Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eat Local Out...Maybe...


Or perhaps. My wife knows my predilication for naming posts playing off of our mantra: Eat Local. So, when our waiter returned a long (long) time to address our question about what exactly was local on the menu with a very specific answer, "Carrie told me to get the hell outta of the kitchen"; I said to my wife, I'll call today's (yesterday's) post "Eat Local Maybe". And she said, "Eat Local Perhaps". The question, of course, was what exactly on the menu was local.

We got the same song and dance we got a few weeks ago at Lula's. "Oh, the chef uses local." "The chef is committed to local..." Then, the scare words, "when possible." We, to compare notes, see how someone else does it, to encourage local eating, to make us feel that much better about our dining choice, wanted to know specifics, and don't be speaking too much in generalities 'cause your menu has red peppers on it. Our waiter, who did not much like the grilling in the first place, he had tables to cover, promised to find out. Which turned into a promise to ignore us through two of our three courses. It came right about the time we started to have misgivings about Naha. But after a poor set of appetizers, the food got much better. We left ready to give Naha and Chef Carrie the benefit of the doubt. For now. Wink, wink.

Naha has been a place we've been meaning to try since the Green City BBQ. How could I not resist a menu with local AND mezze AND pork belly. Triple threat. The new Chicago Restaurant Week gave us the excuse to finally pull ourselves from Vie (although Vie is not open for lunch, so that excuse only goes so far). Restaurant Week means a three course lunch for $21.95. There were two desserts, two appetizers and three main courses, so my partner and I could not quite get the full menu. Our waiter, when he still liked us, helped us pick from the mains, advising us on the duck confit over the fried chicken salad--the other entree, whitefish with pork belly was a given.

It was a good thing he steered us to the duck confit. When I dug into it, after the appetizers and the what local comment, it insta-changed my mood. That good. That good after appetizers that featured creme fraiche that really did little for the oysters and bits of oyster shells that did even less for the oysters and tepid squash soup that tasted more of broth than squash. Then, the whitefish bacon thing, honestly, really, this was, about the best piece of whitefish I've ever eaten. One problem with whitefish, and one reason I think people favor ocean fish, is that whitefish can be on the soft side. This was a nice slab of whitefish, a fish not known for its slabiness, and it was cooked in a way that crisped and firmed it, without losing the fatty sweetness of the freshwater fish. The pork belly did not necessarily add to the experience, in a marriage kinda way, but what the hey, I was not pushing it aside. Desserts kept things on the upswing, a mousse-ish chocolate cake with "black forest cake" ice cream and a coconut tart. If we were not already lovey-dovey towards Naha, they finished us up with good mirgandaise, a tiny pyramid of passion fruit curd on a buttery crust and swatch of opera cake. Naha may not be the localvore luncher's lunch, but it's still a delicious dining experience.

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