500 north clark street
chicago, il 60654
after sleeping in and missing the breakfast we had planned, our first meal of our only day in the city proper during this trip was lunch at chef carrie nahabedian's restaurant naha. located across the street from rick bayless' restaurant empire, the cuisine at naha is described as american with mediterranean influences. naha was inducted into the fine dining hall of fame in 2009, and was awarded a michelin star in the 2011 guide.
after a quick cab ride from wrigleyville, my wife carrie and i arrived hungry and ready to eat about ten minutes early for our 1:30 reservation. with our coats checked, we were shown to our table that provided us with a view of the bustling city streets. the ambiance at naha is clean and bright, and perfectly mixes elegance with contemporary flair.
bread arrived with a nice salted butter bearing the restaurants logo. three types of bread were served, wheat, italian, and golden raisin. all three were great with my preference being the italian.
coming in at a hefty $18, one of our first courses was barnegat light scallops roasted with vanilla bean, citrus and spices, with la quercia organic prosciutto, butter crunch lettuce, bartlett pear, candied citrus rind and mint. luckily, this offering proved to be well worth its cost. while the scallops were sweet and delicious on their own, they were stunning when mixing with the salty prosciutto. it was hard to switch plates with carrie halfway through as this was one of the best scallop dishes i have had in some time.
fortunately, i forgot all about the scallops after one bite of our second starter. above is the cannelloni of butternut squash and mascarpone cheese with lacquered kurobata pork belly, spaghetti squash, swiss chard, and apple cider reduction. as with the scallops, this dish had a nice sweet and savory interplay going on, and picking a favorite of the two would really depend on my current mood.
after polishing off another basket of bread, our main entrees arrived. my choice was the braised pork shank served off the bone and accompanied by 3 sister's garden white corn polenta, roasted brussels sprouts, rapini, and golden chanterelles. this was definitely a successful choice for me, as each item on the plate pulled its own weight and came together to form a wonderful entree. this dish (along with a dish at fixe a week prior) confirmed the fact that i do in fact like brussels sprouts, something i found absolutely vile as a child.
carrie's entree was the great lakes whitefish "in a Garden" with wheatberries, roasted pears, poached cranberries, crisp bacon shards, and smoked onion-horseradish vinaigrette. i was only able to have a bite or two of this, and from what i sampled, it was another success with clear flavors and perfectly cooked fish
moving along to dessert, we were present with an impressive menu boasting roughly eight excellent sounding choices along with an interesting list of cheeses. after much debate, i finally selected the gateau basque, which was a custard cake plated with olive oil ice cream, late summer poached figs, and balsamic syrup. proving an excellent choice, the cake wonderfully gooey on the inside and tasted amazing. what really made this dish a standout however was the olive oil ice cream and balsamic syrup, as both added a truly unique element.
carrie ordered the breton butter sable with vanilla crème brulee, huckleberries, greek yogurt ice cream and candied lemon. i did not try this dessert, but carrie reports that it was excellent.
overall, naha lived up to my expectations on all fronts, and was certainly as good (if not better) as the other upscale lunches we have had in chicago (topolobampo, blackbird, sepia, cafe spiaggia). it is obvious that chef nahabedian is worthy of the accolades see has achieved, and i am very glad that we were able to dine at her restaurant.