Classic Tables: Naha

Striking a balance between casual and fine dining

With a bulked-up lounge menu, a snappy cocktail list and a baking whiz of a pastry chef, it could be said that Naha is on top of its game.

But to do so would be to insinuate that the River North restaurant, just shy of its 10th birthday, was ever anything less than excellent.

Naha has remained consistently relevant by way of its clever, even daring, flavor combinations. On a recent visit, Iroquois white-corn soup ($11) surrounded a dome of silken garlic flan. Foraged mushrooms and thin rounds of the corncobs added savory depth and crunch.

A plate of roasted squab ($41) referenced chef Carrie Nahabedian's Armenian background with the region's sweet, flowery flavors: raisins, Medjool dates, rose and licorice. Plump scallops were accompanied by a scattering of muskmelon, slivers of crisped coppa ham and a vanilla-scented sauce ($42).

To play it casual (and wallet-friendly), hit the lounge's shareable menu. The heaping fritto misto ($22), with fried calamari, halibut and lemon, can easily feed four. The Armenian-Greek meze spread ($26), accompanied by pastry chef Craig Harzewski's fresh pita, is equally generous.

Harzewski matches Nahabedian's style with desserts like a polenta Gateau Basque with local blackberries ($12), and Mediterranean-inspired almond cake with blueberries and salted popcorn.

It's exciting and exemplary–two makings of a classic, we'd say.

Naha, 500 N. Clark St.; 312-321-6242 or naha-chicago.com