As we head into the final stretch of Chicago Restaurant Week (which concludes its 14-day run on Thursday), I turn my attention to Naha (500 N. Clark St., 312-321-6242), because if there's a restaurant that handles Restaurant Week better than Naha, I've yet to find it.
Chef/partner Carrie Nahabedian and her cousin, Michael, long ago seized on Restaurant Week as an opportunity to make new friends. Accordingly, each year they fashion menus of considerable value while delivering the same high level of service, the same white-tablecloth luxury, at significant savings. As if that weren't enough, a special wine list offers selected bottles priced at $30, $40 and $50.
As a result, Naha's tables get snapped up quickly, often before Restaurant Week even begins. That said, Naha always adds a few extra tables for walk-in customers, and the full menu is available at the bar, which is a nice place to dine.
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500 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60626, USA
The three-course lunch menu ($22) includes a few Naha favorites, including a lahmajoon (essentially an Armenian flatbread pizza) topped with minced lamb, Greek yogurt and herbs; and tagine-baked chicken thigh in Moroccan spices, with bulghur pilaf and aromatic vegetables. The deep and satisfying mushroom soup is available at lunch and dinner; a snakelike chickpea crisp spans the bowl, and dead center is a cube of sweet garlic custard that's like an umami grenade.
On the three-course dinner menu ($44), veal breast with oyster mushrooms is helped along by assertive flavors of parsnip puree, fried parsnip chips and bacon. Sweet and savory flavors abound in a fanciful tart tatin of late-harvest apples and quince marmalade, topped with unctuous, thick hunks of pork belly and long strands of shaved fennel. And bright-red duck-breast slices, on a bed of wild rice and orzo and topped with tart cranberries, looks like Christmas dinner.
Craig Harzewski's indulgent, beautifully plated desserts include a rich dark-chocolate cheesecake with caramel and candied orange, and an almond financier (a favorite from last year's menu) with preserved blueberries. A trio of cheeses with toasted bread and preserves is a fine option as well.
There's an upcharge for the custard-filled gateau Basque with poached figs and olive-oil ice cream, but that includes an additional dessert, so it's not a bad deal. (Make the "extra" dessert the cookie assortment, and take it home for the next day.)
Chicago Restaurant Week features more than 300 restaurants offering three-course lunches ($22) and three- and four-course dinners ($33, $44). Chicago Restaurant Week runs through Thursday; for participating restaurants, menus and online reservations, go to choosechicago.com