One of the restaurants I checked out during restaurant week was NAHA. I've been wanting to eat here since before moving to Chicago - it was the 'other' restaurant that got eliminated when choosing where to eat the first day I was here (Blackbird is where we wound up). Needless to say, I was excited - and the fact that the restaurant was offering several options per course for their menu only put me over the top. I've always felt that restaurants focus too much on turning tables during restaurant week and not enough on wowing customers. Its an opportunity to really impress people who aren't regular diners. NAHA embraced this, and did a wonderful job.
A trio of breads, wheat, white, and a raisin and caraway(?) - All three serveed room temp (good!) and were very enjoyable. The raisin was my favorite. I ordered a Delirium Tremens which was alright.
Yukon Potato Gnocchi, Wild Boar Spanish Chorizo, Shaved Montelerraina, Caramelized Broccoli, Marcona Almonds - This was not part of the restaurant week menu, but I couldn't pass it up. And boy am I glad I got it. Everything about this dish was perfect - the sear on the gnocchi, which were light as clouds, the brown flavors...this dish was a serious ode to the maillard reaction. The Marcona almonds were a prefect textural complement and the flavor worked so well. I wound up trying to recreate this at home, with some success but..well it just wasn't the same. The flavors in this dish reminded me so much of meals at my aunts house growing up. Always so satisfying and delicious.
My first option from the restaurant week menu - Shrimp & Grits - The menu I have does not have this listed so I can't give the best description, however this was the least exciting dish of the night. Still good though. The flavors reminded me a lot of some Escoffier dish we did a school a lot...lots of butter, shellfish, chervil - good stuff. The shrimp were perfectly cooked. I had a Bells Amber Ale with this course which was also pretty good.
At this point, Terry Kane - NAHA's service manager, came over and talked to me a bit about beers (for all you wine-o's out there, we beer drinkers always love to see other people drinking beer with their food). He wound up talking to me about a beer called Inedit - developed by Ferran Adria. He wound up pouring me a glass, on the house, to have with my third course. The beer on its own was relatively tame, but with food it literally transformed with every bite. It was really an incredible pairing.
Lacquered Kurobuta Pork Belly & Organic Carnaroli Risotto with Matsutake Mushrooms, Roasted Zucchini, Spinach, Parmesan and Thyme - Not much to say here past the description - it was just as good if not better than it sounds. The risotto was very well done (especially for restaurant week risotto), the pork was meltingly tender. More brown flavors that were so satisfying.
Chocolate mousse cake with house made cracker jacks - I wish I took better notes for this one - Visually this plate reminded me a lot of the linear foie at Tru. The flavors were all spot on & the house made cracker jacks were great. I really liked that this cake highlighted the bitter aspects of chocolate more than the sweet - and the cracker jacks sweetness offset this a bit. More complex than it appears on the surface.
Apple spice pate de fruit, burbon ganache - The ganache was great..silky texture..bursting with flavor. The pate de fruit tasted wonderful but the texture was a little more firm than I am used to.
Overall, NAHA knocked it out of the park. Considering I ate there on a weekend during restaurant week - I cannot imagine how great it is during a normal dinner service. I am really looking forward to returning. I cant thank Terry Kane enough for his generosity and hospitality - he spent some time recommending to me restaurants to check out - and now that both he and Terry McNeese from Henri have recommended it, Riccardo Trattoria is now on my list.
Now some school stuff. My stream has been wrapping up early all week so we have been spending our extra time writing with chocolate. Check out some examples Chef Pierre Zimmermann piped for us:
World Cup (of Pastry) Cake:
Hazelnut Dacquoise, Candied Hazelnut, Hazelnut Mousse, Chocolate Biscuit, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Mirror Glaze. SO GOOD
Raspberry Silk Cake:
Blurry picture, but the only one I have to show off the layers - Top to bottom: White Chocolate Diplomat Mousse, Raspberry Gelee, Almond Dacquoise, White Chocolate Diplomat Mousse, Chocolate Hazelnut 'Crunch' (Royaltine), Almond Dacquoise. Again, SO GOOD
Annnd a Pithivier (pronounced...PTVA):
Almond cream incased in puff pastry. I wound up giving this to a bartender at Duffys who inquired about why I was walking around with a giant cake thing. Hope they enjoyed it!