Naha- Chicago, IL

Naha Skate Wing

Naha- Chicago, IL

On one of our adventures to Chicago, we were fortunate to have Mike’s parents join us for the trip. They aren’t used to eating the modern cooking techniques like gastronomy that Mike and I thrive on, so luckily Naha was our “good food of Chicago” introduction. We had dinner reservations just a few hours after we landed. Mike and his father, Clifton, share the same birthday week 40 years apart. A trip to Chicago was the perfect way to celebrate for both of them. It was a beautiful weekend and the weather was so nice that we decided to walk from The Drake to Naha. It was a wonderful way to take in the sights on the way to dinner. We arrived at an attractive corner restaurant with glass windows and a few tables out on the sidewalk. Inside, we were greeted with warm hosts, dark wood floors and cream colored walls. It had a light and airy vibe and we were able to get a great center table spot with lots of natural light.

This is a Michelin Star restaurant 3 years in a row, as well as the winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef in 2008. Even knowing all that, the menu is still huge and impressive. If you can’t find something you like here, don’t bother going out at all next time. It’s incredible that with a table of four very different food preferences, everyone was able to find a dish that they were excited about. Naha describes itself as an informal fusion of Mediterranean and California flavors. The fish dishes were certainly a mix of both and there were some that stood out like the Mediterranean Greek Salad with “Our Mom’s Warm Feta Cheese Boereg”. Of course, I had to order that as my appetizer. It was so tasty that I almost ordered another for my entrée. You don’t have to be a feta lover to enjoy it, but if you do adore the Greek cheese, you will love how it harmonizes with the other salad components. Mike ordered the Yukon Potato Gnocchi with Braised Oxtail as an appetizer for everyone to try. Well, that almost worked. He loved his first bite so much he offered to get anyone that wanted a taste another order. We gratefully declined as our entrees were on their way.

For a man who had no idea he would be sucking beet juice out of an ice block through a glass tube in just 48 short hours, the polenta with popcorn garnish was quite perplexing to Clifton. It was almost laughable knowing that he would be in for a real treat when we got to Alinea later in the trip. He was a trooper through the taste combinations and we knew he would at the very least enjoy the experience. He ended up loving the meal. His braised pork was glistening and gorgeous. This was a good sign since Naha is about as “normal” as cooking techniques get in this town.

I ordered the skate wing because I had only seen them live coming out of the ocean. They are awful looking creatures that almost remind you of a science fiction monster with their slit mouths. They say they are wonderful to eat, so I thought this would be the place to experience that. It was, indeed, delicious. Mildly flavored, with cauliflower and cabbage greens, it was as light and airy as the establishment itself. It was almost refreshing after a long day of traveling. Scallops with artichokes and lentils for Sandy which she said were excellent with a hint of apple adding even more flavor. Quail, pork belly, and quail egg for Mike…yeah. You would have to work really hard to make that combination taste bad. As expected, it was the perfect indulgence. The quail egg stole the show and really enhanced the flavor of everything on the dish, even the Swiss chard. It reinforced our theory that you can put an egg on anything it will be fantastic.

The service was very good. They were attentive without being over bearing. We were left to enjoy a good meal in each others company. It was a Thursday night, so it wasn’t the busiest night of the week, but even for an early dinner it was rather quiet. The view onto the busy downtown streets after the work day gave good entertainment and sparked conversation nicely.

 

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