Michelin Star. Many have heard the term, but aren't sure where it comes from. The Michelin Guides are a series of books that for the last century and then some have been published by the French company, Michelin. Each year they give out stars to hotels and restaurants that have achieved a certain level of excellence. Getting (and loosing) a star can dramatically impact the business and success of a hotel or restaurant. So when I had the opportunity to eat at Naha, a holder of one of these prestigious stars for 7 years running, it is safe to say that I was ecstatic.
As soon as we entered the restaurant, we were overtaken by the air of class and elegance. During our visit, Naha was mostly empty and despite the few other parties in the dinning area we felt simultaneously cozy in the white noise but peacefully alone. I honestly am not sure how they keep such an amazing aura (their playlist was amazing too!).
The service at Naha is incredible. There even before you know you need then, but also away when you don't. It occurred to me after the meal that part of being a Michelin Star restaurant means that the service is on its A game as the silent (until prompted) hand that guides your experience. I was a big fan of all the great people who served us during our time at Naha. They truly were amazing and a friendly bunch.
Without further delay, let's get to the food! We started off the meal with my personal favorite: bread! We were served a Moroccan spice blend, Italian ciabatta, and Fruit bread that had all been made in house by their own pastry chef. Naha is a New American fusion restaurant with strong Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Californian influences on their menu. For those who have followed me for awhile, you know that I love anything Italian. Don't worry I still do! However, the Moroccan bread was my favorite of the evening. The spices were so unique and it was the perfect level of flavor without being over powering. Accompanied by their Naha butter, I could tell that the night was off to a great start and couldn't wait to dig in!
Afterwards we moved onto our starter, the Burrata. This Italian cow's milk burrata served with prosciutto, arugula, byaldi, almonds, and grilled ciabatta was out of this world! We joked that we would have happily settled for another serving as our main dishes. It was definitely a 10/10! But alas, all good things must come to an end.
For main dishes, I got to try the Risotto and the Quail. The Risotto was served with hearts of palm, baby artichokes, oven-cured tomatoes, and mustard greens. Now Naha is a Mediterranean influenced New American Restaurant. That being said I can only compare the risotto to that of what I had in Italy. The rice was a bit harder that I expected from a risotto, but the flavors were excellent. Overall, I'd give this dish a 8.5/10. As for the quail, it was served over a bed of soft corn polenta with asparagus, oyster mushrooms, scallions, and Kurobuta Berkshire pork belly. This being the first time I had experienced quail, I must say it was delicious. The polenta was excellently prepared and the pork belly was in the top 3 that I have ever eaten. I would definitely recommend this dish to a friend...9/10!
I typically am the one telling my family and friends that there is always space for dessert, but after the meal we had there was literally no space whatsoever for me to fit in dessert or to really be able to enjoy it. Sad, I know! Often times when I think Michelin Star restaurant or food art dinning, it is synonymous with tiny portions. Naha was everything but that! We were so stuffed that I was sure I'd need to be rolled home. But the glass half-full perspective is that I just have to go back one day and try more amazing plates!
For those in the Chicago area, I encourage you to add Naha to your dining list. It's the perfect spot for a date, treat yourself dinner or even business dining. And to those of you out of staters reading, Naha is worth the trip to Chicago, or at least should make it onto your to-do list for your next visit.
I am so excited to try more of what Naha has to offer, and make my way through more of Chicago's Michelin Star restaurants! What are some of the ones you think I should try next? Please let me know in the comments below.