seed:



Third were the Cortez Island oysters topped with Pernod sorbet, creme fraiche, and ruby red grapefruit:



I think we all agreed that every single one of the appetizers were fantastic. The shortribs were flavorful, the soup creamy with little bursts of sweetness from the pear, and the oysters citrus-y and refreshing.

One of our entrées was the slowly roasted "Kobe" Wagyu beef brisket with Yukon potato and goat cheese gratin, caramelized brussels sprouts, and mushrooms:



Mmm...fork tender.

We also ordered the pan roasted whitefish with shrimp, buttered leeks, Italian farro, artichokes, grain mustard, and tarragon:



Our last entrée was the organic carnaroli risotto with roasted zucchini, broccoli rabe, charred onions, and fermented black garlic:



The risotto had a lot going on...in a good way. Super flavorful without being overpowering. I enjoyed the brisket, but I think I liked the whitefish more. There's just something about well-prepared fish...

Finally, the desserts. Here's the parfait of Greek yogurt panna cotta, preserved cherries, and pecan streusel:



And the chocolate "mousse" cake with Naha "cracker jack" of peanuts and popcorn:



And the millefeuille of bananas, vanilla mousseline, and salted caramel:



The puff pastry in the millefeuille was amazingly crisp and the panna cotta was bright from the sourness of the cherries. Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about the chocolate cake. It was rather meh from the first bite to the last. The peanuts on the side were good though.

Despite Naha's odd tendency to use quotation marks in its menu, the food is undoubtedly superb (minus the chocolate cake). If we'd gone any other week, this meal would've made quite a dent in my wallet, but thanks to the magic of Restaurant Week, three courses cost us $22 per person. That's not including tax and tip of course, but still an amazing deal all the same.

I don't know if I'll be able to afford Naha on a regular day (especially at dinner), but if someone else is willing to treat, I would more than happy for a second round.


Naha
500 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 321-6242

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