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Monday, February 6

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Review Fri Feb 27 2009

Restaurant Week Lunch @ Naha

Thumbnail image for Naha outside.jpgThe first rule of going to lunch during restaurant week: don't show up early, at least if you have the first reservation of the day. I showed up a few minutes early at Naha to find my dining companion already hiding from the rain under the small awning; by the time they opened the doors, ten or eleven patrons were alternately crowding under the awning and glaring desperately at the indifferent staff inside the restaurant.

Once we managed to get inside and were seated next to the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on Clark Street, things took a turn for the better.

naha_arctic_char.jpgI chose the late winter squash soup from the $22, three-course Restaurant Week Menu; the texture was perfectly smooth, with sweet spaghetti squash that melted in my mouth and a nice accent of crunchy green pumpkin seeds. My companion James, a former line chef, was just as satisfied with his house-cured arctic char.

naha_lamb.jpgBoth James and I wanted to order the tagine of braised lamb shank and polenta; he was kind enough to cede the dish to me. Like my appetizer, the lamb dish was on the sweet side of savory; it included dried apricots, a slice of blood orange, and pine nuts that were roasted to the point they took on a caramel flavor. The large, almost risotto-like grains of polenta contrasted nicely with the extremely tender meat. James's second choice, a whitefish dish with roasted vegetables and beans, also seemed terrific, since he declared "This is the first time I haven't been disappointed by whitefish."

Feeling guilty about not ordering wine (I was going back to work after lunch), I ordered coffee, which was the only major misstep in the meal. I don't know why I continue to order coffee at restaurants, nor do I understand why many fine-dining restaurants continue to serve coffee that is noticeably worse than what one can find at Dunkin Donuts.

Thumbnail image for 3312755781_5d901ab9f4.jpgMy dessert was a bittersweet chocolate delice, accented with orange and hazelnut. The texture of the chocolate delice was rich without being too heavy, and the hazelnut cream was a nice airy contrast. The one dissatisfying aspect of the dish was the paper-thin wafer wedged in the cream; it had no flavor of its own, unless you consider "vaguely starchy" a flavor. I prefer accents that actually add flavor, which this dish actually did have. The orange powder that accented the dish seemed to be dehydrated orange peel; when tasted by itself, it began with a slight nutty flavor, and then filled the mouth with orange aroma, and it lent a hint of orange to any bite that accompanied it. I was so taken with my dessert that I barely noticed James's pleasure at his pear gallette.

It was certainly a leisurely-paced lunch; at the end of the meal, I noticed it was almost 90 minutes since we'd been seated. As we nibbled on our apricot pate de fruit and passion fruit truffles, I heard a server announce that one of the entrees was already gone, and the serving of the tagine given to a patron nearby looked decidedly smaller than the one I'd been served 45 minutes earlier. Perhaps showing up a little early and waiting in the rain has its advantages.

500 N. Clark St

(Photos by James Liu)

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Hillary / February 27, 2009 1:51 PM

Oooh, looks great! I had lunch at David Burke Primehouse for restaurant week last Sat. It was also delicious!

Crystal / February 28, 2009 11:12 AM

Thanks for your comment on Chicago Foodies! It sounds like Naha's lunch options were fantastic as well, though RW is putting the staff through their paces.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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