We have known Carrie Nahabedian for years. First at the 4 Seasons in Santa Barbara, then when she did the Merci Julia Event in LA and finally at the 4 Seasons in LA. Carrie moved to her hometown of Chicago to open a restaurant with her cousin, Michael. My husband had been many times and since I hadn’t seen Carrie in years, I felt it was important that I should go as well.
Tom, Michael’s brother, was charged with complete architecture and design of the restaurant, including furniture and accessories.
From Nancy Ross Ryan’s review:
“Today’s front door is in a different place (at the far north end of the restaurant — Gordon’s was on south end), and stepping into Naha was flabbergasting: not an Oriental rug in sight! Underfoot were artfully stained concrete slabs. And although Naha’s front door leads into a bar — as did Gordon’s — this is a different world. The leather and concrete bar (an unheard of use of materials in the hey day of Gordon’s) is at the back of an airy, spacious lounge, and an enormous window that runs the length of the facade bathes the restaurant in natural light by day or city lights by night. But what captivated me completely was rows of fragrant golden quince, lined up single file on trays throughout the restaurant. The restaurant was rebuilt and redesigned by Tom Nahabedian, Carrie’s cousin, an IIT school of architecture graduate and founder of a Beverly Hills design firm. The dining room has a rich walnut floor, comfortable contemporary chairs designed by Tom, and the long banquettes and round booths are upholstered in understated fabric woven of linen, silk, wool and cotton yarns. The colors are natural — chocolate, slate, fawn and blue. The walls are light and creamy, and there is ample space between tables — a sacrifice of revenue in the service of comfort for guests. Naha is completely contemporary with no hard edges, but there is a meticulous attention to aesthetic detail: elegant expensive wine glasses, thick white table linens, and planters filled with seasonal flora — grasses, twigs, buds, fruit — that are both visual and functional as space dividers.”
I think what is important about the above review in “setting the scene” is that Naha is not a “scene.” You are not packed in like at Blackbird. You can actually have a decent conversation without hearing everyone else’s chatter.
The cuisine is billed as a “seasonal American menu with influences of the Mediterranean.” Carrie asked us what we wanted to eat and she helped us devise a menu.
Tartare of Hawaiian Yellowfin Tuna, Cured King Salmon and Door County Golden Whitefish Caviar with a Mosaic of Vegetables, Nicoise Garnishes and Aigrelette Sauce
The sliced salmon was on the bottom of the plate. On top of that was the diced tuna topped with the golden caviar and surrounded by the capers, tomato, nicoise olives and other assorted “veggies.” It is truly a work of art and an interesting take on the ubiquitous tuna tartar.
Hot Smoked Chicken and Carnaroli Risotto with Delicata and Spaghetti Squash, Sage and Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil
What made this dish interesting was that the skin was left on the chicken so that you had a wonderful texture contrast with the risotto.
Organic Farm Egg with a Warm salad of Italian Frisee, Flageolets, Applewood Slab Bacon and Herbs
This was just delicious – poached egg with runny yolk, crunchy flageolets, crispy bacon, warm frisee – what more could one ask for comfort food.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras with a “Tarte Tatin” of Italian Plums, Mache and Rhubarb Syrup – The foie was perfect, but what elevated the dish was the plum tarte tatin. The combination of the tart, the foie and the rhubarb syrup was superb.
Wild Alaskan Halibut with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Cauliflower Puree, Herb Jus and “Frothy” Mushroom Broth – The halibut had been encrusted with dried black trumpet mushrooms and then fresh pieces of mushrooms ringed the plate.
Wood-Grilled 18oz. Prime Ribeye of Beef and Glazed Shallots, Macaroni Goat Cheese “Gratin”, Oxtail Red Wine Sauce and Fleur de Sel – The beef was excellent, but the gratin was gooey, rich and delicious.
Mascarpone Sorbet, Concord Grape Consomme with a Shortbread Tuile on top
Why go to Naha? Obviously, Chicago at the moment, is doing cutting edge cuisine – Moto, Avenues, Alinea, L2O et al. It also has some great ethic restaurants. So, why go? Because, if you want very good food, prepared well, in a beautiful setting, where you can have a decent conversation sans noise, without pretension and also dine on food that will not disappoint, Naha delivers and then some.