Archive for the 'Naha – River North' Category


I just love this restaurant. It is so comfortable, so welcoming, so inviting with great service and equally delicious food. You can actually carry on a decent conversation and the vibe is just enjoy the food and the wine. If we lived close by, we would be, at the very least, bi-monthly diners and my husband would probably be at Naha weekly for business lunches. 

Sarah, our waitress, was terrific and as always, Carrie Nahabedian is one of the nicest and most talented chefs. She deserved to get the James Beard award this year. Well done, Carrie!

My notes are not the greatest, particularly at the end of this meal – lots of wine is always my excuse. Also, Carrie changed some of what we ordered at the last minute so….. All dishes were splits, one for two.


Yellow corn soup, caramelized corn, bulb onions and basil with a “griddled” sandwich of Kentuckiana “Mont St. Francis” Goat Cheese and a tempura of squash blossom on a bed of corn kernels. This was just yummy – I know not exactly a haute cuisine word, but it just tasted perfect.


Tartare of Hawaiian “Yellowfin” Tuna and  Cured Tasmanian Red trout with Mosaic of Nicoise Garnsihes, Aigrelette Sauce and Toasted Brioche – First you look at this dish and just marvel at how beautiful it is. Then, you taste and realize each element is not just for show but is essential component to the whole.


“Coddled” Organic Farm Egg “Benedict”, Kurobuta Pork Belly and Housemade English Muffin with Smoked Homegrown Wisconsin “Red Thumb” Potatoes, Italian Frisee and Yellow Helios Radishes – John is an egg freak and I think he inhaled this dish. I was a little slower as I wanted to savor each and every bite.


Lake Ontario “Smelts”, lightly fried with lemon and parsley and salted capers, “Pimenton de la Vera” – It was as if these smelts were just caught – fresh is an understatement. There was not one hint of grease – the white napkin stayed white. The sauce had just enough heat to accent the smelts.


This was an improvisational dish on Carrie’s part so I can’t vouch for complete accuracy.  Wild Alaskan Halibut sat on top of cannelloni of Swiss chard, “fondue” of Blue Marble Family Farm Buttermilk Ricotta cheese, Sungold tomatoes – What more could one ask for? – farm fresh ingredients plus fish that was perfectly executed.

A warning – my notes get worse so hopefully the photos will do the talking and I apologize in advance for any mistakes – trust me there are probably plenty.


Whole roasted squab, foie gras and crisp potato cake with black currants, Harlane apricots and Cipollini onions, Armenian Rose Petal marmalade, Licorice Root and Flowering Cilanto Pods. Carrie was very unhappy with the squab as it was delivered without feet. I just hope this glistening photo displays the tastiness of this dish.


Braised Pheasant Valley Farm Goat and Duck Confit Potatoes, Cavaillon Melon and Persian Cucumbers with Charred Tropea Onions, candied Valencia Orange and Dill Seed Heads – this was an add-on from Carrie so I am hoping that the menu accurately describes this dish. In any case, it was delicious, balanced and perfectly executed. Look at the beauty of that sauce – this is not “quick quick” cuisine, but cuisine based on classical sauces done with finesse.


Not one note so I am not even going to try.

All I can say is that if you are in Chicago, Naha is a must restaurant for anyone who loves good food and good service.

 PS I had John read this before posting and all he said was “Boy, wasn’t that delicious” after every photo.


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.