An Outsider’s View of Chicago, Pt. 2: Captivating Comestibles–Naha

Posted: August 10, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I held no expectation of anything surpassing Sepia.  Indeed, at this level of sophistication, I feel unqualified to make judgments or assign positions.  Still, I think Naha  topped the list of dining experiences on our Chicago trip.  I don’t know that every dish was superior to those we had at Sepia, but overall I liked the food better.  Perhaps that was in part because we did a tasting menu.  Unbelievable.   We had 4 diners and 7 courses equating to 17 different dishes (not each was unique).  Don’t worry.  I won’t go through the whole dinner.  Just the highlights.

The French Kiss Oyster was aptly named.  A single bite of heaven.  I was also  lucky enough to get scallops again!  I doubt I’ll ever consume their equal.  They were perfectly cooked; the dish wonderfully orchestrated. It’s a good thing this was so well-prepared, or my husband might have lost his Summer Corn Soup, another near-indescribable dish.  The Arctic Char was a favorite—the epitome of surf and turf, without any meat.  The surf element is obvious.  The turf accompaniment of Jerusalem artichokes, wheatberries, mushrooms, spring herbs & greens was earth all over.  And the morels I snitched from my husband’s salmon were not a distraction from my own fish.

I experienced another first at Naha as well.  Duck Breast and Foie Gras–actually a double first; I’d never had either before.  The worst part of this is that at home I’m stuck with chicken.  Duck is so much more to my taste, a wonderful flavor composite of poultry and game.  It’s not readily available in my area, and if it were, I know I couldn’t do it justice.  Foie gras?  Not even going to try.  That’s the dilemma of eating at truly excellent restaurants.  Subsequent meals rarely measure up.  Approaching this as an experience, rather than a new standard, is the only way I cope.  And with time the memory fades.  I may still be able to eat scallops.  Someday.

In the weeks before our Chicago trip, I visited Naha’s menu several times.  I wanted to have my order planned before I got there.  When my husband suggested the tasting menu, I thought it was a great idea.  I’d had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to eat, and this would solve that problem.  I did hope I would get a few things that sounded especially appealing.  The oyster, scallop, and foie gras were on the tentative list, and I was thrilled when presented with the Lamb Osso Buco, one of the finalists in “entree. ” I actually may have clapped my hands.  I know I did that at one point during the meal, much to the amusement of our waiter.  The lamb was very nice, but I think I may have enjoyed the accompanying marrow toast as much or more.  Strange how something so simple can sometimes hit the spot.

Dessert was interesting.  I guess they assumed that I, being a middle-aged woman, would go for the chocolate.  I admit it was tasty, but I had a very difficult time not hijacking my daughter’s Rhubarb and Almond Tart, Orange Blossom Ice Cream (which I liked better than my own pinot noir version), and Almond Meringue. 

After two and a half hours enjoying the amazing offerings at Naha, we ventured back out into the July heat.  We had walked from the hotel to the restaurant, and we returned the same way.  We traveled a little slower on the way back, not because we were overfed, but because the experience had been like many others we had in Chicago that week.  Something to contemplate, to remember, to re-enjoy, if only in our minds.

I hope this whets your appetite for your own visit.  And if you are from the city or have visited, please share your favorite restaurants and dining experiences.  I’d love to hear from you.

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